Of course, Catawiki is not the only auction house that provides unreliable and inconsistent price estimates for their lots. I have written before on how important price estimates are and what their real purpose is. They should serve as a reliable guide for potential buyers who are not experts in the respective field. Instead, they are being used as a marketing tool, and it is being done in a very shameful, unethical manner.
These inflated estimates are used to delude the potential buyers by creating an impression that the lot is worth more than it actually is. They are used to give the misleading impression that the starting bid or the present highest bid (that is way below the estimate) is an extremely good bargain. On many occasions it is very far from being the truth.
Have a look at the photos below: the same James Ensor painting (or I should rather say: “painting that is presented as James Ensor”) is estimated to be worth USD 2000 – 10 000 with a starting bid of USD 900, it remains unsold, and then just a few weeks later the same painting is appraised at USD 10 000 to 25 000!
Clearly, this is done in order to attract more attention from the potential buyers and to convince them that the deal of a lifetime is right in front of them. It is hard to imagine that anyone selling an authentic painting would engage in such dubious, unethical activities. So, yes, that is a very good, clear indication that there is something fishy about the lot.
Remember, seller professionalism and credibility are amongst the most important aspects to evaluate before purchase.