While enjoying my breakfast on Saturday, I was reading the paper. I noticed a small ad that described an asset auction at the Convention Centre just 5 minutes from me the following day, and I thought it was odd to have one on the Sunday of a long weekend. The ad was quite small and used a few keywords like 'diamonds' and 'Rolex'.
I went, and found the place nearly empty - maybe 100 people tops. During the viewing, I quickly realized that is was 90%+ jewellery, but some really heavy duty stuff. Tons or ruby-based pieces, some single stones that were 5+ carats: I almost expected the Sultan of Brunei to be in attendance. Lots of diamonds as well, lots and lots that were 2+ carats.
I have attanded lots of asset auctions before, but was impressed that this one was to commence with such a small crowd. The auctioneer was surprised as well: he had being conducting auctions for this area for 20+ years, and said that this same auction 4 years ago would have attracted close to 1000 people, but that the current economic climate did not favour luxury buying these days, even up here in Canada. I started to feel like people were going to be practically stealing some of these items, and I was not too far off.
Most of the jewellery came from a single high-end store that lost everything in stocks, and had to forfeit their inventory. In these auctions, all items are properly appraised and the appraisal goes home with the winning bidders, which is nice to have. I didn't notice the house used.
I watched a diamond necklace valued at $106,000 sell for just over $9k. Crazy. Single-stone 5 carat ruby ring set in platnum: $4,500. Ridiculous. 2007 Ferrari with F1 dual-tranny with 86,000km valued at $300k went home with someone for $81k.
During that time, the only watches that went up were ladies Rolex pieces, some gently loved, others still BNIB. All of them obviously overpriced because of the brand involved, but a few examples with diamond markers, etc that sold for 10 - 20% of appraisal (valuations ran from $8k to over $20k in about 8 different women's Rolex examples). The Ferrari was the main attraction here: it had the ojnly real "bidding war", which consisted of about 8 people. Once it was auctioned off, almost half the people there left.
Anyway, I'm not a Rolex guy, which took up 90% of the watches available. After the viewing, I was staying to bid on 2 items. I gave myself hard bidding limits.
Paul Picot C-Type Plongeur, solid Ti LE of 500 pieces. Never worn. The one pictured here, not the Spies version, which is awful. Not that this one is a stunner or anything, but not something you see everyday. The valuation was $11,000. Seriously. I know that steel, non-LE C-types can be had for like $3k, so I didn't see how using Ti and limiting to 500 units could reasonably drive the cost that high, but that's a different discussion. I hard-capped myself at $1000, and made it all the way to "Going twice" before someone tacked on another $100. Really nothing in the long run, but as much as I can afford it, I'm good at keeping to my limits and left it alone. Someone else actually added another $100 to the bid, and then back to guy #1 who took it home for $1300. Pretty good.
But then this:
Breguet Type XX Aeronvale. A bit small for me at under 40mm, but I kicked that thinking to the curb - I don't yet own a Breguet movement, and here was a good opportunity. This piece had been worn; the bezel had a few hairlines on it, but whatever. The valuation was confusing: about $9k. A BNIB 2010 version, with the better bezel is worth about that much, but this one can be had for $6 - $7k, and without the hairlines. Regardless, I gave myself a $2,500 cap (also to be kept in mind is both sales tax on the items auctioned off, and then a 15% buyers premium, so 28% added to the final bid). I again came close, but someone took it home for $3,200.
I am not dissapointed - I gave myself a limit and stuck with it. But on the drive home I was grinding my teeth pretty hard. For another $1000 I would have been wearing it, which is more than reasonable, and well within my budget. Getting it cleaned up to look new again wouldn't have exactly been cheap, but not a life-changer either.
Anyway, this somewhat lengthy post is probably me just continuing to justify to myself that I did the right thing by staying in my limits, but for just $5k I could have had both pieces with worthy 3rd party appraisals totalling about $20k.
Moral of the story: take the time to attend these events if you can. Precious stones and metals are hard commodities that won't lose value like paper will, and make for sound investments; moreso when you can nab them for 10% of worth or less with people staying home not spending. Plus, you never know what watches might pop up.