How to Consign to Auction

By: Waddington's Staff

Our specialists will give you a good estimate of what sort of items you you’d like to consign and what they may be worth at auction.

Consigning to an auction house is a great way to sell everything from an individual item to a large collection. This guide explains how the consignment process works for those new to the world of auctions or those wishing to learn more about consigning with Waddington’s.

What is Consignment?

Consignment is an arrangement in which a person, known as the consignor, entrusts items to a business, typically an auction house, gallery or retail shop, for the purpose of sale. You, as the consignor, retain ownership of your items until they are sold – it is important to note that the items are not purchased outright by the business. The business works to sell your items on your behalf, and earns a commission for facilitating the sale.

If you’re interested in selling higher value items, you should consider using an auction house rather than any of the plethora of auction-style websites or retail consignment shops, which don’t have the same wealth of knowledge, skilled marketing, specialised networks, or personalised services that an established auction house does. Luxury goods consignments of fine art, jewellery or objects should be treated with care, which is why it is important to consider how best to sell your prized possessions.

Choose the Right Auction House

Before consigning, it’s helpful to identify the most suitable auction house for your items. Consider factors such as the auction house’s specialty, reputation, and reach. Different auction houses may focus on specific categories, or a variety of specialty areas, like Waddington’s, and selecting the right auction house lays the foundation for a successful consignment.

At Waddington’s, we specialise in a wide range of categories, notably Asian Art, Canadian Art, International Art, Inuit Art, First Nations and Métis Art, Decorative Arts & Design, Fine Jewellery, and Fine Wine and Spirits. We also accept consignments from unique estate and specially curated collections. With almost 100 auctions throughout the year, we provide a multitude of opportunities to sell desirable items.

Working with Waddington’s means working with the most diverse auction and appraisal company in Canada with over 170 years of experience. From a single item, through to a private, corporate, or institutional collection, we can provide the information you need to make the right decisions, and provide the best platforms to realise the desired results.

Curious about what types of items and artworks we sell, or want to look at comparable results by artists in your collection? You can browse our prices realised, and take advantage of our easy-to-use search feature. All of our records dating back to 2008 are readily available online, and there is no need to subscribe or pay to access this feature.

Submit Your Items for Consignment

Ready to consign with Waddington’s? Start off by taking a good look at the item(s) you wish to consign. Make a list with relevant details, including who made the item (e.g. artist, company, printer, luxury house, etc.), any artist’s signatures, the medium the item is made of, and its measurements. Think about any details about the artwork’s history of ownership that you might know, even if they are as simple as family stories, the place the item was purchased, or shipping records – these details help our specialists more accurately appraise the value of your consignment. It’s also worth noting any imperfections or damage.

Now it’s time to take a few clear and well-lit photographs of the item, which show the front, back and/or bottom, as well as any signature(s) or markings. Once you’re ready, submit these details using our consignment form, or email us at [email protected].

It costs nothing to submit your items to our specialists for potential consignment, regardless of whether or not Waddington’s is able to sell on your behalf.

Setting Reserves and Estimates

Our specialists will review the information you’ve sent us and get in touch with you if further details are required and/or to determine the next steps. If your item is a good fit, we will provide an auction estimate, which is the price that we believe the item will achieve at auction. Please note that our specialists are only able to advise on values for pieces that have been deemed suitable for sale with Waddington’s.

With your agreement to proceed, Waddington’s will determine realistic reserve prices and estimates for your items.

  • A reserve price is the minimum amount of money you’re willing to accept for an item, ensuring that it won’t sell for less than its agreed-upon value.
  • Realistic estimates attract more bidders, increasing the chances of competitive bidding.

Our goal is to maximise the value of each art consignment, creating an environment conducive to competitive bidding.

Understand the Consignment Agreement

We take pride in our transparent consignment process. Our consignment agreement is designed to provide clarity and fairness to both sellers and buyers. The agreement outlines the terms and conditions of the sale of your item(s), including commission rates, estimated sale prices, and any associated fees. If you’re ready to read the fine print, we invite you to read our Vendor Agreement and familiarise yourself with our fees.

As mentioned above, consigning work with Waddington’s is no-risk: if we’re unable to find a buyer for your item, there is no cost for you. You can either take the item back, or we can re-offer it in a future auction.

Promoting Your Consignment

We conduct around 100 auctions each year, providing a multitude of opportunities to sell desirable items. We understand that the more potential bidders we can attract, the better the outcome of our auctions. Our auctions are set up to provide maximum exposure for your items.

Waddington’s marketing team works diligently to promote consignments through various channels, ensuring maximum exposure. Our commitment to strategic promotion enhances the visibility of consigned pieces, attracting a broad and engaged audience.

Auctions are accompanied by public and private previews to provide interested buyers ample opportunity to inspect items. Every item is featured in our online galleries, with sophisticated multiple views and zoom options. We also reach our audiences via digital newsletters, email blasts and researched articles, as well as traditional advertising in both digital and print media channels, and social media.

We are also able to expertly facilitate confidential private sales through our extensive network of domestic and international clients, should you be looking to sell but not want your items to enter the public domain.

Consign With Us Today

Waddington’s is the right choice to sell your works of art, decorative arts, jewellery, wine or specialty items. We work hard to make consigning artwork and other items as simple as possible for you, and are always happy to answer any questions you may have.

Choosing Waddington’s ensures that you will be assisted by some of Canada’s most knowledgeable specialists. Our team is composed of respected experts with access to international networks and resources, and are dedicated to providing the most accurate information and guidance. Whether a simple valuation for sale or a complex inventory, we will provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions.

Ready to consign works? We are currently accepting consignments for this year’s auction season.

Contact us today to arrange a complimentary auction appraisal, or fill out our confidential consignment form.


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