Often our clients have items they want to sell but don't know where to start. We spoke with Jack DeStories of Fairfield Auction to help us answer the question, trash or treasure?
I'm sure everyone thinks their stuff is worth something? How do you decide what is valuable? I've been appraising antiques and fine art for 30 years so at this point 95% of what we see we can immediately recall the current price trends for that object. The other 5% can require some research. We have access to vast databases of auction results and, if needed, specialists who can assist us.
How should someone proceed if they have an item they want you to sell, how does the process work? We have an open appraisal day every Tuesday in the gallery from 10am to 1pm. It's similar to what you see on The Antiques Roadshow, people bring in up to five items and we offer an evaluation. People can also bring images if the items are too large to physically bring in. Otherwise, the process usually starts with an emailed image and description- or sampling of images for estates or collections. If there is a substantial amount of material or if an item can't be fully evaluated from images we may schedule an on-site visit. We always create a written evaluation for estates and large collections that the client can review and take their time with before deciding what, or if, they want to consign.
What do you tell people about the likelihood their piece will sell? Everything is given an auction estimate which is a range within which we expect the item to sell. Almost everything will open at 50% of the low estimate. Overall I would say about 2/3 of the items sell within estimate, the other 1/3 is equally likely to sell above or below that estimate. Our historical sales rate is quite high, about 95%.
How should someone deal with furniture, do you pick it up from them? We can often offer free trucking, but it is usually limited to large estates or high value items. Often we can help coordinate a reasonably priced trucker for pick-ups or deliveries (of purchases).
What are some of the most interesting pieces you have seen at your auction house? We've handled many interesting estates and items. The most expensive item was a Tlingit warrior helmet dating to the 18th century that sold for over two million dollars. Our upcoming auction in September 2017 includes a luncheon menu from the Titanic- only a handful survived- all presumably carried off the ship in lifeboats- and are quite valuable. We are expecting this one to bring $40,000 to $60,000. Our client discovered it among her late mother's possessions - having never seen or heard of it before!