Antiques Answer Man

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            Antiques Answer Man, Wayne Cameron--award-winning columnist-- answers your questions about antiques and fine art in the following articles. Feel free to read through them! They will be updated regularly. We would appreciate your feedback.


Get the Best Buy

 By Wayne L. Cameron

 Sometimes we dealers get together to check out one another’s inventory, catch up on the news and, yes, even talk about our clients and some of their amusing idiosyncrasies.  We also chat about our latest and best finds as well as industry trends.  On one such occasion, we discussed an unsettling phenomenon—the diminishing number of antiques shops due to fewer tourists, rising operating costs as well as the popularity of buying at auction.  A number of dealers have chosen the less-expensive method of marketing through trade shows and/or the Internet.  We discussed the pros and cons of both methods and decided that, in the long term, shows, auctions and the Internet may well become the preferred method of selling art and antiques.

However, I still maintain that displaying items that can be viewed first hand and purchased without worrying about competitive bidding, or buying from a small photo on a computer screen will always find a place in the market share.  Like many dealers, I take pride in displaying my inventory of antiques and paintings in a manner that shows them off to best advantage.  Shoppers, in turn, have opportunity to carefully examine items minus the pressure of time constraints.  They also commonly share the sentiment that shops charge somewhat higher prices due to higher operating expenses.  But do they really?  Let me relate another conversation.  Many dealers have clients in common.  I offered one in particular a painting at what I thought was a fair price.  He countered that the painting was somewhat mediocre and offered me about thirty percent less.  I thanked him for the offer and returned the painting to my brokering client who promptly turned around and placed it in an auction where she received about 25 percent more than I had asked for it.  Know who bought it?  Yes, that same client!  For some ever-mysterious reason, people expect a substantial discount in a gallery or antiques shop, but at auction, where keen competition raises the temperature to fever pitches, they often elect to pay more than retail just to end up on top.

In recent weeks, a few major art auction houses have experienced a remarkable rise once again in works by Canadian artists, especially the works of Lawren Harris.  Auctions both on line and live continue to take over as retail outlets because they do tend to set public pricing for most national and international artists.  Not unlike that client I described who willingly paid more at auction than in my shop, many people still believe that you buy wholesale at auctions.  While the auctions often determine market value, they cannot claim to be the only place to get a good buy on paintings and antiques.  Remember, most dealers willingly negotiate prices in order to accommodate serious buyers.  When you want the best buy, most shops can still deliver.