For the general public, resorting to an auctioneer is perceived as an expensive operation, only really useful when it comes to goods of great value: the estimation of an old vase, the sale of a masterpiece, a print, or special period furniture. This is wrong because the services of such a professional can be free. And above all, because an auctioneer is an ally when it comes to insuring or enhancing your items. Explanations.
Auctioneer: a regulated profession
Like the Notary, the auctioneer is appointed by the Ministry of Justice: he is a public officer, whose deeds have authentic value and are legally enforceable against third parties.
The profession of the auctioneer is regulated. It is accessed through training combining Law and Art History. An auctioneer’s valuations are not fanciful, are substantiated, and documented: when a property is submitted to him for valuation, he proceeds by identifying the style, the period, and by referring to the amounts achieved by similar objects.
The auctioneer is frequently called upon when settling an estate. The goods left by the deceased are inventoried and estimated. This is often the occasion for surprises: certain objects reach unexpected values - such as a vase being coveted by collectors willing to offer € 3,000, such a stamp being sold because of its rarity for more than € 5,000, etc.
Contacting an auctioneer to estimate a property
To estimate a property (consequently, we speak of “valued”), an auctioneer is the most reliable solution. His expertise allows an auctioneer to answer all your questions like: is this object authentic, rare? Is it the work of a famous artist? How many copies are there? Does the work arouse the market’s interest? Will it be demanded soon? These are all questions that are part of the process of estimating the value of the object.
When the auctioneer is unsure of his estimate, he calls on an expert to adjust the estimate of an atypical object or one outside his usual framework. For example, for an estimate of one of your vases, he may call on the more expert advice of an expert in Chinese ceramics.
The auctioneer works in his office or an auction house called a Volunteer Sales Operator (OVV). Since 2002, the monopoly of judicial auctioneers (ministerial officers) for auctions has been broken. From now on, the profession is also accessible to qualified people, by agreement with the Sales Council, and no longer by order of the Keeper of the Seals: they are called voluntary auctioneers.
How to find an auctioneer?
In France, there are more than 500 voluntary auctioneers, and more than 600 judicial auctioneers. It is therefore easy to find a professional near you.
Another way to find an auctioneer is by consulting the list of professionals in the directory of the National Chamber of Auctioneers, located 13, Rue de la Grange Batelière (Paris 75009). The organization has regional offices. In Paris, for example, the office is located at the Hotel Drouot.
Volunteer auctioneers also work for websites that offer you online valuations of your items, such as mr-expert.com. All you need to do is complete an online form, attaching photos, descriptions, and all the information in your possession.