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juliusadamI met with a prospective client at an auction appointment the other day.

As I was surveying the items in the warehouse, I noted a particular piece of artwork (by Julius Adam.)

My prospective client told me that the auctioneer he had just met with earlier that day sold a very similar piece for a “world record” price.

“Oh really?” I remarked. “A world record?”

When I got home, I researched this particular piece of artwork. Indeed, one like it sold just recently for a world record price by this auctioneer.

Or did it?

Further down in the news release was a notation “The bid is believed to have set a world record for the sale of this particular piece.”

A subtle but interesting disclaimer … “Believed to have” set a world record price? Or did it actually set a world record price?

I wonder if most claims of “world record prices” in the auction business are really world record prices.

Here’s some of my questions:

    1. Are all auction (or sale) prices publicly known or available?
    2. How can claims be verified? Should they be?
    3. If the item is unique, is a suggestion of a world record proper?
    4. Is a claim which is qualified (such as “believed to be”) acceptable?
    5. Must claimants of world records keep abreast of all subsequent sales?

I’m not out to bemoan auctioneers who make world record claims. On the contrary, I suspect most are genuine, and not meant to deceive.

However, I’ve seen more than a few which are at best … suspect.

It seems to me world records are very difficult to manage. Is the current auction sale price an actual world record? Is it still a world record a week or month later? Is it a world record for the exact same item or similar item?

Further, how important is the claim of a world record price obtained? Despite the other auctioneer reportedly selling a similar painting for a world record, this client hired us instead.

In fact, even our client (once we were hired) seemed suspicious of the claim, and therefore wary of other promises this other auctioneer made.

Certainly, world record auction prices do attract attention. Major news outlets are anxious to report on, for example, a “$23.4 million diamond setting a new record.” And the public appears equally interested.

Yet, I’m not sure day-to-day, that world record claims do much for most auctioneers, just as I’m not sure most auctioneers hold any world records.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. His Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/mbauctioneer. He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College and is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.