Sotheby’s And Christie’s Auction House Close Out Fall Season With Over $1 Billion In Sales Of Rare Collectibles

The rare collectibles business is booming, and you need to look no further than Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction houses to see the proof. These world-famous auctioneers closed out the fall 2023 auction season with over $1 billion in combined sales of rare collectibles. To call that a red-hot auction season would be an understatement.

Christie’s had over $740 million in sales, while Sotheby’s registered an impressive $400 million. A significant bulk of those sales are represented by rare works from some of the art world’s most well-respected masters. Some of the highlights include:

  •   “Le Bassin Aux Nympheas” (Water Lily Pond) by Claude Monet, $74 million
  •   “Woman with a Watch” by Pablo Picasso, $139.3 million
  •   “Recollections of a Visit to Leningrad” by Richard Diebenkorn, $46 million

A lot of three paintings by Paul Cezanne that included the highly sought-after “Fruits et Pots de Gingembre” had a final hammer price of just over $39 million. Another amazing aspect of this season’s sales is Monet’s “Le Bassin Aux Nympheas,” which hadn’t been seen in nearly 50 years before its owner put it up for auction. The $139.3 million paid for “Woman with a Watch” is the second-highest ever paid for a Picasso.

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The High-End Auction Market Grows Beyond Art

Although most people may associate the high-end collectibles market with fine art, both rare spirits and sports collectibles have been muscling their way into the auction scene for years. Earlier this month, Sotheby’s New York began the first of a multistage auction of “The Epicurean’s Atlas.”

The Epicurean’s Atlas is a 25,000-bottle collection curated by billionaire Pierre Chen, with an average per-bottle value estimated at $190,000 meaning the collection could exceed $50 million in sales. Another sale worth mentioning is a rare bottle of The Macallan scotch from 1926, which had a final hammer price of over $2 million — significantly more than the $1.4 million it was forecast to sell for. 

Sports Collectibles Have a Strong Showing

On the sports collectibles side, Sotheby’s pulled off an impressive coup when it inked a deal with the NBA to become their official and exclusive auctioneer of game-worn jerseys. It celebrated that deal with a tipoff auction of game-worn jerseys from some of the league’s biggest stars.

Although jerseys from the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry were offered, the highest-selling jersey was the one worn by Victor Wembanyama in his first game, which sold for over $700,000. A price that high means that both collectors and investors see the potential value in owning the jersey of the most celebrated rookie to play in the NBA since James.

Why wouldn’t they? A jersey worn by Michael Jordan in the NBA Finals sold for over $10 million. If Wembanyama has the kind of career that many people are expecting, the auction price for his debut game jersey could be in the tens of millions by the time he retires and keep going up afterward. Suddenly, the $762,000 winning bid doesn’t seem so outlandish and might prove to be an astute investment.

Rare Collectibles as Alternative Investments

The high-end art and collectibles market was once characterized by the passion of collectors, and to some extent, it always will be. But the skyrocketing value of high-end, rare collectibles in fine art, rare spirits or sports has led to them being perceived as legitimate alternative investments. This is also driving the prices up at auction, a trend that will probably continue.

The good news is you don’t have to be a millionaire to get in on the action. Online platforms like Vint and Vinovest make investing in wine and spirits easier than ever before. 

Collectibles as investments carry risk, and you may not want to build your entire portfolio around them. But they also offer great potential as methods of diversification and potential hedges against inflation. That’s why they’re worth a look.

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