and some insights into our auction business.
We have a very good sale coming up on Aug24. Probably the best variety of quality items I have had in a long time. Funny thing is, just a little over a month ago, I had some concerns about the upcoming Aug auction. The phone had been quiet (dog days of summer), and I was a little concerned about having enough good pieces for the sale. Boy did that change! The phone started ringing, and the quality merchandise came pouring in! Partial estates, downsizing, dealer cleanouts…and every pickup kept getting better and better!
This is what makes the business interesting…you never know what is coming our way. I don’t pick up the phone and ask someone if they want to consign items to my auction. I wait for the phone to ring, and after 17 years in this business and over 200 regular monthly antique consignment auctions, plus having sold for over 2000 different consignors, the phone usually rings on a pretty steady basis. As I said before, that’s what makes this business so interesting for me.
The down side of course, is having to tell some people that the items they have are just not suitable for our auctions. This can get a little tricky. I go on many house calls, and receive many email photos and inquiries. I recently had to tell one very nice woman that the china she had collected (and in some cases paid a fair bit of money for), just does not sell well anymore. She was very disappointed, and was wondering just how she was going to dispose of it. On the bright side I told her that even though it was not something I wanted in our auctions, I would give her the name of another auctioneer that I thought would be interested. Hopefully it all worked out well for both of them. This is a common scenario for me, and seems to be happening even more frequently now.
Some people think, as an auctioneer, I would accept almost anything into the auction, regardless of value. I will often have people tell me they really don’t care what it brings, they just want it gone. The reality is, I care what it brings, because I usually have to handle every piece four times when I pick it up from the house. If it doesn’t sell, I have to load it again, unload it at our storage, load it again for the next sale and unload it at the hall. I have now handled it 8 times. If it sells for $5.00 I have earned less than $1.00 for all my work.
In our July auction I picked up a white contemporary loveseat from a home. It was nicely stored and wrapped in plastic, but it wasn’t until I got it home, that I realized this one might be a bit of a problem. And sure enough it was. I could not get a bid on it…I literally could not give it away! I got quite a few laughs with it at the auction as I desperately tried to find a home for it, but that didn’t work either. So I load it up again, unload it into the storage. With the consent of the consignor, I loaded it into the van again and gave it away to a thrift shop….and they even hesitated to take it! A lot of time and handling for zero dollars. I try and make sure that doesn’t happen often!
So the rambling point I am trying to make is simply this….I have to be careful of what I take into auction. It is expensive to put on a monthly antique auction. The first $10,000 in sales in the auction, go to covering my expenses. Anything less and I lose money. And the monthly antique auctions make up the vast majority of my income.
I have a simply formula I use for my auctions. On average the selling price per lot, should be in the $40-$50 range. You take the $1000 pieces and the $5 pieces, and when you average them out, you need to come out with that $40-$50 range. When I am accepting consignments, I want the entire consignment to average out in the $30 range at least. Not hard to do really. 10 items $300…one could sell for $250 and the other 9 sell for $50, but it still averages out ok. I have some consignments that average out over $100 per lot or higher. However, if I am looking at a possible consignment and all I see is $2 and $5 items, then I will have to pass on it. The numbers just are not there.
Also I have to fill the auctions with the items that are going to sell, and sell quickly. In our primitives section, we usually average out less than $30 per lot, but if you have been to our sales, you realize how quickly we can sell out that section. Even if it is a $5 or $10 piece, we hold it up and the hands start flying! Rarely do we have any of the primitive items unsold after the auction. So as long as people want them, and they can sell quickly and for a reasonable price, then I want them as part of the sale.
Also if you have been to our auctions, you have seen me struggle trying to sell low end glass and china. You can’t eliminate it completely from a sale, but there are times when I struggle to get $2 on a tray lot of low end items. Bottom line is, if the buyers don’t want it, then I can’t sell it, so it really should not be in our auction.
So back to the upcoming auction. What a pleasure it is going to be doing this sale! It is the direction I want to go in for every auction.
Having said all this…don’t be reluctant to call me if you have something for auction! If it is something I cannot use, I make a point of assisting people in finding another auction house, or some other venue for selling the items. What doesn’t sell well in our auctions, may sell very well in another auction. It is just a matter of finding the right place to sell.