Whether you’re new to collecting art, new to buying at auction, or both, art auctions can seem intimidating. This is because we’ve often been shown a picture of art auctions as a format for selling astronomically priced famous works to the super wealthy. Of course, tales of how a recently rediscovered Old Master went for millions of dollars over asking price are exciting, but they obscure the fact that in reality, art auctions can be good opportunities for collectors to get bargains. To make the most of auction opportunities, here’s what you need to know:
Understand the mechanics of the auction you’re entering:
Not every art auction operates the same way. First, artworks may have a minimum bid amount specified—this is the smallest bid the auction house will accept to open bidding. However, this may not be the same thing as the minimum amount needed to win the item. If a reserve price has been set, then bidding has to reach at least this level before a bidder can win the item. This can happen, for example, when a consignor has put an artwork up for auction and wants to make at least a certain amount of money on the sale. Reserve prices may not be made public. Bid increments are the minimum amount by which you need to raise your offer to counter a previous bid. Generally speaking, the more expensive the item, the higher the bid increment.
Know what you’re buying:
While it’s always a good idea to let your personal preference guide you in terms of the general style of artwork you decide to buy, your gut feeling is less helpful in determining a reasonable sale price for an artwork you’re interested in. Do some research to both understand the general type of artwork you’re considering and the individual piece itself. For example, an original oil painting by a famous artist is very different than a limited-edition lithograph by someone up-and-coming and will command a different price.
It’s perfectly reasonable to want to familiarize yourself with the details of the piece you are considering before you place a bid. The condition of an artwork can positively or negatively influence its value, and the time to find out about such factors is before you’ve bought it. For previously owned original artworks, the provenance (history of ownership) can help to establish the authenticity of the work, so you’ll want to know about that too.
Buy from reputable sources:
The art market, like any market for collectibles, unfortunately attracts unscrupulous dealers who pass off counterfeit pieces as genuine artwork. This is why it is important to find reputable dealers to work with. Trusted sources will not hesitate to provide proof of a piece’s authenticity and will welcome your inquiries about further details.
Auction King offers a constantly updated selection of lithographs, giclees, etchings, prints, and originals for auction without hidden reserve prices and with starting bids as low as $1. We triple check the authenticity of every piece we offer so you can bid on what you love with confidence. Register today for a free online account and start bidding.