Try the Internet. Since the advent of eBay, the growth of the Internet for trading art and antiques has been nothing short of phenomenal. Practically every dealer, auctioneer, and show organizer has developed a site with the expectation that they will find a new and successful means to connect with clients. However the success on the Internet requires an ability to be user friendly, practical, and imaginative.
The opportunities to get it right are challenging but full of promise. I would dare say that the Internet provides more occasions to connect with a customer than all the shows combined. Your audience is worldwide, 24/7. You don’t have to travel and you don’t have to attend a scheduled event that can be intimidating and wrought with barriers. Most importantly, it is growing daily, with an almost limitless number of potential buyers. Compare these prospects with the world of antiques shows; how many more of the same old acts, with the same dealers showing the same merchandise, with all the expenses of putting on the show. They have become boring.
My money is going toward the Internet and making my presence there. To be perfectly frank, Newel has advertised in magazines for years and has developed a world renowned reputation. But the world and the antiques trade is evolving, and I see a greater chance to sell to both new and old customers if I can get them to visit my web site. As one of the first dealers to put our entire inventory on the web, I have seen this expanding trend and feel it is one area where a dealer can compete with the auctioneer.
The Internet is one medium the auctioneer cannot dominate (Sotheby’s found out the hard way), because it lends itself to opening up a dialogue between buyers and sellers. It offers the chance to ask questions, negotiate, and develop a relationship, if done properly and creatively.
Ask ArtInfo: Auctions 101
If the reserve on our example work is $30,000, the auctioneer is allowed to make “house bids” (also known as “chandelier bids”) to move the bidding from the $20,000 starting price up to the reserve number.
This means eager, early bidders might actually be competing against phantom bids—so novices are advised to wait until other, more experienced players begin raising their paddles.
And good things might come to those who wait, explained Robert Mnuchin, chairman of C & M Arts, the blue-chip Manhattan gallery: If the object fails to meet its minimum, it will be “bought in” (removed from bidding); in such cases, “You can make an offer after the auction and often get it at a lower price,” Mnuchin said.
To earn their living, the auction houses also charge a commission fee on each sale, called a “buyer’s premium,” that will be added on top of the hammer cost of the sale item. It varies between houses, so be clear on precisely what you’ll be paying beforehand