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What is It?

Posted Jun 11, 2013
Written by Fran Zeman
Category General

Art is often in the news and there is a great deal of interest when the news concerns an event that could have long ranging effects.

Take for example the Russian enamel box that was offered for sale by a regional auction house with a pre-sale estimate of $4,000.00-$6,000.00 and listed in an auction catalog as a 19th century “fine Russian silver/enamel covered box with gilt interior”.  There was a great deal of interest in the box prior to the sale and someone was apparently willing to pay $460,000.00 to buy it. To broadly synopsize the history of events that transpired, its buyer didn’t pay for the purchase, sued to negate the sale and prevailed.   The enamel box was ultimately resold by the auction house for a sum reported to be about $50,000.00.

Still in the courts on appeal, this case could ultimately affect the entire auction industry by requiring an auction house to identify the seller of a property to a prospective buyer by name rather than by code.  Why should it be an important point of good business to know the identity of the parties who will be participating in an upcoming business deal, but not to know the identity of a property that is being bought and sold?  The Courts will decide.

Did the “situation”, as it will be called, begin with how the property was originally identified?  Certainly we hear about huge sums of money being paid for auction “sleepers” that sold for large sums of money at relatively small or regional auctions. But this is not the norm.

Every business should operate with an appropriate business plan; for auction houses, this includes obtaining consignments, turn-over, and finding ways to maximize profits made from sales and related activities.  How a property is brought to market can have a substantial effect on the success of a sale and financial return.  Perhaps consulting with additional expertise regarding the above enamel box would have resulted in placement in a different sale, different bidding activity and a better, more satisfying result.
Consider this: in every instance,  accurate identification of property is a win-win situation. Knowing what something is the first step in paving the way for a satisfactory plan, whatever that may be.