Asian Antiques Rejected by Christie's and Sotheby's, Now What?

Was Your Collection of Asian Antiques Consignment Rejected By Christie's and Sotheby's, Now What? 

It happens all the time, all hope is not lost. Keep reading.

Settling an Estate or after Inheriting a Collection of Chinese or Asian Antiques

Asian Antiques Rejected by Christies and Sotheby's, Now What?
18th C. Chinese Robe
So, its like this. You have inherited or are the executor of an estate containing Chinese, Japanese or Korean works of art, they look really great right?

Perhaps you may not know if it's all Chinese or Japanese, it may be a little of both.

Perhaps it's a wonderful collection of vases and bowls, jade carvings, dandy little bronzes, big framed scrolls, maybe a terrific carved piece of bamboo. All wonderful and just not the kind of things you want to live with or they need to be sold as a condition of a will or trust or to simply settle the estate itself. It;s time to get some values and sell them, or some of them. 

Selling Asian Antiques At Christie's or Sotheby's, seems like the logical choice

Qianlong Export Porcelain
Chinese Qianlong Period Export Porcelain
Tureen and Under Tray, 18th C. 
So you decide to sell and think in a flash of brilliance  "hey what the heck, I'll let Christie's or Sotheby's sell them!"  

  • Personally I prefer Christie's, they are usually a happier bunch and seem glad to be working there. Sotheby's? not so much

These firms are in the news every week its seems selling paintings, jewelry, antiques and Chinese art for huge amounts of money. So why not give them a shot? 

You call one of them and they predictably ask you to send along some photographs, measurements and any other useful information. They may even ask you to bring them to NY or London or wherever the nearest office is for either of these venerable old companies. You think, "yes they will want this stuff". 

You comply and send off the requested information and wait. After a week or maybe a few, the letter arrives in an elegant, expensive looking buff colored envelope. You tear it open, it reads:


   Dear Mr. "Hopeful Consignor";
   Thank you for your interest in consigning your property to Christie's/Sotheby's for inclusion in one of our  upcoming sales. After sharing your information with our Experts in the appropriate departments we regret to inform you, your item(s) are not of sufficient value for inclusion at this time.
We suggest you contact a local auction house who might better serve you in this matter.
If in the future should you have other items you feel might be of interest, feel free to contact us.
Thank you once again for contacting Christie's/Sotheby's.

Wee Sah  No


Does this seem familiar? Did this happen to you? Now what? 
If so, join the club and its a BIG CLUB. Trust me, they send them out by the thousands each month.

Did Christie's and or Sotheby's make a mistake? 

Both of these companies make mistakes all the time, every day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year. It may also not have been a mistake, they just do not need what you have right now. They may already be heavy in a category and nothing you have is worth very high amounts so they simply do not bother encouraging you. The person who sent you a letter may also not be a REAL expert, but a low level staffer with a title who's overworked and wants to appear efficient. Saying no, is often the safest move.

  • 27 years ago I had a great Qianlong celadon vase rejected by a Department Head at Christie's. She had been there for only a few years and through attrition became it's head in record time. She was wrong, I politely left and consigned it with a fellow I knew elsewhere, it sold for $140,000. 

What to do next? 

Call the local auctioneer!

18th C. Chinese Bamboo Elephant
Detail, 18th C. Carved Chinese Bamboo Elephant
So? What to do next? Odds are you'll start looking around at the local auctioneers. 

Here's the problem, despite advertising specifically for Asian antiques, there is a 99.5% likelihood they know next to nothing Asian antiques. This is the case even if they claim to have an "expert". 

In today's world the vast majority of smaller auction houses cannot afford an Asian antiques expert. Even Christies' and Sotheby's have a hard time retaining them due to salary demands. 

  • NOTE: A good Asian dealer today working part time, can earn more than a Doctor or Lawyer. 

What most auctioneers do know is, some Chinese antiques (vases, bowls, tables, robes, bronzes, jades) are really valuable and they'll be willing to take a shot in case your's are good ones. As for why and which ones, they haven't a clue.

How do we know this? 

Each week, we get emails and phone calls from auctioneers trying to catalog an auction with a fresh consignment of Asian objects from a local estate. We do try and help them, they are all generally nice people trying to do the right thing but are usually way over their heads. This is not a good way to sell single items or a collection. Asian antiques are really an area for specialists only from start to finish. 

I do feel badly for the consignors, they are now at a disadvantage and probably do not know it. How is this auctioneer going to answer daily inquiries regarding age, condition, form, rarity and likely value? If he cannot do it, how on earth the potential buyer in Beijing or Sydney going to have enough confidence to make a strong bid? ANS: They won't. It's that simple, especially with things that are worth tens of thousands of dollars. 

The local auctioneer doesn't know the difference between a Yen Yen vase or a Meiping example. How is he or she going to make a buyer 8,000 miles away feel comfortable in spending $50,000 or $150,000?

Selling Chinese and Asian Art Through Us

"..we can make it easier, it's what we've done for 35 years". 

Collection of Chinese Art Appraised
Add caption
If you have gotten "The Letter" and need help or want an adviser on how to handle this situation?

Call us before you put a "local" auctioneer in the position of having to do it. It may be your things are not worth a million dollars, but it could be worth a lot more than you might imagine.

We are appraisers and dealers of Asian antiques and have been for over 35 years. 

We have a customers in China the local auctioneer will never have a shot at. We could very well know the Jade buyer in France who desperately collects the very thing you have. We may just know the auctioneer who will gladly take in your item(s) and will work with us to ensure you get what you should for the piece or an entire collection.

We know which months of the year and in what cities are the best, based on other things happening in the Asian Trade Market. We also know when and where you definitely DO NOT want to sell at auction and which specialty dealer will be your best choice if a direct sale is wise. 

After 35 years in "The Trade" we will have the information you need and we will work with you , as we have with hundreds of other heirs and executors over the years in making smart decisions in how to convert Asian Antiques into as much revenue as possible. 

plcombs Asian Antique Dealers and Appraisers
plcombs Asian Antique Dealers and Appraisers
Call us anytime.

Thank you,

Peter Combs

plcombs, Asian Art
Appraisers - Dealers
185 Main Street
Gloucester, Massachusetts
978 283 3524 , 
Hours: M-F, 9AM to 6PM

Since 1978