Auction houses have long been strongholds of intrigue, elegance, and history. For centuries, these institutions have served as exchange points for unique and valuable items. Behind every successful auction is a meticulous consigning process, in which individuals entrust their prized possessions to auctioneers in the hopes of finding them new homes and possibly fetching impressive prices. This blog will look at the typical process of consigning items for auction, shedding light on the complexities and nuances that make this practice an art form in and of itself.


Preliminary Research

The process of consigning items to auction frequently begins with extensive research. Whether you are a seasoned collector or a first-time consignor, understanding the market, the potential value of your items, and the auction houses that specialize in your category is critical. Here are the essential steps:


1.1. Valuation: Get professional appraisals to find out how much your items are worth. You can get appraisals from auction houses or from independent experts.


1.2. Market Analysis: Examine recent auction results for comparable items to determine current demand and potential selling prices. Online auction databases and catalogs are extremely useful resources.


1.3. Select the Appropriate Auction House: Different auction houses specialize in different categories, such as fine art, antiques, collectibles, jewelry, or automobiles. Choose one that corresponds to your items. Here at Busy Beever we specialize in Antiques, Collectibles, and Farm Auctions. We do estate auctions regularly as well. 


1.4. Make Contact: Contact the auction house of choice to discuss consignment terms, fees, and the submission process. Some auctioneers may provide complimentary consultations (we do :-)).


Consignment Contract

It’s time to formalize the consignment agreement after you’ve chosen the auction house and are satisfied with their terms and expertise. This document outlines the terms of your partnership with the auction house and clarifies both parties’ responsibilities. The following are key components of the consignment agreement:


2.1. Reserve Price: You and the auction house will decide on a reserve price, which is the lowest price at which your item will be sold. This ensures that you don’t sell your item for less than you’re willing to accept.


2.2. Commission: Auction houses charge a commission on your item’s final sale price. Depending on the auction house’s reputation and the item’s value, this fee can range from 5% to 35% or more. This is judged on a case by case basis. We have sold vehicles for as low as 5% of the final selling price. We have a special offering this going on at the time of writing this blog. 


2.3. Listing Fees: Some auction houses charge a fee to photograph, catalog, and market your items. These expenses should be discussed and agreed upon ahead of time.


2.4. Insurance: Determine who is in charge of insuring your item while it is at the auction house. Many auction houses offer insurance, but the terms can vary.


2.5. Marketing and Promotion: Make certain that the auction house actively promotes your item through multiple channels, such as print catalogs, online listings, and social media.


Documentation and cataloging

The auction house’s team will begin cataloging and documenting your items once the consignment agreement is signed. This stage includes several critical steps:


Professional photography of your item is essential for attracting potential buyers. Professional photographers capture the details and aesthetics of your item.


3.2. Detailed Descriptions: Auction catalog entries include detailed descriptions of your item, including its provenance, history, condition, and any distinguishing characteristics.


3.3. Authentication: If your item has historical or artistic significance, the auction house may authenticate it. This step aids in the development of trust among prospective buyers.


3.4. Condition Report: A condition report describes any flaws or damage in your item. Transparency in this regard is critical for gaining the trust of potential buyers.


3.5. Catalog Design: The auction house’s design team will create a visually appealing catalog entry that best represents your item.


Promotion and marketing

The auction house will begin marketing and promotional efforts once your item has been cataloged and documented. The goal is to pique the interest of potential buyers. Promotional activities that are commonly used include:


4.1. Catalog Publication: Your item can be featured alongside other consigned pieces in auction catalogs, whether in print or digital format. These catalogs are given to prospective buyers and collectors.


4.2. Online Listings: Auction houses have a strong online presence, with items listed on their websites as well as popular auction platforms like eBay or LiveAuctioneers.


Previews and Exhibitions: Some auction houses hold previews and exhibitions, which allow potential buyers to inspect items in person. This is an excellent opportunity to generate buzz and build anticipation.


4.4. Social Media Marketing: Auction houses use social media platforms to highlight featured items, share auction highlights, and engage with their target audience.


4.5. Email Marketing: Subscribers receive regular emails with information about upcoming auctions, featured items, and highlights. Email marketing aids in the retention of interest and participation.


Day of Bidding and Auction

The excitement grows as the auction date approaches, and potential buyers begin to show interest in your consigned item. Several critical factors come into play on auction day:


5.1. Online Bidding: Many auction houses offer online bidding, allowing participants from all over the world to place bids from the comfort of their own homes. This increases the number of potential buyers.


5.2. Live Auctions: Some items may be featured in live auctions, in which an auctioneer takes bids from a live and online audience. This has the potential to create a thrilling atmosphere.


5.3. Phone Bidding: Buyers who are unable to attend in person or participate online frequently choose phone bidding. During the auction, an auction house representative communicates with the bidder in real time.


5.4. Reserve Price: If no bids reach or exceed the agreed-upon reserve price, your item will not be sold. This safeguard ensures that you do not lose your item at an unreasonable cost.


5.5. Final Hammer Price: If your item sells for more than the reserve price, it will be sold to the highest bidder. The final hammer price is determined, which may exceed your expectations.


Procedures Following an Auction

Following the conclusion of the auction, several post-auction procedures must be followed:


6.1. Settlement: The auction house will issue you a settlement statement outlining the final selling price of your item, less their commission and fees.


6.2. Payment: You will be paid by the auction house once the buyer has made their payment. Depending on the auction house’s policies, this process could take several weeks.


6.3. Unsold Items: If your item does not sell, you can either reclaim it or talk to the auction house about relisting options.


6.4. Buyer Communication: The auction house will assist you in communicating with the buyer and arranging for the transfer of the sold item.


If your item remains unsold, you can either reclaim it or discuss relisting options with the auction house.




Consigning items to be sold at auction is usually a difficult process. We simplify the experience with our unique step by step process. Simply contact us and we will make it much easier for you.  Each step, from preliminary research and valuation to the final hammer price, necessitates careful thought and collaboration with an experienced auction house. Auctions provide a unique opportunity to find new homes for your items while potentially achieving impressive prices, whether you’re parting with a cherished heirloom or liquidating a collection. You can embark on this adventure with confidence if you understand the typical consignment process and know that your treasures are in capable hands.


Call us with any questions here: (816) 820-1124!

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