- ASSUMING WHAT WAS PAID FOR SOMETHING IS WHAT IT IS WORTH.
This cuts both ways. Sometimes people will assume that a possession is worth more than it is because “Mom paid a lot for it,” or that something has little value because “Mom bought it for $5- at the flea market” years ago.
What’s “collectible” can and does change. I have had the personal experience of auctioning off artworks and other collectibles for thousands of times more than what was originally paid for them.
- NOT SEEING THE VALUE IN THE WHOLE(S)
Executors and administrators of estates will often think in terms of the value of each item of personal property to be sold, but sometimes value is maximized if things are cleverly grouped together. For example, if there is a group lot of the same mid-century designer’s vases, it will drive more competition into bidding. Bidders, on the other hand, will be excited to have the pieces missing from their collection but also the ones that will upgrade their collection.
- SCRUBBING, CLEANING, FIXING, REFINISHING…
Bidders prize estate fresh contents. Often, those tasked with selling the contents of an estate will make the mistake of trying to “fix” things before they are sold. It’s heartbreaking when, for example, I have to tell someone that the “I saw it on the internet” restoration/fix killed the value of an important possession. In plain terms, rely on a professional to advise on what, if anything, should be done to a damaged possession before it’s offered for sale. Most of the time, nothing should be done, because collectors prize original condition and the ability to do their own restorations. Oftentimes I tell people, even beg, to leave the dirt.
- TRYING TO PASS THE HOT POTATO(S)
Often a collection, especially one built over many years, will have a fraudulent work or forgery. A fraud is an object or artwork masquerading as something it’s not. A forgery is a work made with the intent to deceive. A deceased collector may have been duped early on in their collecting into buying a fraud or, worse, a forgery. There are often one or two of these bad apples in even the best collections. These items should never be mixed in with the good. If they are not to the outright point of being illegal to sell, as would be the case with trying to pass off a known forged artwork, they should still never be combined with quality, legitimate works. If they are, more often then not they will pull down the value of everything that is offered with them. Sometimes legitimate reproductions or “married antiques” when properly identified can have a significant value.
- THROWING THINGS OUT AND NOT THROWING THINGS OUT
This happens more often than not: I show up on a house call and see a full rain-soaked dumpster in the driveway. I always tell people, call me first, then call for the dumpster. It’s heartbreaking to tell people that the ’empty frame’ they threw out was a Foster Brothers. Conversely, it’s equally frustrating when people think every scrap has value, which philosophically is true but, practically speaking from an auctioneer’s standpoint, not so much.