There are several possible pitfalls that could occur if one sells their items of value at auction. We will share with you the three most common issues you could face and how to avoid it: selling outright!
1. The number one problem, at best, would be that you commit your items to go to auction and they never sell it. This usually starts with the Auction House saying they will let you know in 1-3 months whether they are willing to take the item for auction at all. When they finally observe your item and get back to you, the Auction House informs you that they have an auction coming up in sale for this specialty in 8 months, which is when your item will finally go to auction. They give you an estimated figure, let’s say of $10,000, which they believe it will sell for. The Auction House makes a deal with you that they won't charge you a fee until the item is actually sold. So you decide to leave the item with them in the hopes that it will eventually make it to auction.
Now imagine that at the end of those 8 months, your item finally makes it to auction, but for whatever reason, it does not sell. You now get the item back without any cost or fee. Although you might have lost some time, they didn't charge you anything, and ideally the item would be in the exact undamaged conditions you delivered.
However, there are a lot of other unfortunately scenarios that could happen with Auction Houses:
2. The number two problem would be that the item sells, and the Auction House doesn't pay you. Although it's not that common, this is a potential problem to be weary of. Now this is happening a lot more frequently as new "Auction Houses" pop up on the market. It doesn't take much money to start business as an Auction House, since they work under consignment and don't own any of the items they are selling. Always remember to remain cautious!
3. The third and most common problem, is that the item gets damaged. Although Auction Houses are supposed to be knowledgable in handling valuable items to avoid damaging the item, this is actually a common occurrence. The damage could have happened in transit to the Auction House, if you shipped the item, or it could have been mishandled prior to the auction and gotten damaged in storage. While you send out your items for auction, you have to be aware of the fact that dozens of staff members will be handling your valuables, without you being there. In addition, if it is a live auction where buyers can view or handle the piece themselves, there is a higher chance that your item could be damaged.
In addition, if your item is purchased, the item could be poorly packaged by the Auction House, who is now tasked with shipping hundreds or thousands of orders within the span of only a few days.
It is very common for bidders to buy a piece at auction and then receive the item and find that it is not in the condition it was originally described to be in by the Auction House. They will then want to return the item, or receive a hefty discount on their purchase price. If this is your item in question, you will be at a very big loss through no fault of your own.
The main issue with this situation is that it is tough to prove that the piece was damaged in possession of the Auction House. The Auction House will probably argue that that was the condition they received, even if you know that is not the case.
Now you are aware of the issues that could come up when you choose to buy or sell at auction, whether it's online or in person. We would recommend being extra careful if you choose to go this path and remain aware of the pitfalls we have previously mentioned.
We recommend that unless you are an expert collector, with very rare, one-of-a-kind, or extremely valuable pieces that many would fight for in a bidding war, using an Auction House to consign your valuables may not get you a high enough return for the risk.
Most auction pieces are actually sold at wholesale prices to dealers, so if you are determined to sell it at auction, are able to wait many months, and are comfortable with possibly receiving wholesale prices, you should go for it! We can help you find the right Auction House, considering we know many reliable houses to recommend, however, which Auction House is the best one to trust with your valuables really depends on what kind of item it is.
But if you are really just looking to sell off your valuables at a very high price, immediately on the spot, we can also assist you.
You are always invited to come to our Brand New Gallery, APR57, located at 200 West 57th Street in New York City, where we will appraise any item of value you have, and give you a high auction price cash offer, immediately on the spot, with absolutely no risk to you or you valuables!