Fools Rush In: Why Waiting For a September Auction No Longer Makes Sense

  • LARCHMONT, New York
  • /
  • August 05, 2015

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Laverne Coffee Table

The leading auction houses may take advantage of their reputations to influence the market against a saleable August, but major risers and attentive bidders know otherwise.

A number of important sales are held in August, including an example of a featured sale from Clarke Auction, a house that runs 12 months of the year, with August auctions always showing strong results. The late summer sale at Clarke, a tradition continued this year on August 17th, is a popular auction among the retail buyers that have evolved with the times, and according to many, successfully so. 

Walt Kuhn Studies

For auction buyers in the retail sector, the myth of a "dead" August is now a detrimental contrivance that creates inflated September auction competition. This competition results in a significantly narrowed margin for advisors and retailers. If, to avoid this hurt, those margins are not assumed by seller, but left to the responsibility of their clients, they alienate a portion of the market that fuels quicker inventory turn-around. 

Efficiency in turn-around, especially when the volume is of high quality, is a fundamental key of prosperity for auctions and retail alike. The quality of offerings at Clarke Auction will span the categorical scope from fine and decorative art to 20th century design and Asian objects.

Estimates that reflect the transparency of an unreserved sale policy also highlight a major detraction of the September sale process. The seller, convinced in his/her conventions, advocates toward a September sale for the higher value items and accomodates with high reserves. While this cycle perpetuates a notion of high fall success rates, the unfortunate reality may actually prove a higher pass rate percentage due to lead up hyping of estimations based on unfounded expectations. 

Diamond and Emerald Ring

The hype is deflated and the market is trusted all year at houses like Clarke. The reliance of free market economic theory is applied prominantly in offerings like a stamped Picasso Madoura fish platter which will find its place with a conservative $600/$900 estimate, or a beautiful monument study in bronze by Chaim Gross, estimated $600/$900.  

Another reason why both collectors and those buying for resale look to Clarke in August is the availability and immediate offering of estate fresh pieces that will rival the flood of September showrooms at least three weeks in advance. 

Artwork, like a set of three colorful Walt Kuhn studies of dancers, estimated at a cooperative $2,000/$4,000, a large bronze figural grouping mounted as a lamp, estimated $1,500/$2,500, or a Model S Steinway Piano, estimated $3,000/$5,000 are all items that are offered on August 17th that would be perfectly illuminate a collection or window display weeks before others are even drawn up. 

A buyer with sophistication and timing will recognize that a finely cast Japanese bronze of a student, offered at Clarke with a reasonable $1,000/$1,500 has a more imaginable, and thus more saleable, look about it in a garden in the late summer sun than it does in the unpredictable early fall weather. 

The most important aspect of buying in advance of the high fall season circles back to the idea of inflated competition caused by a flooded market. The accessability to "hot-market" pieces is immediate for a short time, but eventually ruled by the sudden drop off of available items. The subsequent merry-go-round distribution of these limited number of highly desired items serves no good purpose for collector nor dealer.

The recent "hot-market" selection, mid-20th century design, may predictably be the most volatile, and successful, of the categories outside of fine art this fall. Clarke will feature a number of modern design pieces that others would foolishly hold for September. On August 17th, a Laverne "Imperial Palace" Coffee Table is offered at a $4,000/$6,000 estimate, a set of 4 Eames LCW chairs estimated $1,500/$2,500 will be up for auction, as well as a pair of Barcelona chairs with ottoman at $2,000/$3,000.

Finally, the Jewelry selection at Clarke for August 17th also supports the theory of late summer success with a number of fine pieces like a gold and citrine ring estimated $2,000/$3,000, and a Verragio platinum, emerald, and diamond ring estimated at $1,500/$2,500, among others. 

The full catalog for Clarke's Monday, August 17th sale is available at Adaptability and intellegence is required to remove the blinders of the old beliefs, and intellegent buying begins with bidding. Registration is available via phone or left bid forms on the aforementioned website, or by contacting the gallery directly at (914) 833-8336 or via email at  Live bidding is also available at

Clarke Auction
2372 Boston Post Road
Larchmont, New York

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