Auctions of Antiques (mostly Ceramics) at River City Center, Bangkok
River City Center
In my opinion, one of the best ways to acquire Thai ceramics antiques is to participate in the monthly auctions, organized by Riverside Auction House Ltd. at River City Center.
A glazed ceramic honey pot incised with concentric rings.
Diameter : 17.5 cm ; height : 7.5 cm
Khmer, Bayon, 12-13th century AD
Auctions are organized on the first saturday of each month, starting at 1.30 PM, usually lasting till around 4 PM. On average about 180 items are auctioned. Of those, the majority now are Chinese items. Each month about 10-20 Thai ceramics are available, as well as about 5-10 Khmer ceramics and bronze items. There usually are also a few European, Japanese, Vietnamese items up for auction.
A catalogue in which all the item are listed and described is available at a nominal fee (can also be mailed to you). Starting price and estimated value are also listed.
The auction is conducted in a quite efficient manner. Items are announced in both English and Thai language. Absentee bidding is possible.
There usually are about 30-80 participants and/or visitors attending. Free coffee and small snacks are available.
After a successful bid, you can pick up your item immediately, and pay for it in cash. There is a 3% surcharge on credit cards. Items are packed on site.
A ceramic vase with white-bluish glaze
Diameter : 7.5 cm ; height : 18 cm
Chinese, Sung, 12th century AD
The auction usually proceeds quite rapidly. Sometimes up to half of the items do not elicit a starting bid.
If nobody bid for an item, you can still buy the item at the starting bidding price! Sometimes, this is a quite appealing tactic. In my opinion, starting a bid often elicits a response from another bidder and the price goes up. If you are ambivilent about a certain item, you can just let the bidding pass, and still pick up the item at the low price afterwards.
Before starting to participate, it is highly advisable to attend the auction a few times. It will give you an idea of the value of certain items and you will be able to get some experience with the psychology of auctions. One should also always have seen the items, before bidding on them. Do not decide to bid suddenly for an item, because on closer inspection afterwards, you may discover some flaws (I know from experience).
Looking for good value
While the estimated prices of ceramic items is quite stable, the actual bidding price can vary a lot. That is, even during the same auction, an item can be had at half the price of a similar item. Of course, one has to be aware of one's own knowledge, maybe some flaws have been overlooked. However, having gained some experience over the years, I definitively think bargains are to be had, if you are there at the right time.
One other way to get good value, is to look for items at the end of the auction. Quite a few people have left by then, and certainly some participants have reached their budget limit. So the prices do not go that high anymore usually.
Unless for some exceptional items, that you want 100 % to complement your collection, do not get involved in 'machoman' games. At times, certain participants are bidding, not so much because they are in love with a certain item, but just because they can not stand to loose. Just wait for the right moment. Also avoid bidding against the big money. At times people are there who have no budget constraints, one usually can figure this out quite quickly, and adapt one's strategy.