Auction houses display historic artifacts from the momumental to the mundane. Spending time at auction is like being in a class room where everyone has come to participate. You can learn much and often enjoy the simple emotion of amazement. So many times I have seen things at auction that I dimly recall reading about. Seeing a tangible object associated with an important person or event stirs the memory, engages the imagination and brings history to life.
I am not alone in the auction as history point of view. Rosemary McKittrick writes about auctions at her website, Live Auction Talk. She has been writing about art and antiques for over 20 years. Her site archives over 800 articles covering a broad array of categories. The depth of her experience and keen eye for the story behind the story shows clearly in her articles. Typically they focus on a particular item that has come up for auction with a description of the historical personality who owned it. Her research is very good and filled with educational nuggets of information.
Rosemary looks at auctions all over the world to find the story behind historic objects as they come up for sale at auction. As she says:
“It could be Harry Houdini, Bob Dylan, Truman Capote, Amelia Earhart, Babe Ruth or William Randolph Hearst. I tell their stories through the handcuffs they’ve owned, books they’ve written, songs they’ve sung, planes they’ve flown, empires they’ve built and homeruns they’ve hit—all of which sold on the block.”
Her story on Baron Von Richthofen (The Red Baron) includes interesting details surrounding his untimely demise. I’m a pilot and dedicated aviation history buff and had forgotten this story. It’s nice to have it back in my memory bank. One of his silver beakers commemorating a victory in aerial combat sold at auction for $28.000.
These articles contain some great research on auction prices realized. Don’t pass up this kind of resource. Rosemary gets it in one when she says, “When the bidding stops and the hammer falls, the value of an item is set. The buyer, not the seller, sets the price. This simple distinction cuts through all the chitchat about what art, antiques and collectibles are really worth.”
Go to Live Auction Talk and sign up for her free weekly subscription. It includes an article on the 8 essentials of collections. It will tell you exactly what needs to be at the forefront of your thinking every time you enter an auction house. It’s brilliant stuff and lots of fun.