• gerard van weyenbergh

Free appraisals made by auction houses , not so free after all

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

Auction houses and some antique dealers or galleries offer free art appraisals. But be aware that they may not be so free !

In reality, they are never free, and it could cost you sometimes a lot of money here is why:

1/ Free art appraisals given by auction houses, why they are not so free. Auction houses want to attract people to consign artwork with their auction house.

The best way to attract owners of art is to offer y a free appraisal. An auction house makes on average of 30 % on the sale of an item for the small auction house up to 555% for auctions houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s. They charge the seller a premium from 10% up to 30 %, and they charge the buyer the same range of premiums. A painting sold at the hammer 1 Million $ , will give an average of $ 750K for the seller, and the buyer will pay an average of $ 1.25 million. In conclusion, the house makes an average $ 500,000.. on an item sold at the hammer $ 1 M.

An auction house is not a free public service!

An auction house will not do in-depth research and will certainly not file authenticity research with the solely recognized expert authentication for an artist, if the value of the item you offer is not of value in the $ millions. For very important paintings they will do the necessary steps because the return for them is very important. But for artworks under the $ 1 million, you will have to provide the authenticity certificate. If the auction house understands you will not consign your art with them and want to know what is the value of your painting, they will not spend time. Why would they waste time if they have nothing to gain? Besides, you have to know they will appraise value of what they think will sell in their auction house. But in another auction house, the value may be completely different. Indeed, California artists by example, will have a higher estimated value in a Los Angeles auction house like Moran auction in Monrovia than an auction house in Florida or Alabama. In reality, the free appraisals given by auction houses are not real art appraisals at all. They are only quick estimations of what they think your art will fetch at the hammer. Except, of course, the few major world auction houses which have well-trained art appraisers, most auctions houses will have little experienced experts. These facts are a major negative point if you want to have an accurate appraisal. To finalize the aspect of the free estimate in auction houses, one word of the reserve price when an auction house appraises your art. If, at the auction day, the item doesn’t obtain the reserve price, the seller will have no costs to pay. It’s logical that the auctioneer will have the lowest estimate possible for your artwork and reserve price in consequence because the auctioneer needs to amortize the costs of his catalog, publicity, etc. Lower the reserve price, the more chance the auctioneer has to sell the artwork.

2/ Free art appraisal given by galleries and antique dealers Obvious conflict of interests.

An antique dealer or a gallery owner, if your item has any interest for him, it is unthinkable he will give you a fair value for your item. This is a natural temptation if they covet your artwork. They will appraise the artwork at a low value and will try to buy at an even lower amount. Avoid dealers and galleries if you want to know the real value of your item. Having your artwork appraised for free, in both situations, by auction houses or antique dealers, could cost you in final a lot of money. The only valuable solution is to choose an independent art expert, specialized in the artwork you want to have appraised.