Here’s how it works: Auction houses that sell fine things are usually fairly expert at researching the value of what they’re about to sell. Most items – probably more than 95 percent – sell for a little more or a little less than the LOW auction house estimate because bidders get skittish as they approach the HIGH estimate of the auction house, thinking, “If I pay more than the high estimate, I’m definitely overpaying for this item.” Four of the remaining five percent fail to get an opening bid and are “passed” unsold. Less than one percent of auctioned items sell for significantly more than the HIGH auction estimate.
My ability to predict the items that will sell for multiple times the HIGH estimate is not based on any deep knowledge of art or artists or trends or anything else. It’s based on 30 years as an ad consultant, watching what the public does and doesn’t get excited about.
The painting at the top of the page was sent by the artist herself to a European office of the very important Phillips de Pury & Company (450 West 15th Street, New York) who did their research and announced an opening bid of £2,800 and a pre-auction estimate of £4,000 to £6,000.
I told Pennie this painting would sell for a LOT more than that.
The auction was Feb. 18. Drum roll, please.
With no humility whatsoever;
not even pretending at it,
Roy H. Williams
PS – This is the next item I believe to be woefully underpriced. I’m betting you’ll agree. The auction house has listed an opening bid of $200 and they expect it to bring from $400 to $800. (We’ll find out if we were right on March 1st when the results of that auction are posted in the afternoon.)
It’s a bronze sculpture – one of a kind – that was sculpted more than a century ago by the legendary opera singer Enrico Caruso for his friend, the equally legendary symphony conductor,Arturo Toscanini. It is signed in the bronze, “Enrico Caruso, 1909”
Seriously, $800, seriously?