Art Auction Primer

Shipping and Insurance

Shipping a piece of art to an auction house may involve more anxiety and attention than any other aspect of the art auction process. Three issues are involved in this. First, there is choosing the shipper. Second, how and who to prepare the art for shipment. And third, insuring the work against possible loss.

Choosing the shipper

The question is whether you choose a specialized art shipper or a general shipper. The answer to this question hinges on two factors. First, the value of the piece: The more valuable the art the greater the care you will devote to the shipping. A piece of art that expects to sell for $100,000 requires more attention than one that is expected to sell for $1000. High value art requires the attention of a specialized art shipper. For work that is expected to sell for under $5,000 may be entrusted to general shipper such as UPS.

Regardless of the value, you will want to insure the work for shipping. Most general shippers do not offer satisfactory levels of insurance. If your believe the piece will be covered by your personal art insurance, then the insurance company should be consulted regarding their policies concerning qualifications for transporting art. Like all freight services, shipping art is a fairly competitive business so collectors would be advised to request bids from three companies that service your area. Although several shippers may offer shipping to your auction city, it does not mean they will ship the most efficient route and charge the same price.

Along with the shipping estimate, you may also include an estimate for insurance if your personal insurance does include coverage of art shipments and estimate for packing the piece. Using the shipper's insurance service will not save you any money over insurance you purchase separately, but if there is a claim you may avoid disputes between the shipper and the insurance company. When a shipper packs the article, it reduces the chance of dispute if the piece is damaged in transit. They can't blame the problem on the packing.

Many art shippers offer their clients climate controlled shipping. The cost for this type of shipping will greatly increase your costs. Unless, you are shipping million dollar paintings or work that is overly sensitive to temperature or humidity extremes, the additional cost is not warranted. Oil paintings represent the most frequently auctioned art, and they are fairly resistant to these kinds of problems.

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