Market Update: A real show of strength

Here's a quick market update which should make some happy reading.

Three stories caught my eye this week, which all demonstrate the same thing:

There's real confidence running through the auction market right now.

Even as global events add more turbulence to the financial world...

People are putting their wealth – and their trust – in rare collectibles.

Perhaps now more than ever.

Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol (Image: Christie's)

Handy Andy

For years, Andy Warhol has been regarded as “the bellweather of the art market”.

And that maxim is about to be put to the test.

Because Warhol's 1964 portrait of Marilyn Monroe is going up for auction at Christie's.

And they're expecting it to sell for up to $250 million.

That's the highest pre-sale estimate for any artwork in auction history.

More than double the estimate of the Salvatori Mundi, which famously fetched a record $450 million back in 2017.

When a painting this iconic goes up for sale, it shows Christie's has confidence in the market.

Particularly as it's being offered without a guarantee (a buyer that's already agreed to purchase it at a fixed sum).

So there's no safety net. But if it achieves estimate, Warhol's painting will become the most valuable 20th century artwork ever sold at auction.

That record has stood since 2015, when Pablo Picasso's 'Les Femmes d'Alger (Version O)' sold for $179.4 million.

It would also completely smash the current record for a Warhol work at auction, which has stood at $105 million for almost a decade.

So that's a big leap.

But if it sticks the landing, the auction could be a historic game-changer.

“Every time a painting like this comes up for auction, it changes the market not only for Warhol, but for the art market itself,” said Alex Rotter, Christie’s chairman of 20th and 21st century art.

And I believe such a headline-grabbing result, reported around the world, would have a positive knock-on effect for the entire rare collectibles industry.

The Pay Copy of Marvel Comics #1 (Image: ComicConnect)

You'll marvel at these prices...

A rare copy of Marvel Comics #1 – the comic book that started the entire Marvel empire – has sold for a record $2.42 million.

The copy sold at ComicConnect was graded CGC 9.2 and known as the 'Pay Copy'.

Essentially, it was the copy that belonged to publisher Lloyd Jacquet, and included handwritten notes on how much each of the artists and writers were paid for their contributions.

And here's the thing...

Back in February 2010 the same 'Pay Copy' sold at auction for $227,000.

So in the space of 12 years, it's become 10 times more valuable.

And most significantly, the recent $2.42 million sale more than doubled the record price a copy of Marvel #1.

That was set in 2019, when an even finer copy graded CGC 9.4 sold for $1.26 million.

Whatever you collect, those are numbers you can't ignore.

The second interesting point is that the auction also included another copy of the comic.

This was in a much lower condition, graded CGC 2.5.

And yet it soared to a final price of $363,525.

That's a very impressive new record price for a copy in that grade.

Especially when you consider that the 2021 Overstreet Price Guide lists a 2.5 grade copy at just $55,000.

It's an illustration of how record-breaking sales at the very top of the market can drag prices up lower down the scale.

And that means everyone in the hobby can benefit from such results.

Skinner Auctioneers in Boston (Image: Skinner / Bonhams)

Bonhams comes to Beantown

And finally...

What could be a better indicator of a strong auction market than this:

One of the world's biggest auction houses buying... more auction houses.

Bonhams has just concluded deals to buy leading Boston auction house Skinner, and Bruun Rasmussen, based in Copenhagen, Denmark.

And that's just a few weeks after the company also acquired the major Nordic auction house Bukowskis, to gain access to Scandinavian collectors.

The three auction companies purchased by Bonhams all occupy the mid-tier of the market, across a number of categories including antiques and luxury items.

And the same goes for Bonhams, which primarily operates at a level beneath the blockbuster art auctions of Sotheby's and Christie's.

But even without these ultra high-end lots, Bonhams has seen its sales activity almost double over the past three years.

And Espirit, the company that acquired Bonhams back in 2017, obviously expects that growth in mid-level sales to continue in the years ahead.

It's evidence that the rare collectibles market has real strength in depth.

It isn't just the world's very wealthiest 1% trusting the market with their money.

There's confidence all the way down, from corporations to regular collectors.

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