Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Bids Breakup Blakes

In an earlier post I expressed my dismay over Sotheby's decision to sell the recently discovered suite of William Blake drawings separately because it was highly unlikely the nineteen drawings would be kept together. The sale was held on May 2, 2006 and as everyone expected the set of drawings was indeed broken up.

So how did everyone the money people do? In typical bean counter fashion here is a spreadsheet with the final results.

Now all the cards are on the table, from both a business and PR standpoint it would appear to me that since 40% of the offered lots were bought in, Sotheby's probably would have done better if they had insisted on selling the drawings as a group. (I must admit I know nothing of the backroom antics, certainly the speculator who owned the drawings wanted to realize the highest price possible, so…)

I would also note that of the 19 lots, only 5 (26%) were sold at, or above the presale low estimate. (The presale estimates do not include the "buyers premium" but the reported sales price does, so I Calculated a "Gavel Price" with no premium for the comparisons.) The speculators, who offered the Blake drawings for sale, are probably happy. It appears they have made back close to their original investment and still own eight of the drawings which they can peddle piecemeal to realize a profit on the bet. Business is business.

I suspect the sale probably was a bit of a disappointment for Sotheby's. After an initial buying frenzy, it appears the bidders felt that even the presale low estimates were a bit off the mark and became more cautious about raising the paddle. Or, the auction market is starting to soften, and the results from the sale of the Blake drawings are the first indication this may be the case. (… I know, Picasso and Van Gogh, but later on that…)

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