So you’re thinking of selling at auction? You might consider an auction house if you have inherited a collection, are downsizing or are moving into a retirement community. An auction house will also handle a single artwork or furniture item if it has a certain value.

Regardless of the motivation, it is important to make sure your fine art or antique collection gets the attention it deserves. It is advisable to work with an organization that has a proven track record of selling similar items. You will want to ask the auction house if they have achieved any record prices for a particular artist, or about their recent sales for a particular furniture designer.

You’ll want to make sure the auction house you select is established in the industry and has a trustworthy reputation. The longer they have been in business the better–a solid network of potential auction and estate sale buyers is important.

The goal is to end up with an auction team who will partner with you to help you understand the process and position your goods to their best advantage. It is important that the auction team provides excellent customer service and professionalism, and treats your property with respect.

Here are some are a few important things you’ll want to ask when initially engaging with an auction house.

Are my items suitable for auction?

It is important to have a knowledgeable specialist review your collection. Fine artworks that have proven auction records, and finely crafted furniture pieces in fashionable styles will often benefit from the publicity of online auctions.

However, if the specialist determines the estate has relatively low-value property, the items might not benefit from the marketing efforts of an auction house. In this case, one might consider contacting a local estate sale company.

A collector might also consider selling through a dealer or privately, when the items are in a narrow specialized field such as a collection of German 19th century medical books or a contemporary artist, who has no auction records. Before making this decision, it is imperative to contact an auction house who will be able to review your property to determine fair market value.

How much do you think my collection is worth?

It is a good idea to go into an auction with a very realistic view of what your items are actually worth. Sentiment is often a factor when you estimate the worth of your own goods, especially if they are prized family heirlooms. Consider also that the current value may not directly correlate to how much was paid for an item or when it was purchased. Actual worth is determined by a variety of factors including shifting market trends, and fair market value. Make sure the auction house you work with will take the time to explain this to you so that you understand what to expect at auction.

Will the collection be auctioned to sellers online, on the phone or at the gallery?

Limiting your reach to just a regional in-person audience can severely limit bidding and the resulting returns. This is also the case with online auctions only. You’ll want to work with an auction house with the most points of access to your collection during an auction. Find out if they have online bidding in conjunction with in person bidding. With online bidding, live auction attendees bid against Internet bidders and phone bidders—all in real-time. Additionally you’ll want to make sure that the auction supports bidders globally to further expand the pool of potential buyers.

Expanding the number of bidders builds competition and demand for your items at auction. A larger buyer base often produces additional revenue for sellers as mentioned in this San Francisco Chronicle article.

How will the auction and my collection be promoted?

Ask about their auction marketing strategy as well as how your individual collection of antiques or art will be represented. Auction brochure mailings to a large mailing list are important. Relationships and advertising with national and international auction partners, trade publications and key media can make sure that visibility for the auction is high. Social media and Internet advertising are additional ways that expand the awareness of the auction.

Auction houses provide a valuable service in helping individuals monetize collectibles and antiques. Engaging with an auction house and approaching a sale with a clear understanding of what to expect helps the process go smoothly. Step one is to find a reputable organization, one that helps you feel comfortable through the process and partners with you along the way.

Clars Auction Gallery has one of the largest international internet auction platforms in the industry, which allows far greater global exposure than our competitors. Located in Oakland, Clars is the largest premier auction house on the West Coast (founded in 1948). Clars features property in targeted, international art magazine ads and internet auction and art web sites as well as an important brochure with a mailing list of 50,000+. Clars also conducts direct marketing to our international client base of affluent collectors, dealers and museums.

For more information:
To speak with someone about selling your collection at auction with Clars Auction Gallery call toll free 888.339.7600 or email [email protected].