You don’t know the exact value of your antiques or high-end collectibles. Nobody does, although Scott Shuford can probably come closer than most.
Shuford is president of Dallas Auction Gallery, a company he founded more than a decade ago that auctions thousands of items of art, jewelry, silver, antique furniture, couture clothing, and other accessories each year.
“You can never tell the market what the price is,” he said. “The market is going to tell you.”
Shuford and his staff, which includes his wife, Kathi, and three of their daughters, try to be realistic instead of sentimental with potential clients when assessing the value of their antiques and other merchandise.
“We’re in the reality of the marketplace,” said Shuford, a longtime Highland Park resident. “What you perceive as the value of something, or what you paid for it 30 years ago, has no bearing on what it’s worth today.”
Still, part of the thrill for the Shufords is discovering potential hidden gems when they are hired as estate managers, meaning they give advice on which items might sell at auction and which should be relegated to a traditional estate sale.
“We might find something that is of tremendous value that they never realized,” said DAG vice president Adriane Crosland. “It’s about knowing the current market and what collectors and dealers are looking for.”
The 40,000-square-foot gallery in an industrial district down the street from the Hilton Anatole is buzzing six times each year as it auctions merchandise ranging from $1,500 vintage purses to a set of $2.7 million Russian palace urns.
Everything the Shufords sell is given to them on consignment, and they take a percentage from both the seller and the buyer. As part of their criteria for inclusion, they usually don’t sell anything with a value of less than $1,000. Almost every item is appraised in-house.
They have six sales each year, including two apiece for fine arts, jewelry and couture, and decorative art. Each sale is live on site, attracting at least 200 bidders in person, but bids also are accepted online and over the phone, with translators available for overseas participants. Prior to each auction, DAG holds a live preview for two days and shows its upcoming items for two weeks online.
While the gallery has a boutique focus, it tends to get the same prices as the major East Coast auction houses, in part because it attracts some of the same clients, according to marketing manager Lauren Laughry. Plus, DAG has a sell-through rate of about 98 percent.
While the company gets plenty of out-of-town business, more than half of its consigners are in the Dallas area. Laughry said that although art sales generate the highest price tags, jewelry tends to be more popular among locals.
“The Dallas buyer is very sophisticated and very knowledgeable,” Laughry said. “We have a lot of people who start out as buyers and wind up consigning with us.”
The buyers are typically dealers or collectors, while consigners tend to be estate executors looking to maximize the value of their property. Unlike some other auction houses, DAG does not purchase items directly from consigners.
The biggest sale to date for DAG came in April 2013, when the company garnered national recognition for its sale of a pair of Russian Imperial porcelain vases for $2.7 million. The vases had been in a home in Oklahoma City since 1928, and were authenticated by the curator of imperial porcelain at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Shuford said the family-owned business has found success through that same concept of family, which has led to a reputation for trust among referrals and repeat customers.
“It’s a people business. We enjoy establishing relationships and building them,” Shuford said. “Everybody has their own area of expertise, but it’s a collaborative effort. We pride ourselves on the integrity of what we do.”
By nature, the Shufords must be neutral go-betweens among buyers and sellers, but in the meantime, they get to experience their own private gallery of sorts — the variety and volume of which is rewarding on a personal level. Laughry said that passion is something the family can share on a daily basis.
“All of the sisters are very close and we’ve always been close to our parents, but we’re all very different,” she said. “I’m thankful that I get to work with my family. It’s something that’s very special.”