Auctioneer’s or expert’s price estimate in theory
It really does not matter what terminology a specific auction site uses: Catwiki calls it “expert’s estimate” (previously they called it “auctioneer’s estimate), liveauctioneers and bidsquare call it “estimate” – they all imply that an expert has evaluated that particular item and determined what, according to his/her expert opinion, a fair market value of this item is.
In other words, an expert signals us, potential buyers, that the final auction price (winning bid) should be somewhere within the given range (estimate is usually given as a price range), and it would be an honest price both for the seller and the buyer. Anything below this range should mean a real bargain for the buyer.
From the auction house’s perspective, the potential buyers are invited to trust and rely on such an expert’s estimate; otherwise what would be the reason to have it? From the buyer’s perspective, it should serve as a helpful tool in determining how high one should go with his/her bids.
Therefore, to serve its purpose, such an estimate has to be professional (well reasoned and based on extensive experience and information), unbiased, and consistent.
Auctioneer’s or expert’s price estimate in practice
As they say, one picture is worth a thousand words. So, have a look at the photos below. The same star sapphire (no doubt, it is the same gemstone: it has been listed with the same GRS certificate) has been offered by a seller from Hong Kong and the estimate is EUR 1500 – 1650 (Figure 1); then it changes the owners and is offered by a Dutch seller, and the expert’s estimate suddenly rises more than twofold and reaches EUR 3500 – 3850 (Figure 2). Magic! Is it favoritism towards local Dutch sellers or a sign of unprofessionalism?
Honestly, I don’t know what it is, but I definitely know what it is not. It is not what an estimate should be, and it does not serve the purpose it was designed for. It is not consistent, unbiased, and professional estimate, and as such it provides no value to the potential buyers.
Why Catawiki again?
My first blog post was about fake emerald jewelry that is being sold on Catawiki auction site in substantial quantities. So, why again Catawiki? I understand, someone might think I have something specifically against Catawiki, some hard feelings about this auction site.
Well, I don’t. Or do I? You see, as a matter of fact, I have nothing against Catawiki in general, however, what I truly hate is that this auction site uses some very smart tactics to convince you, the buyer, that they are especially reliable and trustworthy, and that it is extremely safe to buy there.
For example, they claim that all their auctions have notarial supervision (whatever it means, no idea actually, but sounds really serious and safe), they also claim that all the auctions are curated by professional auctioneers that are highly reputable experts in their field. So, all of this is intended to convince you that you are on the safe side, and I have no doubt that it actually does convince most of the potential buyers that their interests are being protected and they are perfectly safe to buy from there.
And then, in reality, everything is so much different. That is what makes me to keep an eye on them and to write about them again.
This is exactly the reason we say: Buy smart or don’t buy at all!