Selling Your Audubon Prints
by Ron Flynn
This article originally appeared in my book, The Audubon Price Guide Book. It has been revised and updated, and is now published here for FREE. I no longer buy Audubon prints. I no longer do Audubon print identification, authentication or appraisals. Please do not contact me about these services, and do not email me your Audubon images. If you are not sure if you have an authentic Audubon print, or one of the high quality limited edition facsimile or reproduction prints, in 90%-95% of all cases you can self-authenticate your print by reading my FREE articles, Is Your Audubon Print An Original? and Modern Audubon Birds of America D.E.F. Editions, on this website.
If you are interested in learning the approximate market value of your Audubon prints, I sell Price Guides to all original Audubon editions, plus the facsimile Amsterdam edition, at my other website, www.audubonprices.com. These Price Guides are well researched, and updated annually. They are reasonably priced and can be purchased by mail order or by credit card using PayPal. Price Guides purchased using PayPal can be sent to you via email in several file formats, usually within hours of ordering.
This article is written primarily for people who have original Audubon prints, or high quality limited edition facsimile or reproduction prints (as discussed in the above two mentioned articles), and have decided to sell them for whatever reason. Even experienced Audubon collectors will benefit from learning what they are up against and might encounter when they decide to sell part or all of their collection.
What to expect from a dealer -
If there is one single thing that print dealers regularly complain about, it is the high numbers of people who contact them to have their "Audubon" prints identified, authenticated, evaluated or appraised for FREE! Many print dealers will say that over 75% of these requests will turn out to be cheap Audubon reproductions. It takes time for a dealer to examine prints, and even more time to write a letter or formal appraisal. Dealers are not going to do this for FREE. In fact, Audubon print collecting has become extremely popular in the past few years, and now many print dealers will no longer authenticate or appraise prints, even for a fee.
Some dealers will issue a Certificate of Authenticity (COA), at no additional cost, when you buy a print from them. A COA might be nice to include along with a print you are giving as a gift, or it might be comforting to you to have one. However, if you trust the print dealer as to the authenticity of what he sells, a COA is really unnecessary. Truthfully, when it comes time to sell an Audubon print, a COA is worthless. Instead, any dealer or buyer will examine the print itself, and determine its condition and authenticity, and decide if he even wants or needs it, and how much he will pay for it.
There are still some dealers who will do print authentication and appraisals for a fee. There are independent art appraisers (look in the Yellow Pages) who will also do this for a fee. An independent formal written appraisal would identify, authenticate, document and provide a value for your print, based on an actual physical examination of the print. However, unless your print is worth $5,000-$10,000 or more, for which you might pay an appraiser 10% or more of the appraised value, you may not need or want a formal appraisal before trying to sell your prints. Before trying to sell your Audubon prints, you must know what you have and approximately how much it is worth in the retail market. You do not want to embarrass yourself by contacting or walking into a dealer's store with a fistful of cheap Audubon reproductions, that you found in the attic or a dumpster, that are barely worth $1.00 apiece. You also do not want to get taken and sell your Audubon prints for much less than they are actually worth. Self-authenticate your Audubon prints by reading the articles mentioned above, learn the market value of your Audubon prints from one of my Price Guides, and then you are ready to try and sell your Audubon prints.
Print Valuation -
The value of Audubon prints is actually based upon three factors: the relative rarity of the print edition, the popularity of the particular print within that edition, and the actual condition of the print. The values found in my Price Guides account for the first two factors. In my article, Buying Audubon Prints and Print Condition, on this website, I briefly discuss the third factor. However, the actual buyer of your Audubon prints will want to physically examine them and assess their condition. The condition of an Audubon print can affect its value by 50% or more. Ideally, any buyer would want to examine your prints unframed or removed from their frame. This is especially true if your print has been framed for 10-15 years or more. Unseen damage and flaws are easily hidden, or can develop over time, within a framed package. A buyer would certainly be taking a chance when buying a framed Audubon print.
There are three different values for Audubon prints. First, there is the retail value or market value, which is the price dealers sell the print for. The retail price for any particular Audubon print will vary widely around the Country based on many factors, including the dealer's market, overhead and markup. Secondly, there is the wholesale value, or the amount a dealer would pay you for your print. Based upon the above three value factors, this could be 30%-70% of retail or market value. Finally, there is the replacement value for insurance purposes. Depending on your insurance company, this value could be: an appraised value, the average dealer price from around the Country, the highest dealer price found for that print, or what you recently paid for that print times a percentage of perhaps 110%. Art specific riders on homeowners insurance policies will typically have an annual inflation adjustment. All original Audubon prints are certainly collectibles, and most are considered fine art. Values of original Audubon prints will fluctuate with the fine art market and the economy.
It's Time to Sell -
Whether you are a long time Audubon collector, or an investor/speculator, or a recent heir or recipient of Audubon prints, there may come a time when you want to sell some or all of your Audubon prints. Depending on which Audubon prints you own and want to sell, and the condition they are in, you may be able to sell them quite easily, or not at all. Though it may sound simple, you must try as hard as you can to find someone who WANTS to buy your Audubon prints. This article will help you do that, and explain the options you have.
If you have one of my Price Guides, it will give you an excellent idea of what your Audubon prints sell for in the retail marketplace. You should note the range of retail prices for any given print. This will become important in searching for a buyer for your prints. Generally, you will find a wider range in retail prices for the more expensive or higher priced prints. Also, in my Octavo Birds, Octavo Quads and Amsterdam Price Guides, you should note the price ranges for given prints sold on eBay. Audubon prints from these editions are regularly sold on eBay. eBay should be considered sort of a wholesale market. Some Audubon dealers buy prints on eBay and turn around and sell them at retail. While other Audubon retail dealers sell on eBay, and make money doing so, eBay Internet auction prices for the vast majority of the above three (3) Audubon editions are generally somewhat lower than an interested dealer would pay you for the same print. This is also important to remember. Finally, auction house sales for individual Audubon prints will generally be at a wholesale level. However, sales at the larger auction houses, such as Christies and Sotheby's, can fetch realized prices more representative of retail, if in a good specialized antique print auction.
If you want to sell an original Audubon Havell, Bien or Imperial Folio Quadruped edition print, in reasonably good condition, you probably will not have difficulty finding someone who wants to buy it. Although, many dealers have relatively large inventories of Imperial Folio Quadruped prints, and it may be a little difficult to sell some of the least popular prints. This does not mean you should take the first offer from the first dealer you show it to. You should at least shop, phone, or email around and find dealers who are interested in your prints, and try and get at least 2-3 tentative or ballpark offers, subject to actual examination of the prints. If you want to sell only one, or a small quantity, of Audubon Octavo Bird, Octavo Quad or Amsterdam Edition prints, you will have a difficult time selling them, and you may not find a buyer at all. While I do not publish a Price Guide for the 1985 Abbeville edition, their retail prices and eBay prices for particular prints tend to parallel and be close to the prices for the same Amsterdam edition print. For all four (4) latter Audubon editions, dealers prefer to buy bound volumes, complete sets and large collections.
The retail prices or pricing structure for Audubon Octavo Birds, Octavo Quads, Amsterdam and Abbeville edition prints are often referred to as "tiers." Tiers are simply "dealer talk" for retail price range groups. There are no set guidelines or standards defining price range groups or tiers. The price range distinctions between tiers are not important. What is important is that "upper tier" prints are the more popular and expensive prints in any edition. Dealers tend to have fewer upper tier prints in inventory, because they sell more quickly despite their higher prices. Thus, upper tier prints are easier to find a buyer for. On the other hand, "lower tier" prints are not so popular or expensive, and most dealers will have large inventories and multiple copies of the lower tier prints in any edition. It might take 3-5 years or more for a dealer to sell lower tier prints. Also, there are perhaps three times as many lower tier prints in any given edition as there are upper tier prints. Thus, it will be much more difficult to find a buyer for your lower tier prints.
The above discussion describes the relative ease or difficulty of finding a buyer for your Audubon prints, but nothing has been said about how much money you will get. In my opinion, if you bought any Audubon print, at full retail price within the last few years or so, with very few exceptions, it will be extremely difficult for you to make a profit, or even break even, if you have to sell quickly. I have always advocated buying Audubon prints as art, that you like, and not for investment or speculative purposes. Also, if you bought quantities of lower tier prints on eBay within the past few years, and you try and resell them on eBay, it will be very difficult for you to get your money back and break even. In selling your Audubon prints, you have several options and choices, which will be discussed in detail below.
I stated earlier that any buyer of your Audubon prints will first want to physically examine them before purchasing them. If you live in a large metropolitan area, there may be a number of local print dealers or galleries that you can take your prints to for evaluation and possible offers to buy. However, they will not necessarily pay you the best price for your prints. You should be prepared to ship your prints to an interested dealer that is not within a reasonable driving distance. While you will incur additional expenses for packing, shipping fees and insurance, a distant dealer may give you a better price, or may be the only dealer interested in buying your prints for a fair price. Dealers have been shipping Audubon prints to customers all over this Country and Worldwide for years. With the popularity of the Internet, this practice is even more common, and you should, with adequate insurance, have no qualms about shipping your prints to a distant dealer. Be certain your Audubon prints are covered under a scheduled art rider on your homeowners insurance policy. Then insure them with the shipping carrier for at least their potential purchase price, if not their market or replacement value. Modern DEF facsimile and reproduction prints can be shipped rolled, with clean wrapping paper covering and tissue paper cushioning at the ends. Use a heavy dense cardboard mailing tube that is a minimum 4" in diameter and 36" long. You will need to ship your original Audubon prints flat. They should be carefully packaged and wrapped. Use several layers of cardboard or foamboard to make the package rigid and unbendable. If you cannot slip your prints into a clear plastic protective envelope, then use the smoother foamboard to "sandwich" your prints, and add cardboard layers around that. The packing material should be at least 1" longer than the print's dimensions, around all four sides. Unless you have access to a commercial shipping account or a carrier with reduced rates, UPS Ground will probably give you the best deal on rates, and UPS insurance runs about $0.40-$0.50/$100.00 of insured value. For a small fee, UPS will also get an adult signature upon delivery, and will not simply leave your package at the destination door.
Selling to a print dealer or art gallery -
Your first step in finding a buyer for your Audubon prints is to preferably locate several dealers who show an interest in your prints. If you know of dealers in your area, start there, but do not limit your search to only local dealers. Dealers who sell Audubon prints would describe or list their businesses in various categories including: Print Dealer, Antique Print Dealer, Antique Maps and Prints, Antiquarian Bookseller, Art and Antique Shop, Fine Art Gallery, Rare Prints and Books, Art and Posters, and the like. You might locate them in the Yellow Pages under one of the above headings, or do an Internet search of the above terms or variations, but also include the word "Audubon" in every Internet search. Virtually all dealers who buy and sell Audubon prints will also sell works by other artists. Most Audubon dealers will have a retail store, as well as an Internet website, and sell from both. Some very good Audubon dealers do not have retail stores, but operate out of their home. They do most of their business over the Internet, but would open their home galleries, by appointment, if you were in the area. Many Audubon dealers set up booths at large art fairs, both indoors and outdoors, mainly from late spring to fall. These are quite popular up and down the U.S. East coast and in other areas of the Country. Finally, there are Audubon print dealers who conduct all their business over the Internet. In November, 2005, I will publish a list of recommended Audubon print dealers on this website. While there is no guarantee that any of these dealers will want to buy your Audubon prints, I have personally had favorable business dealings with all of them in recent years. Some of these recommended dealers have listed the particular editions of Audubon prints they are interested in buying, along with some information on their buying policies.
All Audubon print dealers buy Audubon prints. They have to buy prints in order to have prints on hand to sell. However, not all print dealers buy individual or small quantities of Audubon prints from collectors, as I mentioned earlier. A number of print dealers advertise on their websites that they buy Audubon prints, and some even have online forms that you can submit with information about the prints you want to sell. But remember, print dealers still must need or want the prints you have for sale, before they will ask you to ship them for evaluation and possible purchase. Before contacting a dealer, you should visit the dealer's website to see what Audubon edition prints that dealer sells, and note that dealer's prices for prints similar to what you have to sell. You should compare a dealer's prices with the retail price ranges in my Price Guide, and note whether that dealer's prices are at the low-mid-high range of prices from around the Country. Contact prospective dealers either by phone, email, snail mail, or the form provided on some websites. You should provide each potential buyer with specific information about your prints including: edition, dimensions, imprint or important identifying text, plus an honest general condition report (listing flaws and damage) and the condition of the coloring. It is a good idea to have pictures or images of your Audubon prints. You can mail a dealer a photo of a print, but if you have an image on your computer, you can email it, saving time. A dealer may request a picture or image of a print, before you ship it, just to get an idea of its condition and authenticity.
If there is any reliable rule of thumb to use as a starting point, it is that many dealers I know pay 50% of "their" retail price for any Audubon print, in reasonable condition, that they buy. This is important because of the old stock market adage that says - "buy low and sell high." It doesn't matter what you originally paid for your Audubon prints. If you can sell them to a dealer who sells prints at the high end of the price range, you will generally get more money for them. Some dealers will pay as much as 70% of retail for fine Havell Edition prints. Some dealers may only pay 30% of retail for "lower tier" prints. Condition is very important, and dealers will not want or pay for prints in poor condition. I digress for a moment to make an important point. For nearly 40 years, I have bought, sold and traded oriental rugs for investment and to furnish the various homes I have lived in over those years. There are oriental rugs stores all over the Country. There are oriental rug dealers, with traveling "shows", who sell or auction their wares on weekends at motels and hotels. There are oriental rug buyers who advertise in your local paper, and travel to your home to buy your rugs. In all those years of selling and trading oriental rugs, I have NEVER met a rug dealer who initially offered me a price for my rug. Instead, they ALWAYS first ask how much I want for it. My point is that it is extremely important for you to have a pretty good idea of how much your Audubon prints are worth before trying to sell them. If you encounter an Audubon print dealer who asks you how much you want for your prints, I believe you have likely found a dealer who is trying to buy your prints at lower than a fair price. If this happens and you know the dealer's prices, and your prints are in very good condition, don't give the dealer an amount. Instead, tell the dealer you are looking for about 50% of retail as a fair price. If the dealer was just testing you (I'm being kind here) and is serious about buying your prints at a fair price, he/she will make you an offer. Being realistic, there are print dealers who would like to pay as little as possible to the uninformed or unknowing seller of Audubon prints. If you don't know the value of the prints you are trying to sell, you certainly can be taken advantage of.
I understand that time can be a factor in the selling of Audubon prints, or anything else for that matter. Whether you are selling one Havell print or a collection of various Audubon prints, I would allow 1-3 months to find interested dealers, ship prints, and finalize a sale at the best price. If you have interested local dealers or can travel with your prints to a more distant interested dealer, you will probably sell your prints in less than a month, but you may not get the best price. However, if time is important and you just want to get rid of them for what you can get, then go ahead and take the first serious offer you get. Sadly, there are Audubon collectors who will have to accept an amount that is lower than a fair price just to sell their prints, and there will be Audubon collectors who cannot find any dealer willing to buy their prints. If this is your situation, skip the next section, but read on.
Selling through an auction house -
You CAN sell any Audubon print through an auction house. The questions to ask yourself are: what is the market value of the Audubon prints you are selling, how fast do you want to sell them, and at what type or size auction house do you want to sell them through. There are the large and well known auction houses like Sotheby's and Christies, and many others like them, that auction rare items from all over the World. There are large regional or in-state auction houses that will offer some very fine antique items. Finally, there are the smaller local auction houses that, depending on their size and location, will offer everything from antiques and collectibles to just plain junk.
If time is your only consideration, the largest auction houses which accept only rare or high priced items, will assemble items for a specifically themed auction that they might hold every few months or so. For items of this caliber, the auction house may want your items for 3-6 months in advance. This allows the auction house to assemble enough items to hold an auction with a specific theme, and to promote and advertise that auction. On the other end of the time spectrum, small local auction houses likely hold an auction every week. They will accept and auction virtually anything and everything, and you can put your Audubon prints in this type of auction within a week or two of the auction date. While the latter type auction will pretty much guarantee you a quick sale at some price, you most certainly won't get the best price for your prints. You must find the best auction for your Audubon prints, depending on their market value, in order to get the best price possible.
Audubon prints are regularly sold at public auctions held by auction houses all over the Country. The largest auction houses will regularly feature auctions that contain a number of original Audubon works. Because of the quantity of merchandise they consign to auction, the largest houses will have special auctions featuring only art objects, and they may last for a day or longer. Medium sized auction houses will hold regular auctions, maybe once a month or so. These will be mixed auctions containing a wide variety of merchandise such as: furniture, art, oriental items, and collectibles of all kinds. If your small local auction house just sells cheap junky items, it is probably not the place to sell any Audubon prints, despite the promise of a fast sale. You can find auction houses in the Yellow Pages of your local phone book, in newspaper advertisements, or through Internet searches.
The largest auction houses are likely to accept for auction only rare or high priced individual or small lots of Audubon prints such as: Havells, Biens and Folio Quads, or complete sets or volumes of any edition, with market values of perhaps $10,000.00-$100,000.00 or more. However, I have seen the largest auction houses selling seven volume sets of The Quadrupeds of North America for less than $10,000.00, in auctions with only a few Audubon items out of 200 lots or more. It is most likely that the total market value or estimated auction value of your Audubon prints will determine which auction house will accept your items, and which specific auction they will get in. In June, 2004, Christies held a particularly rare all day auction in which all 435 individual Havell Edition prints, from one set, were auctioned. The proceeds were well in excess of $6 million. About a month later, Sotheby's auctioned, I believe, 20-30 trimmed or poor condition Havell Edition prints in a large 200+ lot auction.
The market value of your Audubon prints will basically determine what size and type of auction house will accept your prints. Contact several auction houses and tell them what you have. If your Audubon prints are accepted, ask the auction house for details about the auction your prints will be sold in. You want your prints "in the right auction." If you watch the PBS show Antiques Roadshow, you will often hear the appraisers say "in the right auction your xxxx could fetch $$$$." The "right auction" for your Audubon prints would be an auction that featured only antique prints and maps, with maybe some antique paintings. This type of fine art themed auction would attract a lot of buyers with similar interests, and realized prices will tend to be higher. The above example would be ideal. However, unless you have some of the rarest and most expensive Audubon prints, you will probably have to settle for some type of mixed auction. The more items, that are similar to your Audubon prints (art), in a particular auction, the better. An auction in which your Audubon prints were the ONLY art items among furniture, china, and oriental items, would be far from ideal, but they would undoubtedly sell for something. Not only will you have to shop around for a good auction house, but you may have to shop around for "the right auction."
At the larger auctions, both dealers and collectors would attend and bid on Audubon prints at most all auctions. Collectors will often outbid dealers. Dealers know their market and what they can sell a particular print for, but they also have to consider their overhead and markup in deciding what they will bid. Realized prices would range from what would be considered wholesale to sometimes record setting retail. Smaller auction houses, with only a few Audubon pieces in each auction, might also have Havells, Biens and Folio Quads, as well as lots containing individual or multiple Octavo prints. Realized prices for rare or fine Audubon prints can just as easily reach the price levels that larger houses attain, if it is the right auction. Overall, however, realized prices would tend to be more in the wholesale range at a mixed auction at a smaller auction house. If you put your Audubon prints in one of the local "walk-in" weekly auctions, you will undoubtedly sell them for some quick cash, but at a fraction of their market value.
If you consign your Audubon prints for auction sale, the auction house will give you their best estimate of a price range they feel your items would sell for. NO GUARANTEES though. You will be charged a commission, usually 10%-20%, on the final winning bid price for each item. You will have the expenses involved in getting your items to the auction house, which include packing, shipping and insurance. You are allowed to place a reserve price on your items being auctioned, but you will be discouraged from doing so unless it is warranted and reasonable. Auction houses want all items to sell, and unreasonable reserve prices will not be allowed. Finally, it has pretty much become standard at auctions that the winning bidder pays a buyer's premium. This is an additional fee or surcharge, based on the winning bid price, of usually 10%-20%, that the winning bidder pays to the auction house. While you do not pay, and would not receive, any part of the buyer's premium, it often will have an impact on the winning bid price. With all bidders knowing they have to pay a certain percent as a buyer's premium, they may reduce the maximum amount they were willing to pay for an item by the buyer's premium percentage. If this occurs, it might affect the amount your items would bring at auction.
There is a certain risk in selling your Audubon prints at auction without a reserve. Your items may sell at a price much lower than you expected. There is also a risk that your items may not sell. The auction house will evaluate your prints, and as part of their promotion and advertising, they will usually print an auction catalogue that will include an estimated price range that your prints might sell for. They are usually quite knowledgeable and accurate in these estimates, and tend to be conservative. Many auction houses will use the lowest estimated price as the opening bid. Some auctioneers, at the time of bidding, will accept lower amounts as the opening bid and proceed from there. However, other auctioneers will pass an item that does not receive the called for opening bid, and that item will not sell. Auctions move very fast, and an auctioneer will not keep bidding open on an item for very long. If your Audubon print is passed and does not sell, you will not be charged any fees. However, you had expenses in shipping your print to the auction house, and will have to pay shipping to get your prints back. This doesn't happen often, because auction houses want to sell your item and earn their commission, but you should check with the auction house regarding their policy in this area.
Selling on eBay -
There are a number of Internet auction sites where you could sell Audubon prints. I have repeatedly checked out many of them, and with the exception of eBay, at www.ebay.com, I find that all the others occasionally have Audubon posters up for bid, but rarely if ever an original Audubon print. However, eBay has a very active auction market for Audubon Octavo Birds and Quads, Amsterdam, and recently Abbeville prints. Occasionally you will find an original Havell, Bien or Imperial Folio Quad for sale on eBay. However, many of them are in poor condition or the reserve is unrealistically high, and less than half ever sell. If you own one of these large format original Audubon prints, I would not suggest that you try and sell it on eBay, unless you have exhausted all other possibilities and simply want to dump the print for whatever you can get (you can set a reserve price). Certainly, if your print is in reasonably good condition or better, one or more dealers will want to buy it.
I have written before that eBay is a unique open auction marketplace in which the buyers/bidders do not actually get to see or examine the items they bid on. Instead, they must rely on low-resolution Internet pictures and seller descriptions, if any. Yet, it works and thrives. I have bought and sold perhaps 75-100 original Audubon prints on eBay over the years. About 50-100 or more original Audubon prints are usually auctioned each week on eBay. I have noted over the past few years that a good number of people bought fairly large quantities of Audubon prints on eBay. Beginning in 2003, and continuing today, I noticed that a number of these same people began reselling their prints on eBay. What resulted was that many of these prints went unsold because of high reserve prices, or sold for less than what they were originally bought for. eBay prices for Audubon prints are generally down from 2001-early 2003 levels, but that is not the entire story. There are probably 10-12 semi-regular eBay sellers of Audubon prints, and scores of occasional or one-time sellers. Two long time Audubon eBay sellers, rareprintsgallery.com (formerly congogrey) and cirqlar, have built a superb record over the past several years. They have feedback ratings well into the thousands and near 100% feedback satisfaction. As a result of their excellent products and service, these sellers have built up a following on eBay. Many people have told me they bid only on auctions by these two sellers, because of their honesty and integrity. As a result, these particular sellers generally get higher prices for their Audubon prints. There are a few long time eBay Audubon sellers, as well as new sellers, whose auctions, I believe, range from inaccurate and suspicious to fraudulent. In my article, Buying Audubon Prints and Print Condition, on this website, I have a section on Buying on eBay, which might prove helpful before you sell your Audubon prints on eBay.
Generally, the honest semi-regular Audubon eBay sellers, as well as the suspicious or fraudulent sellers, get lower prices, because of a lack of regular continuous Audubon auctions, and not so large a following. Thus, the occasional or one-time eBay Audubon sellers enter that market at a slight disadvantage. The new eBay seller of Audubon prints will probably not realize the highest prices, unless perhaps you have upper tier prints that you want to sell relatively fast and will accept lower prices than what you might get from a dealer. If you decide to sell on eBay, this is what you are up against. However, eBay prices fluctuate during the course of each year, as well as from year to year, just like any other market. In late 2004 and during 2005, some upper tier Audubon prints brought record high eBay prices, and a few sold for near or more than retail. However, many lower tier prints, during the same period, set new eBay lows. If you own Audubon Octavo Bird or Quad, or Amsterdam and Abbeville Edition prints (especially lower tier), and you absolutely cannot find a dealer who wants to buy them, you can sell them for something on eBay. If you originally bought them from a dealer at retail, you will certainly lose money, but will get something back and be rid of them. If you originally bought them on eBay, I don't believe you will break even. However,, if you no longer want the prints you own and really want to sell them, then sell them on eBay and get what you can and be done with it. Otherwise, store them away for another 5-10 years, and try again to find a buyer at that time.
If you decide to auction your Audubon prints on eBay, have good pictures and give honest descriptions of condition. View several other Audubon eBay auctions as a guide for your auction listing. The two Audubon eBay sellers I mentioned above start their auctions with an opening bid of $9.95, WITH NO RESERVE! Their auctions may rise in price to $100 or $500 or $1,000 or more. They take that risk, but they have a following and can do this with confidence. They buy complete sets or volumes at wholesale prices, and break them up and sell off the individual prints. Depending on the size of the edition (155-500 different prints), they simply dollar cost average and wind up making money on the sale of the prints from the entire edition. It is certainly risky for you to sell a few Audubon prints on eBay with an opening bid of $9.95 and no reserve. You can raise your opening bid price to a somewhat acceptable level for yourself, and choose whether to add a moderate reserve or "Buy It Now" price. However, the more limits or restrictions you place on your eBay auction, the fewer buyers you will attract. eBay buyers are becoming accustomed to lower opening bid prices and NO RESERVES. If you have a quantity of Audubon prints, say 50-100, that you will sell on eBay, you can build your own temporary following by stating in all your listings what you will have for auction in the future. Auction 5-10 Audubon prints each week. The more you have to sell on a regular basis, the better your chances of attracting a following and getting higher prices.
While large dealers continually sell Audubon prints on eBay, and make money at it, they have an advantage over the collector or smaller one-time seller. The small collector or one-time seller, with relatively few Audubon prints to sell, should think of eBay as a last resort or dumping ground to get rid of your Audubon prints that you no longer like or want or have to sell for cash. Before dumping your Audubon collection on eBay, I think you should exhaust all other sales possibilities. I understand it takes time and patience and is not easy. If time is not too much of a factor, look into trading or consignment sales if you cannot find a dealer interested in buying your prints.
Trading is not a way to get cash for your Audubon prints, but it is a way to get rid of unwanted prints and upgrade your collection. Trading prints is a concept or term that sounds good to someone who is trying to sell Audubon prints to a dealer. However, true trading only occurs between dealers. It is something that dealers generally do among themselves. It's a simple concept and sounds like something you should be able to do. Trade or exchange prints you own for something the dealer has that you want, and in that trade the dealer should come out somewhat ahead for his time and effort. Sorry, it doesn't work that way. Dealers rarely trade with individual collectors. If you want to trade or exchange prints with a dealer, it will generally be treated as two transactions on one or two receipts. The dealer will first "allow" or credit you an amount for the prints you are "trading." In effect, you are selling those prints to the dealer at wholesale prices. The second part of the transaction is where you "pay" retail or a discounted price for the print or prints you are getting in "trade" from the dealer. You might wind up having to pay something, because the prices may not come out even. In this type of transaction, the dealer must still want what you have to "trade." Even though this type of transaction is not a true trade or exchange, the term "trading up" has been used to describe it. It is not all that common, but I have done it a few times. This type of transaction looks good on the dealer's books, and the dealer does not have to spend any money. Remember, you are actually selling at wholesale and buying at or near retail. However, if you can put together a small collection of prints (say 5-10) that the dealer didn't want to pat cash for, you can trade them all for one or two much better prints. Virtually all dealers who sell Audubon prints also sell antique prints from other artists. You could trade your Audubon prints for one from another artist that the dealer has.
Online Classified Ads -
Princeton-Audubon at - http://www.princetonaudubon.com/HTML%20Pages/audubon_prints_for_sale_from_all.htm has a page on their website where collectors can list, currently for FREE, any Audubon prints they have for sale or trade. I currently have a few upper tier 1st edition Audubon octavo bird prints listed there for sale, and have sold some. Perhaps in the future someone will host a page on their website where collectors can list their Audubon prints for sale, plus post their want lists. Under that format, true private trades or exchanges could be done, as well as buying and selling individual prints.
Consignment Sales -
A number of Audubon print dealers will accept Audubon prints on consignment. Generally when you sell prints on consignment, you will wind up getting more money for your prints. On the down side, you may have to leave your prints with the dealer for quite a long time before they sell. I have found that consignment fees will range from 10%-50% of the actual selling price. You may not want to participate in any agreement with consignment fees that approach 50%, because that percentage might be fairly close to what you can get for your prints with an outright cash sale to a dealer. However, I again stress that if you cannot find any cash buyer for your prints, perhaps you can find a dealer who will accept them on consignment. In a consignment agreement, a dealer does not have to outlay any money until the prints sell.
Consignment agreements are written contracts, but there is no nationwide standard form. There might be standard consignment agreement forms available in each State, based partly on the laws of the individual State. A dealer may use a form that a lawyer has drafted specifically for him. One of the things to consider is whether you want an open-end or closed-end agreement. In an open-end consignment agreement, you can cancel and get your prints back at anytime, with some reasonable notice. It is possible that if you decide you want your prints back, one or more could be out for approval with a potential buyer. You would certainly want that potential buyer to be able to have the print for the full approval time, and not demand its return and lose a possible sale. In a closed-end consignment agreement, you would agree to leave your prints with the dealer for a specific period of time. If you have any choice with a particular dealer, or can negotiate the terms of a consignment agreement, you should expect to pay the lowest consignment fee percentage if you sign a closed-end agreement for a period of time recommended by the dealer.
The dealer will always suggest or tell you the retail price that will be asked for your prints, and the price will probably be written on the contract. There are several variations in consignment agreements concerning pricing. In the most restrictive form for dealers, the retail price for each print would be listed in the agreement and you would get your money, less consignment fee, based on that amount. If the dealer sold the print for less than the listed retail price (to make a sale), you would still get your money based on the agreed retail price, less consignment fee. A more liberal consignment agreement would specify a price range that the prints would be sold for, and you would be paid based on the final selling price, less consignment fee. In another form of consignment agreement, your prints are evaluated and a net realized price to you for each print is agreed upon. In other words, the price you will receive for each print, when it sells, will be stated in the consignment agreement and the dealer can sell the prints for whatever price the dealer wants or can get.
I have sold many Audubon prints on consignment with over ten different print dealers over the past few years. I usually leave my prints for a one year term, though virtually all sold sooner. I think the one year term is common and fair to the dealer. You might find a dealer who will agree to a six month consignment agreement, if you have fast selling upper tier prints. Remember that less popular lower tier prints can take years to sell at retail.
Copyright (C) 2009 by Ron Flynn
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED