A Visit To Skinner Auction House

Thinking of something to blog about every day is really hard.  And on top of a full time job it’s even harder. So I made a little goal weeks ago to do more posts about interesting places, venues and companies in Boston over the summer. I have a little more free time and really want to add some more unique content to the blog via behind the scenes tours, site visits and the like. So last week I made a date to go find out more about Boston’s famed Skinner Auction House in Back Bay. I’ve long known about it, but like you may be, assumed it was only for the fabulously wealthy in search of their next “little Monet”. But I had heard from a couple “regular folks”, that they too get some great stuff there- from furniture to art and even wine! Well, color me surprised, because I had no clue there were items in all price ranges! In an effort to become more informed I went in and learned more about the auction world… and got to try on some seriously awesome jewelry in the process.
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First of all, the Skinner catalogs that come before an auction are like coffee table books- amazing quality, fetching covers and a total guilty pleasure to peruse. I’ve been getting them for months and LOVE when they arrive!

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The team at Skinner travels the country (and world) looking at the estates and property of people all over (and also sometimes hold open call days in various cities where you can bring your things to be evaluated).  You can also reach out to them if you have an object of note you want appraised for auction. It sounds like one of the coolest jobs ever, especially when it comes to the jewelry department.  Here’s a tray of goodies that were up for auction last week:

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There is an auction preview where you can see the items in person (you can go even if you don’t plan on bidding!)  And then the day of the auction you arrive, register and get a paddle and it all happens like it does in the movies.  You raise it when you want to bid and then check out at the end with your credit card.  There IS a 23% bidders fee added on to final price of each item, so be sure to remember that and calculate it in when making your bids!

I fell HARD for these two lots- this gorgeous tassel necklace and pair of pendant charms. Love love love.

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And yes, many things come from the big D’s- divorce, debt and death, but a lot come from people just wanting to sell things they simply don’t wear or want in their homes anymore! When it comes to jewelry, you can find some contemporary pieces selling for a percentage of what they are retail- like my lusted after Cartier Love bracelet.  It retails for about $6,600 new. This one was expected to sell for about $2,500-$3,000.

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Same goes for this Cartier Tank watch, expected to sell for around $1,500 instead of the $4,800 it retails for. Side note- wouldn’t these earrings be stunning with a simple black dress??? Amazing.

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But this was the MOST fun moment. Getting to try on this honking 6.6 carat Harry Winston diamond engagement ring valued at a quarter million dollars! Ho-ly hell you guys, I do not know how Beyonce manages to walk around with something more than twice this size because dayuuuuum this thing was humungous!  Oh wait, she’s Beyonce. Of course she can. And after trying this on, my whole “I would never want a massive diamond” argument kinda went out the window.  Because it was freaking amazing. Truth.

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On a different note, this vintage engagement ring was so lovely and much less. :)

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An auction in action!

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Maybe the idea of paddles and an auctioneer make you sweat a little (even though I was told there has NEVER been an incident of someone sneezing and accidentally ending up with a Picasso!) No worries, you can work your way into bidding at auctions via the internet! The best way to do this is to sign up well in advance of any auction that you might be interested in HERE, then there will be no delay in being able to bid. No credit card info is needed, so don’t worry, just proof you are a real, live person.  And you don’t have to go to a big, high priced auction either. Skinner has some auctions called Discovery that are full of great items at prices that aren’t intimidating!

This lot of chairs estimated at $200-$400.  For all of them!

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An Hermes silk scarf estimated at $175 and a Chanel bag also for $175.

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This incredible lot of 51 gold rimmed Baccarat cocktail glasses estimated to go for $400-$600.

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A gorgeous, unique necklace around $400 and these great pink and gold plates for $75-$125.

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I LOVE LOVE LOVE these giltwood chairs, estimated to go for $250-$350. I paid that for one single chair on eBay!

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Or this antique rug around $300-$400.

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I plan on keeping up to date on auctions (see lots from the next few HERE or sign up to be on the e-mail list HERE)and getting my feet wet soon! I hope you guys found this interesting!

23 comments

  1. Love this post! I too thought Auction houses were just for the rich; so thanks for all the great info!

  2. This post was fabulous! I travel to boston every week for work and am always curious to know more about the city. Thank you for sharing this with us!

  3. Welcome to auctions. I have furnished my two home from consignment and auctions. You think shopping for shoes and bags is addicting, ha, you havent seen anything yet. Once it gets in your blood, its all about the thrill of the hunt. Also do not be intimidated by the pros, your money is just as green as theirs. The trick is to set a mental limit and pretty much stick to it.

  4. This was awesome!!! So interesting, I too though auctions were only for the super rich! Never thought of them as a way to get a bargain!

    So what’s the best way to get started learning about what’s coming up for auction? Sign up for the catalogs?

  5. This is the exact type of post I find so cool. I always think designers are in the loop and have access to this secret wealth of knowledge, so it’s great that you are sharing options us non-designers can use!

  6. I bid on my first auction item at age 13 – a mirrored armoir for my bedroom. My parents are avocational antique restorers and auctions were regular stops for us. They are so much fun if only for the people watching. Welcome to the fun!

  7. LOVE those pink and gold plates! I’ve been debating on going to our local Friday night auctions. I have a feeling they are nothing like Skinner but you’re motivating me to give it a go!

  8. LOVE Skinner’s! We got my engagement ring, wedding ring (both vintage, from 1920), my husband’s dresser, our antique corner cabinet, and my daughter’s dresser (from 1800), from their auction houses. Oh – and all of my dining room chairs, which are a motley bunch, but I then covered them in the same silk fabric. FANTASTIC. You have to participate! I *love* auctions – it’s in my blood – literally :)

  9. I’m usually a lurker, not commenter, but I loved this post. Keep ‘em coming! Very interesting and as someone who lives in CA and who’s a Brit, I’d love to see more places in your part of the world.

  10. Great post! Would live to read more like this! I’ve never been brave enough to try an auction but now I think I will! Thanks!

  11. Love this post. I’m about to venture into furnishing a house after losing a lot in a house fire so this is great info for sourcing. I’m sure chicago has an auction house I should be looking into!!!

  12. good to know! will definitely check it out. i love my cartier tank watch and am holding onto it to pass on to my little one. but who knew there was so many amazing items for sale. love the glassware. fabulous!

  13. Yay! I was the one that met you at a Kate Spade party a few years back while I worked in Marketing for Skinner. I’ve since moved to NY but I’m so glad you went and spoke with the Skinner team!

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