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Buying Antiques at Auction: What Your Mother Never Told You

OK, let’s get our cards on the table right away: we’re dealers, and we think that in most cases, you will do much better buying from a dealer than at auction. Our objections to buying at auction are based on the simply fact that, by their nature, many auction practices work against a buyer’s interests. We believe that, from a buyer’s perspective, dealers trade more fairly than auctioneers.

Part I: Selling at Shows

Part II: Doing Good Business

Art Funds

In the last couple of months Business Week has started to poke its nose into our business, particularly the fine art end of it. This is bad news for all of us.

But first some facts. Investment bankers are poised to move into the art market in a big way. Ariel Salama, the Global Head of Private Banks at ABN-AMRO, predicted in April that $30 billion of private equity would move into art funds in the next ten years. Three billion a year? Is there really that much art sold each year? And if there is, how much will be left over for public museums and collectors after the three billion-worth has been sucked up into the investment machine? Business Week tells me that there are plans to launch six new art investment funds in the first half of 2005.

The Art of the Steal

I’ve just finished reading “The Art of the Steal,” Christopher Mason’s account of the Christie’s-Sotheby’s price-fixing scandal that resulted in jail terms and multi-million dollar fines. Underneath its fascinating story of greed and machinations at the top of the art and antiques market lurks a subplot that I, at least, had not picked up in reading the press accounts of the trials. Behind the collusion lay an explicit and strategic attempt to squeeze dealers out of the top of the market. The Christoby’s collusion was, in part at least, an alliance of auctioneers against dealers.

Auction Prices

So Eldred’s, a well-established, honorable, and honest firm of auctioneers is facing a law suit for doing business as usual. The story, in case you haven’t heard it, goes like this.

Antiques as Investments

With the stock market behaving like a bear on a bungee cord, it seems a good moment to revisit that old, old question -- are antiques a good investment?

The 2002 Antique Furniture Price Index

Every year since 1968, the Antique Collectors' Club in England has published an index of the selling prices of good, mid-range antique furniture known as the Antique Furniture Price Index (AFPI). The index of prices in 2001 has just come out. We thought you'd be interested in its main findings.