Art Auctions of America

How to choose an art auction - 2
Other charges

Besides the selling commission, the seller can also expect other charges from the auction. The seller can be charged for insurance, storage, art and photography charges, advertising, and some auctions charge even a fee if the piece does not sell. This last fee, called a buy-in fee discourages sellers from putting high reserves on their work. It is not a happy seller who walks away from an auction without a sale, and with a significant fee to boot.

Before a seller consigns work, all of these additional charges should be shown on the consignment agreement, and discussed before the auction. Unfortunately, this is not always the case leaving the seller with some unpleasant surprises. Again, if the work is desirable, some of these charges can be negotiated and at times omitted.

All auction house consignment agreements include verbiage that protect the auction house against any legal actions initiated by both the buyers and the sellers. For art sellers, the right of rescission is often overlooked and in some ways the most important. The right of rescission allows the auction to rescind any sale into the future. When an auction exercises that right, the buyer is returned his money and the seller is returned his art. Rescission rights offer some protection to buyers and also provides the auction protection against any legal action initiated against them by either the seller or the buyer. Some rescission provisions include time limits as short as a few days while others may extend for five years or indefinitely. Rescission places the seller under a cloud of uncertainty. Although rescission rights are included in most consignment agreements, they are subject to negotiation.

The Importance of Timing

The timing of the auction can also effect price. Auctions in the fall yield better prices than auction in the spring and summer. Plus specialized auctions that feature the kind of work you are offering will also yield better prices. For instance, a piece by Albert Bierstadt will sell better in an auction of Hudson Valley painters than a general auction.

Shipping, Insurance

Shipping is another issue that the seller needs to consider. Crating and shipping a piece 2000 miles will be more costly than shipping a few hundred miles. And if the work does not sell, you must bear the return shipping and crating charges. Most art shipping companies offer insurance on the piece. That rate can range between 1-3% of the insured value. On a piece valued at $100,000, this is a hefty fee, especially if the piece is also returned to you. In many cases, insurance costs are greater than the shipping costs. The art seller should receive quotes from multiple insurance carriers and not just from the shipper.

The thrill of selling

For individuals who may never sell another piece at auction, the experience can be very exciting, especially with high estimates for the work. That excitement can be increased by the choice and location of an auction. An auction in Topeka is not the same as an auction in New York. Although your primary objective is to net as much from the sale as possible, maximizing the experience may also factor in your choice of auction.


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