Before you consign to any auction house, find out who will describe your items. Some auction houses have reduced their staff, and their expenses, by letting their best numismatists go.
Unless everything in your collection has already been attributed, certified, and described by an experienced numismatist, be certain the auction house you choose has a widely-recognized expert catalog your collection.
Choosing an auction house with first-class numismatic catalogers insures that all rare varieties are identified and described properly. A numismatic expert will recognize all of your significant items and describe them as separate lots. Every significant item will be in the proper place in the catalog, in strict numismatic order, where it can easily be found by knowledgeable bidders. The provenance (the mention of previous auction appearances or private treaty sales records) will be included in the catalog descriptions. The length of the descriptions will correspond to the importance of the items. There will be no spelling or grammatical errors. There will be no misattributions, wrong images, wrong dates or denominations.
A skilled cataloger will present a fair and balanced word picture that mentions any relevant defects but also emphasizes the positive attributes of each example. Being overly negative can kill any chance of selling a lot. Failing to truly represent any defects will result in a high rate of returns.
A skilled and experienced cataloger will give estimates that reflect the true market value of your auction lots. If the published estimates on your lots are unrealistically high, the lots may open higher than anyone is willing to bid. If lots are consistently estimated too low, the auction will take a very long time and bidders may become impatient and loose interest.
Always choose an auction house with a staff of experts that are appropriate for the type of material that you are selling; at the very least, be sure the auction house you choose uses a competent guest cataloger who can handle your collection properly.
Ask the auction house to allow you, or a competent auction consignment agent, to proofread the descriptions of your lots before they are published. Some auction houses simply won’t agree to do this. Others are happy to comply.
You may be a recognized expert in a specialty area, and you may know your collection better than anyone else. Sometimes the best way to get correct descriptions is to write them yourself. Most auction houses are delighted to sell a collection that is fully cataloged by a knowledgeable consignor.
An independent auction consultant can help you sort through these issues; he will prepare your collection for consignment, select items that need to be certified, negotiate a fair consignment agreement, and make sure that your collection is realistically estimated and described properly.
If you need professional help, contact us.