December 3rd, 2012 by

Buying antiques and fine art is a very enjoyable experience but can have its pitfalls for both professional dealer and amateur alike.

In this short guide, I hope to be able to give an insight in how many dealers operate in the international market. This is by no means a definitive working practice in every case, and the views presented here are simply personal ones based upon 20 years of experience. Nevertheless, I believe that they have some merit and have served me well over the years.

Firstly, a professional dealer is no different from a private collector or individual when it comes to making a purchase. What many people forget is that dealers are also owners of their stock. They put their money where their mouths are in the hope that they can turn a profit. Sometimes the market is such that they cannot sell an item for many years, or if they do will have to take a loss on their original investment. It happens to every dealer at some stage, but that is the learning curve they, and everyone else for that matter, is on. We are all just fallible after all. This brings us nicely to a set of informal buying stages that I operate by on a typical transaction. So here is the first.

Stage 1

Do you love the item? Forget the investment potential. Forget the price. Forget any selling schpeel or scarcity of the piece. Forget the worry of where you’ll put it at home. Simply, do you like it? How do you respond emotionally to it? Whether you are an individual or dealer, only you can really decide this.

OK, so you’ve fallen in love with a piece. Now what?

Stage 2

Can you afford it? So let’s say that the piece you have chosen has an affordable price tag – and by that I mean on a personal level you will be able to pay for it without mortgaging your home or selling your children! Only you can gauge this, and the same also applies to the dealer. After all, they could be stuck with it for sometime and not be able to free up their working capital.

Stage 3

What price are you prepared to pay? This is where for the most part the dealer has the edge on a private client. It is their specialist knowledge of market prices and current trends, which will assist them greatly in completing a sale, that will in turn be driven by their business margins.

So how can an individual ‘compete’ with a dealer? Well there are many ways, which we’ll touch on later in the article, but here is the main one. Research.

It’s somewhat obvious, but if you are buying anything with a signature, try to research the artist. If the piece is attributed to someone, what is the basis for the seller claiming this? This is also loosely described as provenance – the holy grail of authenticity.

Provenance could include, but not be limited to, anything from a verifiable source of past ownership to documentation proving the substance of the piece. It may also just be a gut feeling for example where an old lady has had something in the family for as long as she can remember. Remember this though, never take anyone’s word for what you are looking. It may be that the seller is simply trying to turn a quick profit and hasn’t dug too deep into an items value in either direction.

Now I’m not advocating a cynical view to buying. For the most part private and trade sellers are honest people simply trying to make a profit and not deceive, but it is amazing how often this lack of research happens. If you don’t believe me, look at the many stories of hugely valuable treasures being discovered at car boot (garage) sales or in auction. Remember the Chinese vase that sold in the UK for in excess of £45m, well that was valued earlier by a dealer at £800. Ooops. You can’t be an expert on everything, so the lesson here, is do your research. You may not get it right every time, but it will pay dividends in the long run.

But where and how I hear you ask? Well you’ll find that the internet is a hugely valuable and free resource for this. There are also subscription based services which will track a particular artist or edition in the salerooms worldwide. See Benezit online (soon to be launched), Artprice etc.

The internet has really changed the way the way in which we shop and consume all sorts of products. For the novice, it is an invaluable tool for researching whether there is a similar item for sale, and at what price, or to simply learn more about the piece you are about to purchase. Within the trade, there are mixed views about this, mostly because this kind of market intelligence was predominantly the domain of the professionals and it is seen as somehow weakening the commercial advantage. I’m of the opinion though that this sea-change of the way we now acquire art it is a good thing, as in the long run it benefits everyone dealing in expensive works of art and raises the reputation and transparency of those bona fide dealers.

Now a word of warning here about using auction salerooms as valuation indicators. An auction price is simply a measure of what someone is prepared to pay for a piece in a competitive environment – nothing more, nothing less. Along with frequency of appearance on the open market, these are broadly how market prices are ‘set’ for an item or artist. Remember Stage 1? That is principally what is at work here and why dealers and private individuals get carried away and sometimes pay beyond their set limit. Then again, that’s the excitement of a ‘room’ – they are environments that provoke tests of nerve, bank balances and many times a large measure of egos thrown in.

If you’ve never been to an auction, then I urge you to go. They are great fun, but if you do happen to see something you want, set your limit and stick to it. A useful trick is to imagine yourself as a big cat hunting on the plains of Africa and your prey is an auction item. Sometimes you’ll give chase and be successful, but more often than not you’ll have to let it go to conserve your energy (read money!) and live to hunt again. If you do get carried away though, don’t worry. We’ve all done it, and at the end of the day you’ll come away with something you love. Right?


Ok, enough of the analogies. You get the picture. Back to the matter in hand. What do you pay? If you are a private client, the answer to that is, what is it worth to you? Assuming that you have done your research, the piece checks out and you love it, what’s the next move. How do you actually negotiate a sale and what do you say and do? Here are my thoughts on this.

The anatomy of a sale:

a.            Now I’m a great advocate of telling a seller that you love the piece. It doesn’t weaken your position. This is a Stage 1 statement and nothing to do with what you will ultimately pay. This doesn’t mean that you’ll not have any bargaining points either; it simply aligns you with the seller on an emotional level. You can even get into a bit of small talk on where they found it and how long they’ve had it etc.

b.            As an opener, ask the dealer what their best price is. If they try to draw you on what you’d be prepared to pay, simply joke with them and tell them that you can’t be both buyer and seller!

c.             If you think that the piece is worth 40% less than they are asking (this is a bit extreme), then tell them that you see it at 50% less than what they are asking (this will give you a bit of a buffer). The principle here is start low and keep it friendly. You can always go up, but never down. Once the seller has regained consciousness (!) they’ll probably tell you to get lost.

d.            At this point you’ll need to reinforce that you love it and you are serious. You can do this by saying ‘look, this artist /sculptor/item recently sold for X amount in auction’. It shows you have done your research. If they haven’t done the same then you’ll have an advantage. If their asking price is close to the last auction room sale, try to average out the previous saleroom performance for the piece/artist. If the seller is insisting that this is the value then you can always say that on the day that’s what someone was prepared to pay and today is another day. Remember to keep it light and friendly. Don’t get ruffled or intimidated by a sellers apparent indignation at your offers.

e.            Ask them where they ‘see it’. They’ll probably drop a bit.

f.             At this point start to focus attention on the item. Is it in perfect condition? Has it been repaired or restored, all of which can affect value. Is there something that you can use to reduce the price e.g. is it a picture which needs reframing or relining? Perhaps it’s a bronze which needs repatinating. Remember to reinforce that ‘you love it but because of XYZ you see it at X price.

g.            It is not uncommon at this stage for a seller to tell you that your offer is lower than what they paid for the item. This may or may not be true, but most dealers will have at least a 20% margin in the piece, so even at this level you’ve got, say, a 10% discount you could negotiate.

h.            Assuming that you are both engaged in the negotiating process (in as much as there have been at least three price movements of at least 5% (of original asking price) and moving closer to a ‘strike price’ you’ll find that at this point the going will probably get tougher.

i.              You can either agree to the sale if you think it’s fair or decide on a more extreme tactic of calling the sellers bluff and walking away. Stand up and say something like. ‘Look, you know I love it, but we’re just too far apart. I can do X amount’. This can provoke them to agree to your price or it may not. If not, walk away. Now you may be willing to pay more and think you may have blown your chances, but you haven’t. So where to now?

j.             Spend some time to think and calm down. Do you still love the item? Can you make the ‘strike price’? What really is your limit?

k.            OK. Final round. You go back to the seller. Say something like ‘Well I’m back. I just can’t forget that picture/sculpture/piece. Look, what is your very, very best on it?’ They may make some final concession which is within your top limit, or they may not budge at all. You’ve probably got only another couple of price moves here at the most.

l.              So now it’s crunch time. You’ll have three options. You agree on your maximum price, agree to pay more, but only if that includes any repairs, shipping, etc (or whatever else you can negotiate), or you walk away (remember the hunting analogy).

So that’s kind of it. Every sale will be different. You will win, but some of the time you will lose.

If you remember to do only one thing, it’s engage with your heart, but negotiate with your head.

You won’t go too far wrong with this strategy. Good luck and happy hunting!

R. Santana / Palladium Fine Art Brokerage

© Copyright 2012

Government Auction Offers Superb Redmond Painting, Diamonds, Gold Coins on Oct. 28

October 25th, 2012 by

TEHACHAPI, Calif. – Government Auction’s Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012 auction is brimming with original art, precious gems and other treasures. Antique gold coins, diamond necklaces and a fine oil-on-canvas painting by renowned California Impressionist Granville Redmond (1871-1935) are among the top highlights in the sale. Most of the 1,300 lots have $2 starting bids and will be available to bidders worldwide through

The Granville Redmond work, titled “Sunny Stubblefield,” is a 9½ by 12½-inch landscape that features a slumbering ranch house surrounded by turquoise skies, old oak trees and blades of California sage grass. The label on verso reveals provenance from “Schussler Bros., Art Dealers, 285 Geary St., San Francisco.

Redmond is regarded as one of the first tonalist painters of the California school. As a child, he was deaf due to a bout with scarlet fever. He attended a school for the deaf where he was taught painting, and went on to study in San Francisco and Paris. He is best known for landscapes featuring poppies, trees and mountains.

“Usually paintings of this caliber are snatched up by a high-end auction house such as Christie’s or Sotheby’s. We are truly pleased to have acquired the Granville Redmond oil on canvas through a California estate sale,” said Government Auction’s chief auctioneer Paul Sabesky. The work is expected to realize $25,000-$30,000.

Among the top pieces of fine jewelry to be auctioned is a stunning 26-carat diamond necklace. The 14K white gold eternity necklace measures 17 inches and is styled as a flexible “ribbon” with 59 graduating round-cut brilliant diamonds that terminate in a concealed clasp with twin safeties. Also included within the multitude of elegant jewelry pieces is a 51.28-carat tanzanite and diamond necklace. Measuring 18 inches long, it is 14K white gold with 22 oval-cut natural tanzanite surrounded by round-cut diamonds having a total weight of 7.39 carats. Those diamonds are in addition to the main gemstones, which weigh 51 carats. In total, the necklace weighs 60.30 grams.

Leading the watch category is an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore men’s watch. Audemars Piguet is known as the master of precision in watch manufacturing. The watch is comprised of a black leather band with a copper case that encloses a white face and black dials. Another luxury timepiece in the sale is a 14K gold ladies’ Rolex with gold serpentine band and octagonal gold case with white face and gold numbering.

A much larger timekeeper highlights the antiques section of the sale – a 3-piece Ansonia clock set estimated at $2,250-$4,500. The Ansonia Clock Company was a major 19th-century American clock manufacturer based in New York. The firm crafted thousands of clocks in a wide variety of styles that are as popular with today’s collectors as they were with families of more than a century ago.

Gold coins have become a staple at Government Auction event, and based on the excitement and number of bids placed on them in the California company’s recent auctions, it’s obvious that collectors are pursuing them aggressively. A special entry in the Oct. 28 auction is an 1883 $10 Liberty gold coin. Also known as the “Coronet,” the coin was designed by sculptor Christian Gobrecht. The Coronet features Lady Liberty wearing her hair in a loose bun with a coronet on her head inscribed with the words “Liberty.” An American Eagle is shown with the words “United States of America” and motto “In God We Trust.” The composition of the coin is 90% gold and 10% copper, which accounts for its beautifully warm, golden hue. Another numismatic treasure to be auctioned is a $5 Indian Head gold coin.

Last but certainly not least, a 2001 Bentley Azure stands ready to transport some lucky bidder to their home or other destination. Equipped with a ‘Special S’ package, the black with black interior luxury vehicle is in excellent condition and has only 17,000 original miles on its odometer. Estimate: $300,000-$600,000. Note: This car must be picked up from Government Auction’s premises in Techachapi, California.

Government Auction’s Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012 auction event will commence at 6:30 a.m. Pacific Time/9:30 a.m. Eastern Time. For additional information on any lot in the sale, call Debbie on 661-823-1543 or e-mail

View the fully illustrated catalog and sign up to bid absentee or live via the Internet at

About Government Auction:

Government Auction is one of the most reputable jewelry and gem clearinghouse companies in the United States, with more than 20 years of experience. The Southern California-based firm works closely with agencies and individuals, including the IRS, bank and trust officers, and estate and bankruptcy trustees to liquidate confiscated assets such as fine jewelry, luxury vehicles, gold coins and artworks.

Material Culture To Rekindle “Spirits…” With 10/14 Event Featuring Prince Twins Seven-Seven Painting

October 1st, 2012 by

PHILADELPHIA – An important artwork by Prince Twins Seven-Seven (Nigerian, 1944-2011) not only co-headlines Material Culture’s 450-lot Oct. 14 auction, it also inspired the event’s title: “The Spirits of My Reincarnation Brothers and Sisters.”

Deeply mystical and immediately identifiable, the works of Prince Twins Seven-Seven have spurred a new level of interest in the marketplace since Material Culture offered several exciting multimedia paintings by the artist in their May 5 auction debut. The self-taught Prince Twins Seven-Seven expressed his boundless imagination in themes that blended esoteric imagery with a vibrant, traditional West African color palette. The 65 by 58-inch batik dye, watercolor, acrylic and oil-on-cloth painting featured in Material Culture’s Oct. 14 sale was purchased directly from the artist in 2007 and is one of seven of his works entered in the sale. It is expected to realize $5,000-$7,000.

Other self-taught artists represented in the October offering include Vojislav Jakic, Kwame Akoto a k a Almighty God, Purvis Young and Felipe Jesus Consalvos, a Cuban-American (1891-1960) who worked as a cigar roller but whose natural talent as an artist was not widely known until after his death. Consalvos created visually stunning modernist collages that incorporate cigar bands and cigar-box paper with photographs, postage stamps and magazine images. His mixed-media collage titled “Let Dreams Come True” was created around the second quarter of the 20th century. It measures 10 x 8 inches (15¾ x 13¾ inches framed) and comes with provenance from the Fleisher/Ollman Gallery. Estimate: $1,500-$2,000.

The auction will showcase a selection of items from the Bill Liske collection of early Chinese and Tibetan textiles, carpets and ethnographic artworks. Material Culture’s first offering of articles from the Liske collection – auctioned on May 26 – was enthusiastically received, said owner George Jevremovic, a cultural arts dealer of 30+ years.

“The Liske collection is special because it reflects the impeccable eye of a collector who lived and worked as a mountaineering guide in the Himalayan region for three decades. Textile dealers in the area taught him how to identify pieces that were genuinely exceptional,” said Jevremovic.

Liske’s expertly chosen collection has appeared at the History Museum in Denver, the Krimsa Gallery in San Francisco, the Shaver-Ramsey Gallery in Denver, and in Hali magazine.

A premier artwork in the Liske collection is a powerfully rendered early Thangka scroll painting depicting the deific reincarnation known as Vajra Varahi in Sanskrit and Dorje Pakmo in Tibetan. Dating to 14th-16th century Tibet, it is valued at $3,000-$4,000.

Another auction highlight is the Michaelian Meshed (31 feet by 47 feet), a circa-1900 Persian carpet originally custom-woven for the prestigious Union League Club in New York City. It remained in the club for decades until its purchase in the 1950s by Frank Michaelian of Michaelian and Kohlberg. Suitable for a discriminating owner with a palatial space, it will be offered for sale publicly for the first time in its history on Oct. 14, with an auction estimate of $60,000-$90,000.

An outstanding 19th-century Syrian silk and gold judge’s tunic from the collection of Samy and Sara Rabinovic, Philadelphia, was the blue-ribbon exhibition winner at the 1996 International Conference on Oriental Carpets, and is expected to fetch $3,000-$4,000. Also up for auction is a rare pre-Columbian funerary headband made with a knotted-pile technique, valued at $1,000-$1,500; and a 19th-century Tibtetan or Bhutanese bull-headed Buddhist dance mask of meditational deity Yamantaka. The mask’s vivid red hue was achieved by applying pigment to a papier-mâché of laurel or mulberry. Estimate: $3,000-$4,000.

Other categories of artifacts include an outstanding group of 17th-18th century Mughal columns and arches from northern India, 16th- to 19th-century Ottoman, Central Asian, Asian, African, Continental and pre-Columbian textiles, 17th-19th century Oriental Carpets, African, Himalayan and Oceanic Tribal Arts, antiquities from the Near East, Americas and Asia; 18th- to 20th-century folk art from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas; and 100+ lots of vintage Navajo jewelry from a private Pennsylvania collection assembled in the 1970s.

“From the beginning it has been our goal to present pieces of diverse origin that would present collecting opportunities for every level of buyer, from beginners to advanced collectors and interior designers. In addition, we take the position that it is better to have around 400 items of very good to excellent quality – from consignors who have realistic expectations – than to create a more-specialized sale with a few stars and lots of filler,” said Jevremovic, explaining his company’s mission.

“This is an age in which corporate auction departments seek to maximize their bottom lines with million-plus-dollar items or high-profile sales that have more to do with celebrity and fashion than quality or connoisseurship. We believe some of the best collecting opportunities – particularly for younger buyers worldwide – exist in the areas we are presenting in our October 14th sale: self-taught, folk, ethnographic, decorative and traditional arts,” Jevremovic said.

Material Culture’s Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012 auction will commence at 11 a.m. Eastern Time. Preview: Oct. 10-12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Oct. 13 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The gallery is located at 4700 Wissahickon Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19144. All forms of bidding will be available, including phone, absentee or Internet live bidding through For additional information on any lot in the sale, email or call 215-438-4700. Visit the company online at