Auction Post Mortem for Thursday 2/22/2024 - Flops, Floats, and Flights

Auction Post Mortem for Thursday 2/22/2024 - Flops, Floats, and Flights

Watch the auction here.

I normally don't panic if the Sunday markets come and go and I don't have much for the coming Thursday auction. There's usually a couple of local auctions I can hit, or an antique store I haven't been to in a while, or maybe some choice stuff out in the barn I have been saving for a rainy day. It usually comes together, and what I think is going to be a slim auction turns into a block buster that goes til midnight. Despite some last minute consignments, that didn't really happen this week - the small auction stayed small, and with a lack of what I would call "high concept pieces" - things that really pack a punch. Don't get me wrong, there was plenty of cool stuff this week - the family bible, the Dresden art gallery book, the art deco decanters, and more - but nothing that I felt was really a WOW item that had the potential to take off into the stratosphere. In the end, the results of this week's auction I think were a float all across the board - steady results right around where I think the retail value of most of the items should predictably be.

Though there was nothing I would consider a flop this week, I did have a couple lengthy buying trips that I would characterize as flops. One was and hour and half drive to an auction house I hadn't bid with before to pick up two items - the nautical print of the ships in a rough harbor, and the pair of art deco decanters. The print cost me $61.50 - a $50 hammer price and a 23% buyer's premium - and did kind of crash and burn in my own auction, bringing only $25. That said, despite, I think, being a compelling image, it didn't really have any esoteric value to it, and that is sometimes required for artwork to really take off in my auction. Regardless, a nearly $40 loss hurts a bit. Fortunately, I was able to run the art deco decanters next, which brought a strong $95. I had paid $36.90 for them with buyer's premium, so I was pleased with that result. In the end, the two lots from this auction pick-up cost me $98.40, and brought $120. When you factor in gas and 3+ hours of my time, its hard to characterize that as anything but a flop. But sometimes I'm willing to put in some miles, burn some gas, and sacrifice some time to pad an auction and bring cool stuff to my audience, even if just for a flop.

In a similar event, I drove a half hour down the road to an antique store I usually skip over to see if they had anything new. They didn't, but knowing I had a slim auction this week, I picked up three things that had been sitting there for a while. First, the brass pocket watch stand with the bees and the bears. That cost me $61.20 with a 10% cash discount, and brought $70 come auction time; the Rebekah IOOF collar, bought for $58.50, and sold at a loss for $50; and the Venus weighing cupid print, bought for $38.00, and sold for $45. Like the trip to the auction house above, the $11.10 profit from this trip was hardly worth my time. That said, I wouldn't say that any of these items flopped - I think they all brought just about what they were worth, there just wasn't much meat left on the bone after my expenses.

I tell both of these stories not to complain at all - this job is fun, even when it doesn't pay off - but just to highlight how challenging it is to bring together an auction's worth of stuff each week as a one-man-show. There are just so many antique stores and auctions and flea markets around to supply me, and I grow pickier as time goes by. Gathering together a curated collection each week really is a full time job that's time consuming and expensive. Meanwhile, flea markets are closing, local auctions are scaling back (I don't think there's any decent once-a-week in-person auctions near me anymore), and lots of stuff is moving online, so buying becomes more and more challenging. Two potential ways to overcome these challenges are to take on more consignments, which I have been and will continue to do, and to work on getting into more houses and estates, which I am too shy and lack the resources to really do right now. These are just some thoughts should anyone care to read them. Let's get on with some flops, floats, and flights:

Float: G. Juvet Coin Silver Pocket Watch with Watch Chain and Photos

Consigned, Sold $250

One item that was consigned last minute this week was a really fabulous G. Juvet pocket watch with an even more fabulous watch chain. What made it extra special was that it included two cabinet card photographs of the watch's original owner, with the watch chain on display in the photos. A very cool lot which brought a very cool $250, which is right around what I thought it would bring, so this stays at the float designation. A strong result, with, I think, room left for the buyer to make some money, especially if the pocket watch is repaired.

Float: 1873 Family Bible, Published by Richard Nagle, Boston, Massachusetts

Purchased $100, Sold $270

This bible is probably the best one I have ever had, in terms of quality and interest, and most importantly, condition. These bibles are always mangled. This one was in great shape. A $270 sale off of a $100 purchase is a very strong result, floating right along what I thought and hoped it would bring.

Float: The Dresden Gallery Book

Purchased $20, Sold $95

This book was packed with lots of really interesting engravings from the Dresden Gallery, but for each interesting one. As far as art books of this era go, I think this was one of the cooler ones. I think, though, that the format of my auctions held it back a little bit, because I don't really have the time to go through each and every page and illustration to show just how cool it is. So there was much that was left unseen. Still, a $95 result was great, even though I think there was plenty of potential for it to take off, and plenty of money left to be made for a reseller at that price.

Other Items of Note

Float: Eskimo Brand Spiderweb Fan; Purchased $20, Sold $45

Flight: The Memory Stone Vermont Marble Company Gravestone Pamphlet, 1926; Consigned, Sold $80

Float: Lola Montez Secrets of the Toilet Booklet; Purchased $5, Sold $20

Float: Pair of Mickey Mouse 16mm Films; Purchased $20, Sold $40

Float: Ancient Mystic Order of Samaritans "We Never Sleep" Odd Fellows Fraternal Pendant; Consigned, Sold $32

Float: J. Purdy Seventh Cavalry Rough Riders Pharaoh's Horses Belt Buckle; Purchased $10, Sold $56

Float: Fisticuffs Tintype; Purchased $4, Sold $40

Float: Funky Contemporary Painting of Jesus' Crucified Left Hand; Purchased $2, Sold $37

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