A NYC auction is a great way to sell your antiques, fine art, collectibles and jewelry. This is especially true when you have an item that is extremely high in value.

When auctioning your valuables, there is a lot you need to know. We will go over many important details about auctions and how they work. In addition, we will help you contact the auction that would be appropriate for your items. We work with all the major Manhattan auction houses. We also can help you get in touch with the smaller local auction houses.

Benefits of Auction

A major benefit of selling at auction is that your item gets the exposure it needs. These days auctions are very different than they were years ago. Back in the day auctions sold items to bidders who were physically in the auction house. In some cases, they also had phone bids or absentee bids. Now auctions have absentee bids, phone bids and internet bids. You can be sitting in a café getting lunch and use your cell phone or laptop to bid on an auction taking place a million miles away.

A second benefit is that the auction works for you. Once your item is in the possession of the auction, they will begin marketing your item. It will be photographed and cataloged. They will even send emails and catalogs to prospective buyers. The auction house wants your item to sell for the highest price possible. This will benefit you and the auction house.

Drawbacks of Auction

The first major drawback of using an auction house is time. If you want to sell your item in one of the major auction houses you will most likely have to wait three to six months before the auction takes place. Then another four to eight weeks before you get paid. In the smaller auction houses the process will be much quicker because they don’t have to print out professional catalogs or do extensive marketing.

Another drawback is fees. Auctions may charge numerous fees that can add up quickly. In extreme cases, you may only end up with 1/2 of the final hammer price. The consigner must be sure to go over these fees before putting the item in the auction.

The last thing you need to understand about auctions is that it is not an exact science. You may get an idea of estimates by going by prior sales. However, you never know who will be bidding on your item on that particular day. There will always be a chance that your item will not sell.

Final Thoughts

If you have a rare piece of fine art that has the potential to bring a great deal of money, you have a difficult decision to make. If you have time and the fees aren’t too extreme, auction is a good choice. Just be sure it is a reputable auction that has a proven track record with items similar to yours.

If you are trying to decide which auction is best or are having difficulty getting in touch with a particular auction house, let us know. We understand the larger auctions can be hard to contact. If you have an item that is worthy of a high-end auction, that is where it should be. You should not settle for less just because you can’t get a hold of the right people or can’t email a photo correctly. Once we have the details about your item, we can do the work for you. We will get your information to the right specialist at the right auction. Then, (with your permission) we will give the specialist your contact information. We do not charge any fees for our services so please feel free to contact us.

Auction Terms

Buy-Back Fee

The buy-back fee is the amount an auction charges the consigner if the item does not sell.

Buyer’s Premium

The buyer’s premium is the amount a buyer must pay in addition to the selling price. In most New York City auction houses the buyer’s premium is 25%. If an item sold for $1000 and the buyer’s premium is 25%, then the buyer needs to pay $1,250.

Catalogue Raisonné

The Catalogue Raisonné is a list of works done by a specific artist. Many artists have a specific person (or people) that are in charge of authenticating their artwork. Many details may be included when the experts go over the artwork. These may include condition, size, signature, provenance, date of work and more.


The consigner is the seller or person turning the item over to the auction.


Estimate is the price range that the auction feels would be appropriate for your item. If the estimate is $1,000-$2,000 the auction believes that the low price of your item would be $1,000 and the high price would be $2,000.

Hammer Price

The hammer price is the amount of the highest bid. This does not include the buyer’s premium or seller’s commission.

Insurance Fees

The insurance fees are the charges for insuring your item. This fee can range anywhere from 1%-5%.


The provenance is the background of the item you are selling. It basically is a description of the item’s history and how it came into your possession. The provenance can have a huge effect on value.  If you have a painting that was given to you (or a family member) by the artist, the value would be higher than normal. If you purchased the item from a reputable store/auction house it will also help to increase the value. In comparison, if you bought the item at a garage sale, the provenance is not very good. The more proof you have of how you acquired the item, the better. This may include sales receipts, auction records, appraisals,  or anything else that can prove the item is legitimate.


The reserve is the minimum amount an item may sell for at auction. If the item is estimated $1,000-$2,000, it may have a reserve of $500 or $750. Every auction is different and some even have no reserve. This means any bid will win the auction item.

Seller’s Commission

The seller’s commission is the % amount the auction charges the seller. These are the fees that the auction takes of the final hammer price. If you pay 15% sellers’ commission on an item that sold for $1000 than you will end up getting $850. (Most larger auction houses charge additional fees including photo fees, shipping fees, insurance fees and more).