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Selling at auction is an obvious choice if you need to sell your collection of autographs, but is it the best route?
First you need to find a decent auction! There are now hundreds of small auction houses all over the country, all claiming to be experts in all that they sell, but in reality they rarely have any real expertise in anything they offer other than the everyday house clearance junk. My advice is always find a real specialist in the item that you are selling and not a cover all auction house that will end up offering your items in with some old bicycles, boxes of 78rpm records and the odd garden ornamment!
Consigning them to the right auction means that you stand a much better chance of getting the best deal as they will have a much better knowledge of thew market and your items true value. Autographs are a very specialised area, far more specialised than most people realise. There are a few auctions around that do only accept signed items, but they are few and far between and some only have an auction that may suit your items once every six months, so do take soem time to search them out.
What will it cost me? possibly more than you might think! Most auction houses are now charging between 25% and 30% commision to you, that means that if your item sells at £100 you will get £100 less the 30% commision. In additon, some auctions also charge a catalogue fee , a listing fee, plus an insurance or storage fee, both of which come off your invoice and that may apply even if the item does not sell!
But i can set a reserve price? yes you can but some auctioneers also make a charge for that as well, plus you will almost certainly allow them to set a reserve price, and if they have no real knowledge of your item then that figure may well be too high or too low.
The buyer also has to pay a commision as well which again is often up to 30% which has the effect of raising the sale price which can often put off bidders. So an item that sells for £100 means that you get say £70 and the buyer pays £130 and its that £130 that the buyer has to consider as the true buying price which can affect his ability to bid.
OK, so i am not going to possibly get as much as i would like, but at least i will sell it? Well maybe not! an auction requires two or more people to bid and the winner to then pay, and that does not always happen. So if only one person wants to bid on the item it will sell at its reserve or start price, and if he then changes his mind and does not pay, then you get nothing other than a possible bill for entering the item into the auction.
So lets assume it sells and the buer does pay, when would i get my money? If an item sells you will in most cases get paid out 45 days after the date of the auction, sometimes longer but rarely shorter, so do take that into account.
If you have spoken with several auction houses you will find that they will give you prices that may vary wildly, confirming what i said about them not knowing the market. But which one is correct? the high one, the low one or the one in the middle?
Some will suggest a high figure, which will make you think they are confident in getting it, and as a seller you will want the high price, but are they right? Other may propose a lower figure which suggests the opposite, but as its an auction and two people want it, it may go much higher, but there are no guarantees at auctions, believe me, i have sold thousands of items at auction and i have been both surprised and very dissapointed.
And finally, no seller ever offers an item for sale without first doing some research of their own. In my experince most sellers will simply do a search for items for sale on ebay or Google and then expect a similar price for their own item based on the prices they have found. However its not that easy to value an item for resale (and i have written several other arricles on this subject which are all here online), as the price an item is offered for is rarely the price it sells for, so its the sold price you need to find (less any auction fees etc!) which is easy enough to do on ebay by simply using the advanced search option, and again i have an article on here about that..
And remember that you are a private seller and you will rarely be able to get close to the price a dealer will get, and of course a dealer has to pay tax, possible VAT, and other fees before he can make any kind of profit, and if he cannot make a profit then he will not buy your item.
So when trying to work out a price for your item, be sensible and always make sure you compare you item correctly with any that you have seen online. A dedicated item for instance will always be worth less than one which is undedicated, some dealers will not even buy dedicated items. A decent photo will always be worth more than a cropped image from a newspaper, and full signature on card will always be more than a squigle on the back of a fag packet, and dont forget theose auction fees, they will always end up more than you accounted for. Best of luck!
Garry King 2020.