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The Marchant cameo ring (ATG No 2376) was signed and an item by the same artist had fetched 500 times Tennants’ top estimate in London last year.

Radical idea: selling premium should be charged on the lower estimate only and buyer’s premium on the upper estimate only. This would then not penalise the dealers or knowledgeable collectors who really know and not benefit the auction rooms who do not.

Mark West

ATG replies: Our newspaper contains examples each week of lots selling well above estimate.

The Tennants two-day Country House sale featured more than 1200 lots – much cataloguing for the busy auctioneer to do. Its lot description of the ring correctly stated it was signed by Nathaniel Marchant, though previous auction results could have informed a different estimate.

Ultimately, the internet marketplace helps antique items to find their value in a way that was not possible 15 years ago.

Dealers using their specialist knowledge can still bag a bargain from a generalist auctioneer but far less frequently. In the case of this Marchant ring, users on thesaleroom.com provided a healthy level of bidding on the ring including the final underbid of £38,000.

That could lead some to conclude that an auctioneer’s promotion of a sale contributes more to achieving the final outcome for a consignor than an estimate does. Others will choose to highlight the difference between the estimate and final hammer price.

Is it a healthy debate or a case of plus ça change? We look forward to reading next week’s letters.

“Should there be some form of censure and control over firms that get it so wrong?