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So many factors come into play when buying and selling at auction that it can be difficult to assess how the market in any particular object or collecting field is doing.

For instance, it is counterintuitive that as an artist becomes more successful, their average lot value can actually decline. Why? Because while they may sell more masterworks at higher prices, they can also start selling much higher numbers of lower value drawings and prints and this dilutes the average price.

Auctioneers have to be careful not to flood the market, which can also depress prices and sell-through rates, thereby damaging the market for an artist or collectable. This means that they have to have a reasonable idea of what the market can take at any given time – and must be able to gauge this for a multitude of items.

Prices may also vary depending on when items are put up for auction: sales of vintage ski posters, for instance, tend to be held in February and March, when the ski season is getting underway and the rich are thinking about their chalets.

How things are presented at auction is another important factor, as is where they should appear in the line of lots so that the auctioneer can build a crescendo of buying and revive flagging interest at key points in the proceedings.

In fact, the psychology of the auction process would make a fascinating theme for a book.