How To Choose an Auction House

choosing an auction house

Selecting an auction house to sell your valuable antiques and fine art with can be a challenging experience. You need to consider the facility's experience, fees, reputation and other qualities. You also need to look into what specific goods and antiques the auction house typically sells.

If you choose an auction house with fair fees and enough space to host a variety of items for consignment, you could have a swifter selling experience. Discover how to choose an auction house with the guide below.


What Types of Items Can I Auction?


Essentially, you can sell just about anything. As long as you legally own the property in question, you can propose it to an auction house. This may include furniture, buildings, jewelry and other personal items.

Keep in mind the items the auction house typically sells. Certain auction houses sell certain goods, such as antique furniture auctions or antique jewelry auctions, which attract a specific type of auction-goer. If you want to potentially get the most money for your items, you'll want to make sure the auction house's most popular types of items match what you want to sell to them.


What Is Consigning?


The actual selling process, also called consigning — meaning to transfer ownership to sell — is very straightforward. Before you can consign an item to an auction house, you have to get your item valued. This will help the auction house learn more about the item to ensure auction-goers have as much information as possible and help determine starting bids.

Auction houses typically allow you to fill out a contact form online for appraisal, after which they'll get in touch with you and help you walk through the process of dropping it off or meeting an appraiser.

Be sure the appraiser conducting your item's valuation has the necessary certifications and experience to give a reliable and accurate number. An inexperienced or unlicensed appraiser could lead to your item being undervalued or valued with unethical practices and standards. There are helpful guides online that provide some brief rundowns of what you should look for, so make sure to use those resources and take your time.



What Questions Should I Ask at the Auction House?


During the valuation process, and before signing the consignment forms, you'll want to ask the auction house employees and contacts a few questions. Doing so helps ensure the auction house represents your item correctly during the auction process. Below are some of the most important questions to ask when considering which auction house to consign to:


What Are Your Fees for Selling My Items?


First and foremost, you'll want to ask what fees you'll be expected to pay to the auction house during both the consignment and auction process. Fontaine's charges one flat fee without extra, hidden charges. Some other auction houses charge additional fees that vary greatly. Some fees you can expect from them may include:

  • Insurance
  • Transportation
  • Promotional
  • Photography
  • Storage

Our flat-rate fee with no hidden charges creates a more simple and straightforward selling process where you can easily understand the auction house's fee structure.

auction fees

How Will You Promote My Items at the Auction?


Next, you'll want to learn more about how the auction house promotes the items they're auctioning. The more people know about and are interested in your item, the more likely your item will sell for a higher price. Some questions to consider are:

  • Do they have a catalog of auction items?
  • Where will your item likely be located in it?
  • Who writes the catalogs?
  • What other ways do you market auction items?
  • Work with an auction house that uses advanced advertising strategies to ensure your items reach more potential buyers.


What Experience Do You Have Selling Similar Items?


You'll want to ask the auction house about their experience selling items similar to yours, as well as how likely your item will sell. If you're going to sell an antique lamp but the auction house you're considering has never sold a lamp, you'll likely get a lower return than going to an auction that sells lamps often. Additionally, asking how likely the item is to sell can give you an idea of the auction house's interest and expertise in your item category.

Look to work with an auction house that has decades of experience as well as market knowledge to best promote and sell your items.



What Percentage Will You Take?


As mentioned before, you can ask for a breakdown of the fees you'll be charged before you sign any consignment agreement. If the staff inform you that their process works differently and are unable to provide a fee structure or number, go elsewhere.

Keep in mind the demand for your item. Typically, more in-demand items will sell for higher prices, and you may be charged less by the auction house due to that expected profit. However, items that are lower in demand will likely have you paying more to the auction house after the item is sold.

This is why it's critically important to ensure you understand the fees and the preferred or popular goods of the auction houses you're considering. Getting this right can result in your item selling for more and you potentially receiving more money for it.


What Is the Auction House's Reputation Like?


You want to entrust the sale of your items with a reputable auction house. Look for qualities such as:

  • History: How long an auction house has been in business can be a reliable indicator of how reputable and trustworthy it is.
  • Customer service: An auction house should be dedicated to its buyers and sellers. It should walk you through every step of the consignment process and make selling your item as convenient as possible.
  • Item guarantees: A reputable auction house should guarantee its items for authenticity and condition. That process means an auction house ensures the authenticity of your items before selling so it can offer quality antiques to its buyers.


Consign Your Antiques With Fontaine's Auction Gallery


If you're looking for a reliable, trustworthy and upfront auction house that is willing to help you every step of the way, you'll want to work with Fontaine's Auction Gallery. Specializing in fine art, furniture, clocks, lamps and jewelry, we pride ourselves on being a favorite antique auction house option in the northeast with a worldwide auction audience.

We help you get the most return possible on your consigned items by providing auction-goers the ability to submit bids by phone, in-person and online, as well as providing a one-time, flat rate with no hidden charges. Our team of experts is ready to guide you through every step of the process, so reach out to us today.

contact us to auction your antiques