Auction Update Review
This past week four sales were archived. Christie's conducted one sale in London and another in Paris. In America Bloomsbury and Swann completed events.
For the past year we have followed the auction market on a weekly basis and employed an approach that was both arbitrary and effective. We have captured the overall sales experience by providing statistics about the lots that sold, the total of their high and low estimates and total sales, along with a list of the ten highest by value lots. We excluded unsold lots and thereby left some readers with the impression that business in the auction rooms was stronger that it actually was.
We have for some time been looking to revise these reports and a recent email about the omission of unsold material is prompting a review. Such information can be prejudicial.
In the attachment with this email are the proposed changes. Auction houses that sell a high percentage of their lots but not the most valuable material would fare less well in this analysis. Houses that sell valuable material more easily than inexpensive would look better. As this analysis shows some houses are doing a better job getting both consignments and realistic estimates. Christie's Travel and Science sale achieved 93% of the high estimate for all lots offered even though they actually sold 77% of the lots. They did comparatively better with the expensive material.
Bloomsbury, by comparison, sold 62% of its lots on April 21st but achieved only 32% of the high estimate. Swann, on the other hand, did almost as well as Christies when, on the 22nd, it achieved 91% of the high estimate for its autographs sale.
Auction charts in the revised format are attached.
There is an ongoing debate about the role of auctions in the sale of material. I personally believe they are market makers rather than agents for sellers. We will see how readers respond to this information and finalize changes in a week or so.
April 25, 2010