Tim Ziegler, Rotary member and Director of Business Development for Kamelot Auctions in Philadelphia:
Downsizing has grown to one of the largest sources of property for auction. Estates liquidation is about the same. What makes something an antique? Age of 100 years or more.
Auctions date back to 500bc Babylon where wedding auctions were first recorded. Began in the 1600s in the US – slaves, crops, etc.. Auctions turn assets into cash. Often held in taverns and coffee houses, for art, etc. Civil War colonels developed the art of auctioneering – sold the spoils of war. Depression years were not good for the auction business, but great strides were made in auctioneering after WWII. In the 1990s photographs introduced. eBay revolutionized the business and introduced it to a new generation. “Buy now” became expected. Online bidding is now part of most large auctions. 1000s of people following online. Fewer people in the room. In 1977 Antiques Roadshow started in England.
Large brown furniture, pianos, armoires are very tough to sell. Changing lifestyles. Formal dining elements are also tough.
Mid century modern items are very strong, and Nakashima is furniture very hot. Mad Men may have contributed to popularity of the period.
Most estates have one or two items that are worth as much as the rest of the other items combined. The one or two finest items should be exposed to as many buyers as possible (online), not the few who come to an estate sale.