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bombergI receive a good number of emails about upcoming auctions. Few actually catch my attention, but one the other day did.

Certainly the purpose of any advertisement is to get attention. So from that perspective — great auction advertisement.

However, one particular aspect of this email advertisement seems odd. To quote, “Rare David Bomberg Oil on Canvas Value $136,000”

I don’t doubt that it is rare, nor that David Bomberg painted it … but it’s worth $136,000? The estimated price noted later in the same advertisement is $100,000 – $136,000.

So, it’s worth (value) $136,000 and will sell (price) between $100,000 and $136,000? While many auction houses estimate value in a range such as this, it’s unusual for an auction house to say so affirmatively that anything is worth any particular value.

I wonder if this painting sells for $75,000 if the auction house publishes a retraction, noting they were wrong, and this painting has a value of $75,000? Or for that matter, what if it sells for $150,000?

By simply adding the word, “estimated” then no retraction would be necessary. And a range of estimated values suggests an even more reasoned approach.

I wonder if the seller is made aware that the auction house is saying this is worth $136,000? Would a seller have recourse if it sold for less? Courts typically burden service providers with a higher degree of responsibility, than say the public sector.

Further, what if a buyer buys this painting for $50,000 and is unable to resell or otherwise realize the benefits of a $136,000 holding? It’s worth noting that the auction house says,

No employee of Auction Kings is authorized to make on our behalf, or that of the Consignor, any representation or warranty, oral or written with respect to any property.

… despite making all kinds of claims of quality, size, provenance and value (Signed “Bomberg 52″ in red in the bottom left corner/34″high and 25.5″wide including the frame. The composition is roughly 28″ high and 19.5” wide/near mint or mint condition/no coa)

We wrote about Auction Kings once before, not surprisingly concerning confusion about the concept of value: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/auction-kings-a-venetian-mirror/

In this light, another question might be, “How do they know it’s worth $136,000?” How do they know it’s not worth $139,000? $141,000? $127,500? Rather, this advertisement says it’s worth $136,000 — not a penny more or less.

Bidders might rightly have one of two reactions to this marketing: (1) Is it really worth $136,000 (questioning the auction house’s expertise?) or (2) I certainly won’t pay over $136,000 (holding that the auction house does have expertise, and anything over $136,000 would not be prudent.)

This auction is apparently online, then to be followed-up with a live auction September 5. It really isn’t a question what this painting will actually sell for; rather since Auction Kings knows its exact value, of course it will sell for $136,000 — right?

Nope. It sold for $3,500.

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. He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School and Faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University.