Auction Insiders: Specialists from Doyle Discuss Current Trends


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Founded in 1962, Doyle is one of the world’s foremost auctioneers and appraisers of jewelry, fine art, furniture, decorations, Asian works of art, coins, stamps and rare books, among other categories.

The company offers over 80 sales each year that attract buyers and consignors from all over the world, and Doyle provides individual attention to every client.

From the early 1990s onward, Doyle has maintained a strong presence in the Washington, D.C. area.

Doyle’s D.C. Roots

Reid Dunavant, Senior Vice President & Director of the DC/Mid-Atlantic Regional Advisory, supervises estate appraisals and client relationships throughout the southeast and Mid-Atlantic states. He has over 35 years of experience in the auction industry and has shared his expertise on the popular PBS series “Antiques Roadshow.”

“I’ve been with Doyle since early 2000, originally in the New York office and later opening the D.C. office in Georgetown,” he said. “Prior to that, several people before me worked as regional representatives in the D.C. area.”

“I’ve always been excited about maintaining a presence in D.C.,“ said Samira Farmer, who joined Doyle in 2005 and currently serves as a Vice President and Business Manager for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Advisory in D.C. She aids in business development, general evaluations and estate appraisals in the Mid-Atlantic. Farmer has 20 years’ experience in the auction, antiques and appraisals industry. She is also a native Washingtonian.

Jean-Francois Millet, Reclining Nude, Seen from the Back, circa 1840-1845, oil on panel, 11 ¾ x 18 3/16 inches. Est. $70,000-100,000. Auction November 9.

The Current State of the Auction Market

Buying and selling at auction is quite different today than it was 20 years ago, and the last two years have shifted the environment even further. Farmer and Dunavant discussed the changes, naming increased comfort with e-commerce as a primary indicator of the strength of the auction market.

“People are really comfortable buying and selling online now,” Farmer said. “The auction industry in particular has been able to respond to that.”

“With online platforms, we’re better able to handle a larger variety of property, not necessarily just higher-end things.” Dunavant said.

So while many companies went back to the drawing board during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Doyle found themselves pivoting quickly to meet the needs of their customers because they already had the necessary digital tools in place.

Antique Silver, Gold, Natural Pearl and Diamond Comb-Tiara. The Wilson Family Collection. Sold for $423,000.

Current Auction Trends

In the past few years, Doyle has seen strong prices on jewelry, art, furniture and more.

Last December, Doyle auctioned important jewelry from the Wilson Family Collection. The Wilsons were a Southern family who reached the pinnacle of New York Gilded Age Society. The pieces, which included an antique silver, gold, natural pearl and diamond comb-tiara that brought $423,000, was brought to Doyle through D.C. via a continued relationship with the consignor.

In June, Doyle held a single-owner auction of Belk department store heiress and passionate philanthropist Sarah Belk Gambrell’s Collection of European Porcelain which brought over $1 million. In September, Doyle achieved the top lot of New York Asia Week with a falangcai vase from The Sarah Belk Gambrell Collection that sold for $2.45 million.

“People have really been investing in the home,” Farmer said. “Since they’re stuck inside, we’ve been seeing things like really large sets of porcelain bring in more money today than years ago—people are collecting differently.”

Dunavant also mentioned the strong sales of curated collections. For example, homes done by an interior designer that come to market as a single collection. People are also eager for things ready to go into their homes.

“An antique sofa that needs new upholstery doesn’t sell as easily as a contemporary sofa that’s only five years old with a clean and good upholstery,” Dunavant added. “Newer properties have been doing well at auction recently.”

Tips for Buying at Auction

A lot of people don’t realize how easy it is to get information about the process of buying and selling at auction. If a potential client has a question about a particular object, they can call or email to ask an expert.

“It’s a tremendous resource to get information from someone that is excited to share it,” Farmer said. “We’re a free source of expertise and experience.” 

The Monroe and Elizabeth Dreher Collection of Paul Revere Silver. To be auctioned in New York on November 2.

Doyle’s D.C. Capabilities

Doyle made the move from Georgetown to a larger warehouse in Kensington, Maryland, in 2018 to facilitate an expanded range of property. “We were in a wonderful building in Georgetown, but the space was not conducive to the growth we were experiencing as a company,” Dunavant said.

The move allowed Doyle to meet the varying needs of clients in a more functional way. It also enabled Doyle to add a D.C. metro office of their highly successful offshoot Hayloft Auctions, which offers pop-up auctions of affordable furniture, décor and art on a regular basis.

Looking Forward to Fall Highlights at Doyle

As far as what they’re looking forward to in the months to come, Farmer is excited about a painting from an estate in McLean, Virginia, by the artist Jean-Francois Millet, one of the founders of the Barbizon School, which will be in the November 9 Impressionist & Modern Art sale. Millet was a great influence on other artists like Van Gogh and Monet.

“It’s a beautiful nude scene from the back, painted in 1840 or just after,” Farmer said. “It’s an extremely rare painting as the artist destroyed a lot from that time period—it would work well in a home or museum.”

Doyle’s November 2 American Paintings, Furniture & Decorative Arts auction will be highlighted by The Monroe and Elizabeth Dreher Collection of Paul Revere Silver – an incredible group of American silver with storied lineage.

The team is also preparing for the next Hayloft DC Metro auction, which launches September 30. Themed “Classic Collecting,” it features a treasure trove of pieces suitable for new and experienced collectors alike.

In addition to New York and D.C., Doyle has offices in Beverly Hills, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Connecticut, Long Island, New Jersey, Palm Beach and Philadelphia.

Doyle has previously worked with the Estates of Polly Fritchey, Doda DeWolf, Dillon Ripley, Roger and Christine Stevens, Ambassador Nicholas Ruwe and many more.

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