Tips for Oprah’s Auction

I’ve got your exclusive top 3 tips for shopping at Oprah’s upcoming auction. Watch out! It may be better for you to donate to Oprah’s educational foundation directly instead of wasting money on buyer’s fees and auction house commissions. Yes, some of Oprah’s stuff is actually junk.

Here are my top 3 tips that can help you win big at Oprah’s auction and at other auctions too.

1. Make sure it’s Oprah’s

Avoid items that are not Oprah’s at Oprah’s auction. Yes, you read that right, it is not a typo. At many auctions of famous people, the auction house will place items up for bid that are not even related to the person or celebrity that got you excited about the auction sale in the first place. Audiences are bigger at these celebrity auctions and auction houses try to take advantage of that. Don’t get caught up in the excitement and don’t buy a non-Oprah item. Forget the antique pram, dolls, or furniture as those items could come from any estate. Also, be careful of the auction box lot.

2. Don’t buy these Oprah items!

Oprah is not known for her French antiques or her art collection, so don’t waste money on this kind of stuff at the auction unless you want to overpay for Oprah’s sofa. And, avoid the household and kitchen items like spatulas and used china as those things are merely conversation pieces. These will be the items that everyone wants to bid on because they will start out with low bids. People will think it is an easy and inexpensive way to Potato Peelerown a piece of Oprah. As a result, there will be lots of bidders for those items and this small stuff will go for much more than what it is really worth. After the sale, these items will receive the press coverage because someone will have paid too much for something silly. The headline will read: “Record price paid for Oprah’s potato peeler.” Tell me, when do you think the last time was when Oprah peeled a potato? Come on.

3. Do buy these Oprah items!

Buy stuff that is related directly to Oprah and what she is known for–TV and film memorabilia will be the valuable and time tested collectibles at Oprah’s auction. Buy the objects or memorabilia that closely relate to Oprah herself and what she is best known for–TV, films, productions, etc. Make sure it can be proven that these items like photographs, magazine covers, movie posters, and film clips were actually on her show or in one of her movies. Don’t rely on those bogus certificates of authenticity, I never do. The 1998 magazine cover featuring Oprah or the movie poster from The Color Purple would be good choices.

Read more inside tips about auctions from me.

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Violin from The Titanic sells $1.6M

Did you hear that a violin played on the Titanic sold for $1.6 Million dollars? Sure, the sale of a piece of Titanic memorabilia is exciting and everybody loves a good story, but what I take away from this news story is that everyone thinks all their stuff is worthless except for their old violins. For some unknown reason, everybody thinks that their old violin is only valuable object in the family. Before you bring your violin to one of my events or send photos for my review, read my three points about this news story, violins and the Stradivarius mark.

1. Don’t Buy into the Story

Antique violin

While the story surrounding the sale of this Titanic violin has all the components of a good love story—the violin owned by the brave musician playing on the deck of the sinking ship until the bitter end recalling the famous scene from the movie, an object that has remained under the sea for 94 years at last offered up for sale to a sincere collector, and a tender engraving on the instrument itself from the musician’s fiancée speaking of their century-old love story—OK, the cynic in me just doesn’t buy all the hype. But the appraiser in me knows that all that hype is certainly why that un-playable musical instrument sold for close to $2 million bucks. You bunch of softies with deep pockets!

My questions include: how did the violin (no less a legible engraving) survive in the salt water for nearly a century? How is the violin’s authenticity confirmed and by whom? A seller can’t authenticate the object he is trying to sell. The seller stated that the violin is authentic “beyond a reasonable doubt” which is great for courtrooms but not for auction bays. Either it belonged to the famous Titanic Musician Wallace Hartley or it didn’t. And the seller needs to prove it. It is his burden of proof, in this case. So if you are trying to evaluate your old violin or the old violin that sank with the Titanic, remember this… some stories are just that, stories! Real experts don’t rely on a well-crafted tale.

2. Stradivarius mark not the Holy Grail

Everyone believes that if their violin is marked Stradivarius or if there is a label with Stradivarius on the inside of your violin that you have a multi-million dollar violin. Stradivarius violins are like Leonardo da Vinci paintings—there aren’t a lot of them out there that the experts have not accounted for. There are not a lot of them out there that are not already residing with a major collector or prominent institution. If I had a dollar for every violin that I have reviewed at my appraisal events worldwide with the label Stradivarius inside, I would be able to buy a real Stradivarius violin. Don’t forget that it is easy to forge a signature, reproduce a famous mark, or fake a label.

3. The Press likes Buzz words

Famous historical items seem to always get the attention of the press and sell for top dollar. Do you have a piece from the Titanic, a copy of the Declaration of Independence or the bassoon or what have you that belonged to President Lincoln? The media loves to cover these stories and the antiques relating to them. To bring top dollar when selling most items, sellers will try hard to connect their object to an historic event—the Kennedy assassination, the sinking of the Titanic, the last Disney blockbuster movie. This helps them attract market interest to their piece. When you are selling your antiques, you should try to find a link to history in order to sell it for more money, too.

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Are Antiques Values too High?

I hear this line all the time from select antique dealers, auction houses, and resellers, but was determined to clear this up here after a fan’s recent post on my Facebook page. This fan mentioned that “some” (the quotes are my addition) antiques appraiser was quoted as saying that stuff is way overvalued and there is too much old stuff around. Of course this is all bunk, and I’ll tell you three reasons why somebody might say this to you.

1. Antiques Reseller posing as Appraiser

An antiques reseller is not an appraiser. And they may not be ethical either! It is a mistake to assume that this person is an appraiser when in fact they are a reseller or dealer. This is a big difference. An antiques reseller will provide values based on what they want to pay. That is not what your piece is worth. It is worth more and here is why. Remember, an antiques appraisal should be based on an actual sales record where a similar piece sold just like with real estate appraisals. For example, your house was appraised at $250,000 because other houses in your neighborhood sold $250,000 to an actual buyer, not to a reseller. So, a true appraisal is the value of an antique that somebody really paid for that antique. Again, that somebody is not a reseller, it is a buyer like the person who buys that house. Nothing overvalued about that!

2. Buyer wants to buy it Cheap

Silver tea potWho doesn’t want a bargain? The appraised value might be considered high to a buyer who doesn’t want to pay what everyone else is paying for similar antiques. Who wants to pay top price if they don’t have to? We all like to get something cheaper. I like a bargain too! Buyers are hoping you will accept the line that antiques are overvalued and there are too many of them around in order to try to shake your confidence and to negotiate a lower price for your antique. I hear about this all the time when dealers come to people’s houses and when people are selling stuff online. If the appraisal is based on actual sales records like my appraisals, you can get that price or more if you find somebody who HAS to have it. My clients have done this. Everyone has had a moment when they have paid more than what they should have because they had to have it. You just have to find that person for your antique and you will if you keep trying. I’ve seen it happen.

3. Seller doesn’t want to Work

If you are selling your antique, it might take you some time and some work to get that appraised value. As time passes, sellers start to doubt the appraised value forgetting it should be based on actual sales records, again like my appraisals. The easiest thing to do is to lower the price thinking that is the problem. Don’t fall into this trap. If your neighbors sold their house for $250,000, would you not keep trying to get that for your house too? Or would you just reduce the price to $100,000 and lose your shirt. Of course, you wouldn’t do that.

Have you heard this line too? Share your story and antique that somebody said was overvalued on the Dr. Lori Facebook page. Don’t forget to share this blog with your friends and family! To help with accurate values, I can appraise your items from photos with an Online Appraisal or you can bring it to one of my events.

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