2017 – The Year of Record Setting Auctions: A View from the Appraiser’s Desk

At Bonham’s, a recording console from Abbey Road Studios went for $1.8 million in March 2017, the highest amount paid for a piece of recording equipment to date. Photo credit: Bonhams Auction House

In 2017, numerous auction sales records were broken.  Included on this list was the highest result for a painting at auction, when one of the few known paintings by Leonardo da Vinci sold at Christie’s for $450.3 million.  Jean-Michel Basquiat broke the record price for the sale of artwork by an American artist when Untitled, (1982) sold for $110.5 million at Sotheby’s.  The record for a Prince guitar was broken at Julien’s when an early Prince cloud guitar sold for $700,000 in November.  This record is especially close to my heart as I had the pleasure of researching and cataloging this guitar.

At Bonhams, a recording console from Abbey Road Studios went for $1.8 million, the highest amount paid for a piece of recording equipment to date.  In a sale of the personal property of Audrey Hepburn, also conducted by Christie’s, the world record of a script sold at auction was broken when Hepburn’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s script sold for £630,000 in September.  Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona broke the auction record for a watch when it sold for $17.8 million at Phillips.  Heritage claims to have broken 44 world records at its single-owner wine sale held in September 2017 and achieved the highest sales of comic book art on record.

In a sale of the personal property of Audrey Hepburn, conducted by Christie’s, the world record of a script sold at auction was broken when Hepburn’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s script sold for £630,000 in September. Photo credit: Christie’s.

Throughout all areas of collecting, the auction market is proudly exclaiming record-breaking sales.   While not everyone has a Basquiat laying around waiting to be auctioned, the value of an asset – in any area – could be affected.  As markets change, the value of your art, antiques, memorabilia, etc., change with it.

Collectors take every precaution to ensure the safety of their property, by investing in proper storage, elaborate displays, and, of course, insurance.  The standard recommendation is to have items re-appraised for insurance every five years and for most collectors this will suffice.  However, for collectors of assets in markets that have skyrocketed or on the wane, waiting five years for an updated appraisal may be costly. 

Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona broke the auction record for a watch when it sold for $17.8 million at Phillips in October. Photo credit: Phillips.

Those costs could come from an insurance claim that is too low, based on a previous appraisal, or from an expensive insurance policy, that should be lowered.  My advice to collectors is to communicate with their insurance company to understand what their policy covers.  If an asset owner is fortunate enough to have items that have gone up in value, obtain additional coverage if necessary.

Collectors should also contact their appraiser to determine if an updated appraisal is needed based on the changing market conditions.


Megan Mahn Miller is owner and president of Mahn Miller Collective, Inc.  An appraisal and consulting service located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Her expertise is in Rock and Roll and Hollywood memorabilia as well as other difficult to value property.  More information about Ms. Mahn Miller and her company can be found at www.mahnmiller.com

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