Consigning and Selling Original Photographs

Collecting Photography

Many collectors find many reasons to sell part or all of their photographic collections. Taxes, home remodels and purchases, inheritances, multiple children, college tuition, refocusing the collection, and cashing out an investment are the more common reasons we see. And while nobody likes to see a dear friend go, there are times when it simply makes sense.

Consign or Sell

Technically speaking, the option of consign or sell exists when you are working with galleries and dealers. Selling means an immediate cash payment to you, the gallery or dealer takes the risk of selling it. That risk will include something for the time it takes to sell and the uncertainty of the selling price or market conditions in the future. Consignment is the only option with auctions, and obviously an option with galleries and dealers. Under a consignment, the selling price is not guaranteed, nor the sale date and therefore when the consignor is paid. With auctions, there is a reasonable expectation of a sale date, but no guarantees. Another useful piece of information about auctions is the difference between the hammer price and the final price, and the consignment percentage is based on the hammer price. (Read a fuller discussion of the auction market). Generally speaking, you should assume a higher return for consignment as you are the one bearing the timing and pricing risk.

Considerations

Sellers have options when it comes to how and with whom to sell their photographs. Auction houses, dealers, and galleries abound, but we recommend sellers take several things into consideration.

  • Trustworthiness in both the person you are working with and the institution is paramount.
  • Knowledge of the market for Ansel Adams work
  • Ability to sell the work at the estimated price
  • Financial stability

Trustworthiness is necessary whether you are selling or consigning. The basis of the transaction is the estimated selling price. The questions of trustworthiness comes down to “am I being told accurate information?” and “is this person trying to take advantage of a difference in market knowledge?” Do you trust the person to give you a reasonable deal? If consigning, do you trust the institution to pay you what you are owed when it is owed? At The Ansel Adams Gallery, we try to act with integrity at all times. One thing we believe is that the reputation we’ve built up over 120 years can evaporate quite quickly if our trustworthiness were to be called into question. We recognize we are essentially brokers, and as such try to provide a reasonable price to both buyer and seller.

Knowledge of the market results in the fairest price for both the seller and the buyer. Sometimes people have something that is more valuable than they are aware of, sometimes there is a stronger market for certain works. We specialize in Ansel Adams’ work, and follow the market very closely. We abstain from parts of the photography market that we don’t have expertise in, because if we can’t understand or justify pricing (buying and selling) to ourselves, we certainly can’t justify it to our clients.

The ability to sell the work at the estimated price comes into play for consignment, with dealers, galleries, and auction houses. One of the things we always have to compete with when we are acquiring work is the dealer or auction house that puts an unreasonably high value on an item, and then backs off once the seller is under contract or provides a new justification for a lower estimate. It isn’t a bait and switch, but when you are determining with whom to place your work, keep the down side in mind. It is very rare for something to go over estimate.

In times of economic turmoil, financial stability is more important than ever. That may argue against consignment for many. Many businesses will not survive COVID, we expect to be one that does. We have weathered recessions, depressions, world wars, booms and busts. This one looks like it will be pretty severe, and is where direct experience counts the most.

Why Us?

The Ansel Adams Gallery will buy or consign original Ansel Adams photographs in excellent or pristine condition. We will on occasion buy or consign signed or initialed Yosemite Special Edition Photographs. If you are interested in selling or consigning your photograph, please contact acquisitions@anseladams.com.

The benefits to selling through The Ansel Adams Gallery:

  • We are timely in paying our consignors.
  • Sellers know and can set the minimum amount they will receive.
  • Seller’s work is insured by us while under our control.
  • We are one of the premier dealers, if not the premier dealer, in Ansel Adams’ work in the world.
  • We have an established client base of enthusiastic Ansel Adams collectors.
  • We’ve been in business for over 100 years, and are not going to sacrifice our reputation for a quick sale.

Our Process

We need an accurate description and pictures of the work(s) being sold. This should include the title, the size, and the signature. We may ask for more information, but this at least is a starting point.

First off we will provide an estimated range of sale price that will serve as the basis for our offer. The range typically includes variations for condition, sale-ability / desirability of the image, print date, and other factors. Based on the seller’s desires, we can discuss purchasing or consigning. A sale transaction will provide a lower return to the seller than a consignment transaction, but immediate payment. A consignment percentage and estimate of sale interval will most likely be part of the discussion.

Once there is a tentative agreement, the seller will need to ship or deliver the print(s) to us. This agreement is tentative as we have not been able to visually inspect the photograph ourselves. At this point, condition is typically the main variable. We strongly recommend a cursory and critical examination of your work prior to shipping, if only to assure yourself of the condition. Learn more detail on conditions.

After we have examined the print, we will discuss the condition, the impact on estimated sales price, any mitigation that might be required, and any other consideration to finalize a sale or consignment. If we are unable to agree on a price, we will return it to you at our expense (assuming within the US).

Last Updated on February 16, 2021