7 Auction Sites That All Antique Dealers and Private Estate Sellers Should Know
As the world has become more digital, selling high-end antiques has moved beyond events and stores to the web. Antique and collectible dealers are often cautious in selling online. In order to sell with confidence and get the prices your items are worth, there are seven websites you should consider as part of your online selling strategies.
The first marketplace that sellers should know about is 1stdibs. 1stdibs is an invitation-only antique auction site that is extremely conscious of what’s sold on its website. What we love about them is:
- They offer an exclusive trade program targeted at architects and designers, a customer base that’s valuable to any seller or dealer today.
- They offer extensive marketing tools for online sellers accepted onto to their platform.
- They have world-class PR coverage (which means lots of website traffic), as well as robust blog (known as The Study) and magazine (known as Introspective) that visitors and customers are extremely like to share on social media.
So whether you need to sell a vintage Balenciaga hat or a one-of-a-kind modern design you created yourself, 1stdibs is a site worth exploring for expanding your customer base.
The second website that you should know about is Chairish. Chairish is an online marketplace that allows you to sell all types of vintage and antique decor, furniture, and art regardless of its size. Chairish is actually the largest and fastest growing online market in the U.S. What we love about this site is its ability to really work for higher-end businesses and dealers, when you sell with them:
- They give you 80% of sales and only take 20% as commission.
- They offer far-above-average curation and merchandising services to drive sales quicker.
- They offer buyer offers if you select this option.
- They coordinate all of the logistics on shipping large items.
- They offer design trade services to further drive sales on the consumer side via their wholesale business.
So whether you sell vintage artwork or have a Jaeger LeCoultre for Tiffany & Co. clock that carries a $3,000 price tag, Chairish is probably going to move it for you.
The third website you should know about is Christie’s. Founded in the 18th century, Christie’s is the most globally recognized seller of high-end, extremely rare original art, antiques and collectibles. The group currently offers services they were founded on (appraisal, estate sales, etc.) and have also expanded into full real estate management and online sales. They offer an extensive tutorial on how to sell online with them, as well as a personalized online auction evaluation tool for sellers wishing to work with them on higher priced pieces and collections. What we particularly like about Christie’s is that:
- They allow sellers access to their global database of high net worth customers.
- Targeted marketing to very specific audiences that many sellers can’t get to.
- An online audience that is growing at 16-33% per year depending on which of the 46 countries that people are purchasing from.
- Transparent, customized selling agreements.
- Payments 35 days after an item has been sold and received by the buyer.
While Christie’s isn’t as operationally and logistically integrated as other online sellers, it’s the best option for a seller looking to move very expensive merchandise such as Dessins Anciens et du XIXe Siècle art or a signed Patek Philippe & Co. watch from 1944.
Everything But The House
The fourth website you should know about is Everything But The House (EBTH). Founded in 2007, this is the web’s latest destination for all things vintage, estate and antique. They currently operate in 27 U.S. markets and average $60 million in annual sales. What sets this company apart from others is its business model. The company has built an auction site that could be considered the lovechild of Etsy and eBay (but operates nothing like these two quality outlets.) On the seller side, EBTH is a one-stop-shop for individuals and families downsizing, relocating, or taking care of the estate of a loved one from start to finish. But they also work for seller too, providing mail-in consignment programs for those looking to sell just a few items:
- When you sell with them, you receive a free consultation to assess the items to sell.
- Once your inventory comes into one of their facilities, the team catalogs the items fit for bidding on EBTH and evaluates them (think of it like your own personal Antiques Roadshow).
- They then write descriptions and professionally photograph your items.
- They then list your items for sale, handle payment and shipping.
- You then receive up to 85% of the sale.
Due to the international reach of the seller’s items on EBTH (over 1.2 million unique visitors per month) seller revenue is typically 3-5 times higher than a traditional sale. This website is definitely unique for what it can deliver on. So whether you cater to traditional collectors (Hermes is a must here), those with specific tastes (those who want a $45,000 container home or 1930 Ford Model A Custom Truck) or extravagant (“Landscape by the Sea”, The Jean Baptiste Camille Corot from the John H. Converse Collection sold for $120,400 after receiving 585 bids), you can move quality merchandise with ease.
The fifth website you need to bookmark is Ruby Lane. Founded in 1998, Ruby Lane is an extremely established vintage auction place for sellers specifically designed to bring buyers and sellers of antiques, art, vintage collectibles and jewelry together online. What we love most about Ruby Lane is that they built their website to help non-technical sellers to become a part of the growing trend of Internet retail opportunities internationally. What makes Ruby Lane unique is that:
- They offer a robust seller knowledge base for higher-end vintage and antique sellers not found with other sites in order to help you be successful.
- They offer sellers the ability to curate their items into a “shop,” which is indicative of physical antique stores and vintage malls.
- The pricing structure (which starts at a flat $69 per month for 80 items after a one-time $100 setup fee) gives sellers the greatest amount of control over how much they make from their goods. And they don’t charge commissions!
- They offer way above average website search features that allow shoppers to search as broadly or specifically as they need to in order to find the items they want.
- And they offer a certain niche vintage and antique audience, catering to those who have gone beyond Etsy but don’t play in the Christie’s or Sotheby’s arenas.
So whether you want to sell Victorian-era, authentic horse hoof match-strike by Rowland Ward or a 14-carat Antique Edwardian Garnet and Diamond Double Halo Ring, Ruby Lane is the perfect selling outlet for those with finer tastes and higher purchase values.
The sixth website you want to explore as a seller is Skinner. Similar to Sotheby’s and Christie’s, Skinner differentiates itself by focusing on specialty auctions that attract much more targeted, educated buyer. What we love about them is:
- They have more specialists than any other company who offer expert appraisal and sales advice.
- They offer antique appraisal events, which obviously are spin-offs of their work on Antique Roadshow, for customers around the world.
- All of their ultra unique auctions, whether single items or entire lots, are offered online for collectors around the world to take part of.
From rare wine to rare books, niche sales are clearly their thing.
The seventh website you should know about is Sotheby’s. Since their start in 1744, Sotheby’s, now operates in 90 locations across 40 countries. What’s more, their online marketplace is as luxurious as the items available for sale on it. Similar to Christie’s, Sotheby’s also offers comprehensive, custom services for items that command premium prices:
- They provide you will total auction estimates before deals begin so you know sale prices, commissions, and your net profit.
- They let you reserve pricing and won’t sell the piece unless it meets your minimum sale price.
- Expert, white glove shipping is given the high value of items sold.
So if you’re a dealer who specializes in the ultra rare and original, Sotheby’s brings you the perfect customer(s) that wants what you’re selling. Just look at The Jie Rui Tang collection that brought in $4.47 million dollars.
Sell Online, Expand Your Sales
As a seller, no matter what you specialize in and sell, there’s a unique marketplace that will be right for your business so that you aren’t daunted by what it takes to drive successful online sales.
Photos: Christie’s | EBTH (Press Images) | Sotheby’s | 1stdibs