Antique auctions are the stuff of theater and carry with them an air of luxury and wealth. We all have the image in mind of fine antiques and collectibles up on the auction block with fast-talking and smooth antique auctioneer crisply starting the bidding. We picture a room full of wealthy people with paddles bidding and driving the price up, creating drama. You might have antiques to sell at auction and wondering what’s the process. You might be looking to buy but you are new to auction. In this article we are providing you with antique auction guide to get you started and explain how the auction process works.
What is an Antique Auction?
Let’s start with the basics. An auction brings together items (usually antiques, houses, vehicles, luxury items, artwork, and other valuable collectibles that have been appraised for a certain value) that are being put up for sale at the auction with buyers who will bid on the items. Antique auctioneers serve as the middleman between them. The bidding starts at a base price and people bid against each other, driving the price up. At some point the bidding concludes and the person who placed the highest bid wins the items. If you have ever bid for something on eBay, it is a lot like that.
An Antique Auction Starts with a Preview Period
One of the most important steps in the antique auction process starts before bidding begins. It is called the preview period. During the preview period potential bidders have the chance to look the items up for auction over and assess their interest in them. There is usually an auction guide or catalog available ahead of time for people to look at. Once a buyer (or someone who will act as a buyer’s agent) has determined that they will bid for an item, they have to register with the auctioneer and provide identification and other information, such as the financial ability to cover their bids. The preview period can last from a few days before the auction right up to a few hours before it begins.
How an Antique Auction Begins
At the set time the auction will begin when the auctioneer announces the opening of bidding and goes over the terms and conditions. Then the first lot will be placed for bidding. As each item comes up for bidding there will be a starting price. The starting price is set by the seller, usually after the item has been appraised to determine its value. The starting price is designed to be the lowest price that a seller will sell for. It is designed to be low enough that people will be willing to bid and drive the price up.
The Exciting Part- The Bidding
Now we come to the dramatic part- the bidding. This is the part of the auction that is often depicted on stage and screen. At a live antique auction, the auctioneer starts the bidding on an item and buyers, or their agents, who are sitting in the audience, hold up paddles to place a bid at the current price being called out by the auctioneer. It can be a swiftly moving and exciting process when there are numerous bids or a “bidding war” between two buyers. The bidding ends when the auctioneer calls out, “sold”. This usually happens when there are no bids being placed because the price has become two high for any new bids. The auctioneer calls out a final chance and then, “going, going, gone!” Then the item is won by the person who bid the highest.
Online Antique Auctions
Obviously, online auctions are an increasing part of antique auctions these days. Some auctions are even a mix of in person and online. The process of a preview period and bidding are basically the same. However, the buyers have the option of previewing the items up for bid and bidding from the comfort of their own homes. It is likely that the popularity of websites like eBay and the reality of how things are done in pandemic times will lead to increase in online auctions.
American Art Buyers Define Art
American Art is typically refers to art that comes from the North American colonies and the United States from a variety of art methods such as paintings like the ever-popular realistic landscape and portrait pieces from the era.
The term can be used more loosely, however, to include art from all of America such as North and South America. The definition is generally left up to American Art Buyers and art institutions that display the art. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has redefined their interpretation for Colonial-related art as North American Colonial Art but includes all of early American art when speaking of American Art. Many American Art Buyers limit American Art to correlate with Colonial art only.
Some American Art Buyers also consider modern art made in America to be American Art. It seems that the compass of what American Art entails is often left up to the buyer or beholder.
Native American Art Buyers Guide
Native American Art is also referred to as American Indian art or the visual art of the aboriginal inhabitants of the Americas. It is the collection of art from American Indians and includes a wide scope of mediums such as pottery, paintings, and so forth. Native American Art buyers focus on art from Native Americans versus art from Europeans who lived in the colonies.
There is much to be learned through Native American Art about the indigenous people because unlike those who lived in the colonies during the times, they did not write about their history in the same manner as the Europeans. Instead, they left artifacts that contains pieces of their lives and culture.
Native American Art typically refers to antique pieces dating back centuries but can also embrace modern art that is done by Native Americans. The definition is defined by the individual Native American Art buyers.
American Art Collectors vs. Native American Art Buyers
American Art collectors are traditionally know as those who are interested in American Art from the colonial times but, can also include any type of art created in America from any age, such as Native American Art and modern art as well since Native Americans lived (and still live) in America just as art from modern Americans.
If you are looking to sell your American Art, it is best to check with individual American Art Buyers to find out for sure what their interpretation of the term is. If you have an Indian Art piece, you’ll want to first check with Native American Art buyers because you are more likely to find buyers who specialize in American Indian Art. On the other hand, if you are looking to sell early American art, you’d probably not do well selling to a Native American Art buyer. Knowing the channel to go through is imperative to maximize your return.
Sorting it All Out
While it can be confusing determining which type of buyer deals in a particular type and time period of art, knowing a little more about the terms used in the art world is extremely helpful. You are much more likely to sell your art for more when you go to the appropriate buyer to sell it so it is worth taking a little time to do your homework and brush up on what American Art entails versus what American Indian Art includes.