How to Sell at Auction

What to expect when selling at auction according to LAMA’s Director Peter Loughrey:

Submitting Material for Possible Inclusion

Submitting your items is easy. A simple list will do, but sometimes we will need to see photographs. We can also simply make an appointment to come by and look at your items at your location. However, emailing a simple list or description gets the ball rolling.

Receiving the Auction Estimate

If you have an item we feel we can sell for you, we will then prepare a “pre-sale” auction estimate composed of a value range. Estimates in general have two purposes.   First, they are used to inform the seller.  Second, they are used to attract a potential buyer.  An aggressive or high estimate may make you, the seller, happy; but it may also turn off potential bidders.

I believe it is important for an auctioneer to give an estimate independently. A good auctioneer tends to have a confidence level on what he can achieve and he will give you an estimate he feels will best serve the item. Sometimes an aggressive estimate, but other times a conservative estimate is needed. Most auctioneers (LAMA included) base their estimates on relevant auction results; often the estimate is low in order to assure that bidders will become attracted to the work (it is not in anyone’s best interest to overestimate the work).   If the seller is satisfied with the estimate, then terms are usually negotiated based on, among other things, the value of the work.

Calculating Commission

The seller’s commission is based on, among other things, the value of the work. Most auction companies (LAMA included) will offer a lower commission on higher valued works. LAMA, however, charges a flat-fee, which includes services such as photography, cataloging, advertising, etc., and does not charge a commission if an item does not sell.

Last But Not Least

One important question to ask an auctioneer when selling at auction is, “Does this auction house own any of the other works in the auction?”. This is a subtle but important question to ask. If the auction house owns or has a financial interest in many works in the auction, there is a good chance that the auction company will be promoting those works instead of yours.


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