How Does It All Work?: The Live Auction

In her Will, Nana left you a statue:

She always had..eccentric taste.

It doesn’t really go with your minimalist home, and holding on to some of her jewelry and photos is enough of an homage to your late grandmother that you probably don’t need a topless woman holding the Pink Panther as your dinner table centerpiece.

But what do you do with it? Is it worth anything? Should you throw it down a flight of stairs?


Part 2 of 2 of the FLUX. Skinner Auction Series.

I recently learned a great deal about the auction process at a luncheon hosted by Skinner Auctioneers & Appraisers of Boston. When you consign with Skinner for example, you don’t need a Hoarders stash of goods, or loads of discretionary income to have your wares appraised by a professional.  It’s actually very simple, and free.

(No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock is currently the most expensive painting ever sold)

How it works:

1.) Contact the Skinner Appraisal Services department by calling 508-970-3299 to arrange an evaluation of your item(s)

Or fill out a free evaluation form online with a description of the work/any damage/known history/photos.

2.) Skinner takes this info and will evaluate your property in terms of its auction marketability and then provide auction estimates(a price range that an appraiser believes your property will likely sell for at auction).

3.) A representative will get back to you with a “Hey, we noticed a ‘Made in China’ sticker” or a “Your piece is actually a Jeff Koons sculpture we value to be worth 15-20MM and would like to try and put it up for auction” (at least that’s how I’d like to think the calls go)


4.)At this point, you are under no obligation to consign with Skinner. Also important to note: Skinner consigns ALL of their items up for bid-They do not personally own any of the lots or purchase items upfront.

If you would like to continue with the sale, Skinner will work through the nitty gritty of the auction process including “what’s in it for them”:

Skinner’s standard commission rates for a seller are:
–10% for items selling for $7,500 or more;
–15% for items selling between $2,000 and $7,500; and
–20% for items selling for less than $2,000, with a minimum commission rate of $30 per lot.

Other Fees to be aware of: Skinner maintains insurance on all property in its possession. Insurance is charged at a rate of 1% of the final bid once each lot is sold. Additional costs may include photography, storage, and transportation.

5.) Approximately two weeks before the auction, you will receive notice of the sale date, auction location, and the lot numbers assigned to your items that will appear in that auction.

6.)Done! Keep your fingers crossed and watch the auction.

(Slave Auction, Jean-Leon Gerome..just havin’ a great time.)

After the Auction

Price information can be accessed online in real-time during an auction and after the auction. Note that prices listed online include the buyer’s premium and are not the hammer price. Past price lists can be accessed on this web site at Auction Results. Thirty-five business days following an auction, Skinner sends settlement checks and statements containing the details of the commission cost and previously confirmed expenses and charges.


How to Buy/Attend an Auction at Skinner

So you’ve got some Sacajaweas burning a hole in your pocket.. how do you get to participate in one of these auctions?

1.) Check out the Auction Schedule for times and locations of upcoming events to see if any of the auctions may be of interest to you.

2.) Get informed. Once you have found an auction you are interested in- you can purchase a printed catalog of items up for bid, or view an online catalog for free.

3.) Get up close and personal.  Sometimes catalogs and the internet can’t do an item justice, so make time to attend a preview(free) event for your auction.  This allows you to ask questions, touch items, turn them around, look at the quality up close, hold up a pantone swatch, check the shocks.. and all those other good things you might want to do before making a purchase at auction. Previews are important because once an auction begins, you can no longer inspect the lots.

4.) Attend the auction(free and open to the public).

On the day of..

  • On the day of the auction, register at the desk to receive a bidding paddle, and then take a seat.
  • The auctioneer will ask for an opening bid on the first lot. Bids will proceed in standard increments, as they are accepted from the floor, the telephones, internet, and “absentee bidding” (written bids submitted prior to the auction).  The auction proceeds in the order of lots printed in the auction catalogue.
  • Skinner’s pace is typically 100 lots per hour. Due to the fast pace of the auction, you should be seated at least ten lots before the item you are interested in comes up.
  • When your lot comes up, be prepared to raise your paddle. The auctioneer will accept your competitive bids, along with all others until a final hammer price is reached.
  • Once you have completed bidding on all items of interest, return to the registration desk to turn in your auction paddle and pay for your purchases.

As the step by step suggests, if you can’t make it to the actual auction, you can participate live online, via phone, or you can send in an absentee bid in advance.

Other helpful hints:

Are you in the market for a Pink Panther sculpture or something similar, but don’t have the hours in a day to troll the internet looking for sellers who might have such a unique product? Not a problem. Lot Alert is a feature offered by Skinner that will search for your registered keywords everytime an auction is posted online. When a catalogue is published online, Lot Alert will email you a link to the lots in the published sale which match your search criteria.

It can’t get much easier.

For more information on how to buy at auction go here. // For more information on how to sell at auction go here
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