Evolving or Dissolving? – That is the question.

Art, Antiques, and Collectible auction sales overall dropped by approximately 33% worldwide in 2019 when compared to sales of the previous year (they also dropped in 2018). As large auction houses try to figure out how to capture part of a shrinking market, new venues to sell items that fall into these categories keep opening, and the once estimated value of items being sold by these new venues is of no concern – the concern is to just sell the items. The market is flooded with what were once considered desirable items and the priority is now just to sell the items.

The cost of presenting a proper auction has increased by almost 100%! As the buyers decrease, the need to attract more buyers is crucial, and just like anything being sold in today’s world, items need to be presented online to a broader geographic area to achieve sustainability. The two major venues to present live online auctions have increased in price tremendously as well, along with advertising, insurance. Selling to customers worldwide, the cost of shipping is required, and that cost keeps increasing.

There are still pieces of great monetary value – that will maintain, or increase, but much of the market is dissolving, and prices of items, in general, will continue to decrease.

The majority of the market that attend auctions are no longer collectors but resellers whose buying is driven solely by price. The larger auction houses that employ large staff, will find it very difficult to survive in this environment.

The collectors that remain now insist on perfection. The fact that an item is rare no longer makes it desirable. The item must be in very fine condition. One of our clients recently pointed out that his item sold for around $800 and the same item sold for $12,000 at a recent auction. I had to point out that the item that sold for $12,000 was in pristine condition, was complete, and had other components that justified that price, while his piece was missing parts, had scrapes, chips, and other issues. The fact is that it is easier to sell a perfection piece for thousands of dollars than it is to sell an imperfect piece for a couple of hundred dollars. That is what today’s high-end collector is looking for – perfection in the piece.

So what is next?

We will give you our thoughts on our next posting.