Cruise Ship Art Auctions – An Insider’s View

There is much debate surrounding cruise ship art auctions and whether or not the art sold represents a good value for the art purchaser. 제주바다뷰숙소 Some folks think that cruise ship art auctions are the spawn of the devil, and others are delighted with their experience. Reading posts on the web about cruise ship art auctions is like reading posts on politics and religion: everyone has their own opinion. Rather than join in the “fight”, I thought I’d share my unique perspective on these auctions.

In 2009, I completed a six month assignment aboard three ships as an art auctioneer. I have worked as a licensed professional auctioneer and appraiser for years. As an Auctioneer, I have crossed the U.S. from Florida to Alaska, and internationally to sixteen countries from Russia to Panama. I have sold a variety of goods at auction: cars, real estate, jewelry, fine art, antiques, business assets, and estate property. I am widely experienced in auction selling formats and I have “insider information” regarding cruise ship art auctions.

Traveling the world selling art was fun, but for business reasons I have decided not to go back to sea. At this point, I am a neutral third party with nothing to gain or lose by commenting on cruise ship art auctions. I hope that my insights will prove useful to those planning to go on a cruise and attend an art auction.

So, let me get right to the point: can you confidently and comfortably purchase art on a cruise ship? Yes, you can. Plus, if you understand the process of buying art at auction, you can acquire some nice pieces and have fun doing it. My intent in this post is to give you an understanding of where folks get into trouble regarding their purchases, so that you can avoid making the same mistakes. Here is what you have to understand about cruise ship art auctions:

1. Arrive early. Showing up the minute the auction starts puts you at a disadvantage. The auction preview and the first ten minutes of the auction are important. The preview gives you time to look closely at the art and ask questions of the auctioneer and the art associates. You won’t be able to ask questions during the auction. If you are not satisfied with the answers you get or the attitude of the auctioneers, then don’t buy anything. If an individual who is trying to get your money is rude and pushy BEFORE they get your money, how do you think they will act AFTER they get your money? If you are happy with what you learn at the preview, you can feel comfortable bidding at the auction. The first ten minutes of the auction is when the terms and conditions of the auction sale will be explained. Don’t be late, and pay attention.

2. Know what’s included in your purchase. Does it come with a frame? Will it be shipped, or do you have to carry it off the ship? Is there sales tax? What about Customs charges? When can you expect delivery?

3. When in doubt, don’t bid. Remember, this is an auction. You are under no compulsion to bid. Artworks have a minimum price, but no maximum price. Prices go up as the bidding progresses. A bid is a legal commitment to buy. If you overbid for an item, you have only yourself to blame.

4. Understand the difference between hammer price and final price. Hammer price is the highest bid; it is the last price offered before the auctioneer declares an item sold. If you bid $300 for a work and the auctioneer said “sold”, that would be the hammer price. It is commonplace for auctioneers to add a surcharge called a “buyer’s premium” of 10 to 20 percent of the hammer price. Buyer’s Premium was instituted by the major New York and London art auction houses a couple of decades ago and is now in almost general use at all types of auctions. If the buyer’s premium was 15% and the hammer price was $300, the buyer’s premium would be $45. If you will not carry your items off the ship with you, then a shipping charge will be added; sometimes, there may be handling fees or insurance charges. If you

live in the state where the auction house has a facility, there may be sales tax as well. Your formula for figuring final price in this instance is: hammer price + buyer’s premium + sales tax + shipping & handling + insurance = final price. Bid accordingly.

5. Understand what an appraisal is (and isn’t). Typically, Certificates of Appraisal are offered with the artwork you buy a cruise ship. There is a charge for this service. Sometimes, a bidder gets carried away in the moment and bids more than they had planned. This happens so often at all types of auctions that there is a name for it: auction fever.

These folks get home, get their bills from the cruise, and get a bad case of buyer’s remorse. When the art arrives, they take it down to their local gallery or auction house to get an “appraisal”. The buyer wants to find out if they got a good deal or not. Nine times out of ten, the buyer will be told that the appraisal that came with the artwork is too high. Why is this? Two reasons. First, it’s important to realize that all items -including art work- have more than one value. An artwork can hang in a gallery and be priced at $1,000. Then the gallery goes bankrupt and has a liquidation sale. The $1,000 artwork sells for $150. Retail value, liquidation value.

There is also insurance value, gift tax value, auction value, fair market value, and cash value. The highest appraised value for anything is insurance value. Cruise ship art appraisals are based on insurance value, and this is stated clearly in the terms and conditions at the beginning of the auction. If an item is being insured, you have to have enough coverage. The lowest is liquidation value, sometimes called auction value. If you took your artwork to an auctioneer for his opinion, which value do you think he will give? Auction value, of course. And the owner at the retail art gallery? Retail value. Same item; six different values.

Secondly, appraisal is a research job. An appraiser must support his conclusions with evidence, not just opinions. The appraisals offered with cruise ship art are backed by data from hundreds of weekly auctions and gallery sales. Appraisals just backed up by an individuals opinion are thrown out of tax court every day, regardless of the credentials of the evaluator. Have you ever seen Antiques Roadshow? When stating a value, the Roadshow experts always say something like “I believe this item could bring $XXX at auction”: auction value. A thorough appraisal can take days. Don’t expect that an off-the-cuff opinion by your local gallery owner or auctioneer qualifies as an appraisal.

Cruise ship art auctions are fun, and the art purchased on a cruise can give you pleasure every day that it hangs on your wall. Don’t let naysayers keep you away from what could be a wonderful experience on your cruise.

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