April 15, 2010

As Michelle Andrews reported for the MONEY article “Investments You Can Live With”, prices for art, antiques, and the like are still down significantly from their pre-recession peaks. If you’ve been itching to invest in art but don’t exactly have millions to blow, fine photographs are a great option. Because they’re made in multiples (unlike paintings), they’re much more affordable; you can snap up one by a master for a few thousand dollars. Interested? Get moving — the spring auction season has begun.

The Christie’s sale runs from Wednesday through Thursday; go to christies.com to check out the goods and place your bid (you can go in person if you happen to be in NYC). Thursday’s offerings include a Helen Levitt photo of New York in the ’40s (lot 412; estimate: $4,000 to $6,000), a Robert Frank photo of Peru in the ’40s (lot 313; estimate: $5,000 to $7,000); and Ansel Adams’ iconic “Moonrise, Hernandez, Northern New Mexico” (lot 321; estimate: $7,000 to $9,000).

There’s another large auction at Phillips starting the day after tomorrow (the 16th), also in New York. Go to phillipsdepury.com to see the selection; you can bid online or via telephone. The site has all the info.

Never bought anything at auction before? Consider being a lurker this time. That is, monitor what sells at each auction and for how much, so you can get a sense of how the process works. And next time you’re in New York, attend an auction in person; they’re open to the public, and they’re fun. I attended my first photo auctions at Christies and Sothebys in the ’90s on assignment for MONEY. I’ve been kicking myself for not buying anything ever since — several photos I considered are now worth many times more than what they sold for then.

Any auction experiences — good, bad, or illuminating — that you’d like to share? Please post them to comments.


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