Friday, 10 July 2009

The Psychology of Auctions

July 10 – The psychology of auctions is fascinating! But first, a word about prices ... I used to have a debate with a friend who specialized in French majolica (barbotine). He felt that dealers had a responsibility to the market and to other dealers to charge the maximum market value for their wares, whereas I have always felt that if I get a good deal, I can pass it on to my clients and still make money.

What is the market value? If you buy a new piece of Quimper pottery from one of the Quimper manufacturers, its price has been carefully calculated from the costs of materials and labor and includes the necessary profit margin to keep the business operational and pay the shareholders (maybe). But if you buy an old piece, I think that its market value is exactly what a person out there is willing to pay for it.

So market value at auctions depends quite a lot on how many people are willing to pay how much for a given piece. And it only takes two people with a serious interest and a budget to go with it to skew the perceived market value (because we all have an idea of what we think a piece should sell for).

On Sunday, the Nominoë statue came up for sale at the Adjug'Art auction in Douarnenez – it was already pictured on the cover of the Morlaix auction on that was scheduled for Monday. At Adjug'Art, the statue was estimated at 5000-7000 euros. The bidding was heated, and its final gavel price was just over 10000 euros. So that means that there were at least two people willing to spend 10000 euros on this piece ...

But on Monday, the Nominoë statue for sale at Morlaix did not sell. It was estimated at 8000-10000 euros, which most likely means that the reserve was 8000 euros. At 7000 euros, bidding terminated, and the piece did not sell. So where was the underbidder from Sunday??? If s/he couldn't have it at 10000, s/he didn't want it?? The piece on Sunday was a better piece, whatever that might mean (looked pretty much the same to me)? If the reserve had been lower, might more people have been tempted to bid? The psychology of auctions!


  1. Love it Judy! Wow, someone is lucky to have that piece, but I agree, for the loser... why not go for the other one. It's interesting to watch this game of bidding, buying, for sure.
    Thanks again for your posts!

    May I ask (and you don't have to answer.. of course), are these wonderful pecheur plates being shown yours?

  2. Perhaps the under bidder will make a private offer on the unsold piece ? Or maybe it was the provenance of that particular piece that attracted them (perhaps it had belonged to a friend or relative ?)We'll probably never know, but it's fascinating.......