I was in Paris on my spring antique buying trip to restock the European Finds warehouse and made my first visit to the famous Hôtel Drouot Auction House. Since 1852, Drouot has been the leading international auction house in France, specializing in art, antiques and jewelry. With 15 salesrooms and 60 affiliate auction houses, Drouot is the oldest auction house in the world and on a typical day welcomes 4000 visitors for five to seven auctions.
How to Buy Antiques at an Auction House
An auction house is a great place to learn about antiques and to buy pieces for your home or for resale. Sotheby's and Christie's are two of the most famous American antique and art auction houses. Auction houses are a system of competitive bidding to sell items to people who want to buy it. Attending an auction can be fun and informative. Buying at an auction can be risky if you don't have good information and you haven't done your research.
Do some research before you go to an auction house:
Auctioneers The auction house and auctioneer are hired by the seller and represent the interests of the seller, not for the buyer. Their job is to drive the price up as high as possible for the seller - not to get a good deal for the buyer.
Payment and Fees Can you pay by check? Is there a commission? Each auction house typically lists their terms and conditions on their website.
Common Terms What's an absentee bid? What does bought-in mean? What's a buyer's premium? Sotheby's has a good glossary of auction terms.
My Day at Auction House:
People are lined up to get in to preview the auction items. Once in, I had a short time to preview the items: this auction was spread across multiple rooms and two floors, so that is not a lot of time to inspect what will be up for auction.
Then, the auction house closes for two hours. The auction starts at the same time across all the rooms. Most seats are taken and in some rooms, you have to jockey for position to even get into the room. Some rooms have screens to showcase the item and the bidding status in Euros and USD.
One item in the room we were in went for nearly $100,000!
I bid on a pair of ship light fixtures. The little ship lights were very cute but weren’t crystal. The ships sold for much higher than my highest bid.
These glass panels are Baccarat. I was hoping to win them and convert them to coffee tables. They went for €8,000 - plus the buyers premium. I had to pass because I would have the cost of converting them to coffee tables, exporting them and shipping them to the port - it would be devastating if such beautiful works of art got damaged during the voyage.