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Skinner April Violin Auction


Oldtimerr
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Hello;  would anyone be able to comment on the high number of unsold instruments at this auction. Does Skinner now have a different format with high reserves or was there just a lack of interest and low turn out? Also, has the absence of David Bosney having an effect? Any other comments would also be very welcome. Thanks, OT

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I watched this auction very close and am confused at what I saw. I watched many lots get bid on and the results show unsold. One in particular was the Simone Saconni book " the Secrets of Stadivari". The bidding started at $200 and went up to $375 and was sold. But in the final tally shows it unsold. I saw this same thing happen on many lots. One online bidder in particular (SK1002)  bid on almost all the lots. The whole auction seemed fishy to me.

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Some friends of mine were at the recent oriental rug auction at Skinner, and found similar evidence that there may have been internet bids placed on behalf of the house.  That is, internet bids came in and items appeared to have sold during the auction, but later turn out not to have sold.  I suppose this was to lift the price up to the reserve, but I have no idea how/whether this kind of thing is kosher.  My complaint post-Bonsey is that the attributions are vague to the point of mystery (though some friends of mine in the trade pointed out to me that specific attributions at some "instrument auction venues" can be completely wrong and misleading).  Something's up, I suspect, but since I found my dream violin through other means I just observe all of this for entertainment value...

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I watched this auction very close and am confused at what I saw. I watched many lots get bid on and the results show unsold...The whole auction seemed fishy to me.

 

It just means that the bidding on many of lots did not surpass the reserve prices.  Until the reserve is met, the auctioneer enters bids for the house.  The lot goes unsold if the reserve is not met, even though it seems like two people were bidding.  But two people were not bidding; it was just one bidder bidding against the reserve.  Once the reserve is met, the lot sells to the highest bidder.

 

It's not fishy, but it means Skinner had a bad day.  They only get commissions on lots that sell.

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I don't believe that it is legal for an auction house to "enter bids for the house," since it is illegal for an auctioneer to bid for the purpose of driving up the price.  The only legal reason to bid is if you are a bona fide bidder, intending to buy the item, and therefore an auctioneer is only authorized to bid as an agent for a legitimate buyer.  They can set the starting bid price and a reserve, but the market is supposed to set the price.  It is indeed fishy if, as James mentioned above, an item appeared to be sold in the room and is later listed as "unsold," as that would indicate that an illegitimate bidder actually won the auction.

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I don't believe that it is legal for an auction house to "enter bids for the house," since it is illegal for an auctioneer to bid for the purpose of driving up the price...

 

Of course you are correct.  I should have said that the auctioneer "enters bids for the consignor of the lot" until the reserve is met instead of saying the auctioneer "enters bids for the house."  The auctioneer is required to do this by the provision of the auction house's contract with the consignor of the lot which specifies the reserve price.  Also, Skinner's conditions of sale printed in the catalog say that "the auctioneer may reject any bid...not commensurate with the value of [the] lot."

 

It would be very fishy if a violin were declared sold to a bidder sitting in the gallery waving his or her hand, and it were later reported as unsold.  But when the auctioneer takes a bid from anyone other than a bidder in the gallery, it is impossible for viewers to know where that bid came from.  It could have come from a telephone bidder, an internet bidder, an written absentee bid left by someone at the registration desk or it could have been the auction house bidding for the consignor until the reserve is met.

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...unless the gavel comes down in the room and the item is therefore "sold" to an apparent absentee/internet bidder and then the item is later listed as "unsold."  This was the situation I thought was being described above (post #2), and does in fact suggest that the high bid was not made by a bona fide bidder.  I didn't think it was OK for the auction house to enter bids for the consignor, either, since those would be bids purely to raise the price of the item.  My understanding is that the only legal bid in an auction is a bid intended to purchase the item, but I am only a musician, not a lawyer.

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...unless the gavel comes down in the room and the item is therefore "sold" to an apparent absentee/internet bidder and then the item is later listed as "unsold."  This was the situation I thought was being described above (post #2), and does in fact suggest that the high bid was not made by a bona fide bidder...

 

It does suggest that.  And what I think happened is that the "high bid" was actually the house bidding on behalf of the consignor's reserve price.

 

 

...I didn't think it was OK for the auction house to enter bids for the consignor, either, since those would be bids purely to raise the price of the item...

 

If you were right, then how would the reserve mechanism work?

 

Imagine a lot with a $1000 reserve in an auction with a $100 bid increment.  Suppose the bidding from the floor, telephone and internet stopped at $800.  Without the house bidding up to the reserve, the lot would be declared unsold.  But there might be one bidder willing to go up to $1500.  If the house were to bid up to the reserve, that bidder would buy the lot at $1100.  It does not seem right to deny him or her the opportunity to buy the lot just because the underbidder was only willing to bid up to $700, when the consignor was willing to sell at anything over $1000.

 

The conditions of sale state: "Some of the lots in this sale are subject to a reserve...A representative of Skinner, Inc. will execute such reserves by bidding for the consignor."

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If you were right, then how would the reserve mechanism work?

The reserve mechanism would work in you’re example by the item being unsold (but availiable for private sale afterwards). That the auctionier shill bids on items he is selling on consignment, would be reprehensible in my judgement, and would augment my predjudices about auctioniers

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...That the auctionier shill bids on items he is selling on consignment, would be reprehensible in my judgement, and would augment my predjudices about auctioniers

 

I would agree with you if the auctioneer did this secretly.  But Skinner informs prospective bidders, in the conditions of sale printed in the catalog and posted online, that they "will execute...reserves by bidding for the consignor."  It all seems reasonable to me, but if you don't like it you don't have to participate.

 

 

The reserve mechanism would work in you’re example by the item being unsold (but availiable for private sale afterwards)...

 

Yes, Skinner does that, too.

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Some friends of mine were at the recent oriental rug auction at Skinner, and found similar evidence that there may have been internet bids placed on behalf of the house.  That is, internet bids came in and items appeared to have sold during the auction, but later turn out not to have sold.  I suppose this was to lift the price up to the reserve, but I have no idea how/whether this kind of thing is kosher.  My complaint post-Bonsey is that the attributions are vague to the point of mystery (though some friends of mine in the trade pointed out to me that specific attributions at some "instrument auction venues" can be completely wrong and misleading).  Something's up, I suspect, but since I found my dream violin through other means I just observe all of this for entertainment value...

Perhaps the new trend of seemingly "vague" attributions are more realistic in terms of what the instruments actually are.

 

I dislike "orbit of", though...

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I would agree with you if the auctioneer did this secretly.  But Skinner informs prospective bidders, in the conditions of sale printed in the catalog and posted online, that they "will execute...reserves by bidding for the consignor."  It all seems reasonable to me, but if you don't like it you don't have to participate.

 

Fair enough I guess, that they put it in writing.  That does explain the outcome in post #2.  Thanks for the information. 

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