I was just moments ago asked to comment on Profiles in History’s policy on auction reserves. As long as I have been working at Profiles–and as most astute bidders and consignors alike know–the rule of thumb is that the low estimate is 99% of the time the reserve. The instances where that is not the case are few and far in between. For further proof that is the case, just look at the starting bid on the online listings at iCollector or LiveAuctioneers. The opening bid, if there is no other bid, is the winning bid.
Of course, all rules have exceptions. There are cases where you might see on the final prices realized that the winning bid appear to be below the pre-sale estimate. Those are usually cases where the auctioneer, with approval from the consignor, lowers the reserve on the spot. You can see this at the end of the recently ended Animation Auction. Lots 906 & 907 both sold for $75 each, which in both cases is below the pre-sale estimates of $100-200.
I know that Profiles in History’s terms and conditions are long and tedious. They were compiled by an attorney after all, so what do you expect? However, I have always understood that the conditions of sale offer a guideline, for which common practice and common sense can and do trump.
Any talk of theatrics is non-sense when it comes to Stacey Roman, who I wholeheartedly think is the greatest auctioneer in the business. An auctioneer is the master of ceremony at the auction. He needs to be cognizant of tempo and pace. When there is a lull in the bidding, Stacey will sometime start the bidding a couple of clicks below the low estimate just to rev up the auction. No one does it better than Stacey, as he deftly manages hours and hours of bidding with grace and entertainment and without a backup auctioneer to offer respite of any kind.