Auctioneers Get Most Business From The Four "D's"

“What’s It Worth” Antiques Minute

April 12, 2019

Selling at auction can be a risky proposition. After all, there are selling commissions and buyer’s premiums to consider, sometimes other selling expenses, and delays, all leading to an element of risk. So why in the world do people risk selling at auction? Quite simply, in many instances, auction represents the most appropriate selling option, and auctioneers get most of their business from the “Four D’s.”
Death is unavoidable, and when it occurs, surviving family members must deal with what remains. Taxes need to be paid, and family members select items that they wish to keep and then must deal with all that is left. For many, auction is the best answer. The family can avoid doing all of the selling work, it can be a relatively quick and painless process, and it offers fair market value on those items being sold. Especially in places such as Pennsylvania, the auction method has historical precendance ingrained into much of the cultural fabric as a practice to settle an estate.
Divorce is common in today’s society, and assets must be valued and divided before the divorce is finalized. Some divorces are harmonious, and property division is relatively easy. Usually it is not. Parties often widely disagree on value, and auction may represent the most appropriate selling option. It can be relatively quick and easy, and it offers fair market value.
Debt repayment and/or bankruptcy often demand that property be sold to satisfy obligations. Time is usually of the essence, and auction can often be the best option. Again, it can be relatively quick and easy, and it offers fair market value on those items being sold. Sometimes this “D” is call “Desperation.”
Home downsizing is also common today. People who have spent decades accumulating personal property decide to downsize to smaller quarters. They keep what they want, family and friends take a little, and the balance must be dealt with. Auction can be relatively quick and easy, and it offers fair market value on those items being sold.
So Death, Divorce, Debt, and Downsizing represent the “Four “D’s.” Auction is obviously not the only selling option. Garage sales, tag sales, and private sales are all viable options. However, auction offers three very important advantages to these other options. Auction can be fast. Auction can represent the easiest option for many sellers. And auction offers fair market value. All of these points can be extremely important to people in these four life transition situations.
What’s it worth? The “Four D’s” all have something in common - they all usually bring “fresh merchandise” back into the marketplace. Unsold dealer inventory or “stale merchandise” rarely excites collectors and/or dealers. But the “Four D’s” often bring items that haven’t been available to collectors for decades back on the open market, where they can command a premium price. Many categories of merchandise have fallen back to 1970s price levels, while others are hotter than ever. So while “Death, Divorce, Debt, Downsizing” are not things most like to think about, they do bring a considerable amount of highly desirable merchandise back into the arms of the buying public.

Mike Ivankovich is an auctioneer, appraiser, home downsizing expert, and host of the "What's It Worth? Ask Mike the Appraiser" radio show. Now in its fifth year, “What’s It Worth” airs live on Friday mornings from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. on WBCB 1490 AM in the greater Philadelphia area. It is available on the internet at
Listeners can also visit his radio show website at
To contact Mike Ivankovich, call 215-264-4304.


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