You found a painting, a piece of ceramic, glass or another decorative art item at an online auction in France or Belgium. You requested and received the condition report and confirmed payment options are satisfactory. The one remaining task before you submit a bid is to identify available shipping services. There are a few good shipping services in Paris but quotes can vary by 200-500 Euros for similarly sized and weighted items even by the same shipper! Extending into the remote areas of France and much of Belgium (including Brussels) the options are fewer. And in some locations you will not be able to find a shipping service.
In the auction is in Paris I request estimates from at least three shippers due to the significant variation in pricing. I recently purchased a small painting in Brussels and contacted the seven shipping firms that the auction house recommended. Of the seven firms only three provided quotes. The quotes received were between 500 – 1000 Euros which, I felt from experience, were too high. I contacted three shippers in Paris and the best price to ship the same package was less than 275 Euros. Fortunately, the auction house Cornette de Saint-Cyr has locations in both Brussels and Paris and easily arranged to transfer the painting to Paris where I could take advantage of the lower shipping rate.
This is the process I follow to ensure that a) shipping options are available and b) that I obtain the best shipping quote:
Before bidding at on online auction verify that there are viable shipping options:
- Does the auction house provide shipping services? If so, can they quote an approximate shipping rate? Is insurance included?
- If the auction house does not provide shipping services can they provide a list of shippers?
- If the quotes received from the list of shippers are high ask if the auction house has a different location where the piece can be transferred to. (For example, Millon and Cornette de Saint Cyr have auction houses in Brussels and in Paris.) Request a list of shippers from the alternate location to determine if transferring the item provides better shipping options.
- Check online or ask nearby auction houses for their list of shippers.
- If you cannot find a shipping service and are still intent to bid on the item you may be able to persuade the auction house to pack the item for you. The auction house may be willing to ship via LaPoste in France or Bpost in Belgium which are comparable to the United States Post Service (USPS). Request that the auction house insure the item and pack well in a sturdy box (or double box if the item is fragile). Note: You may not be able to fully insure the items due to limits set by these services.
- Another option is to ask the auction house to pack the item as described above. Depending on the location UPS, DHL or FedEx may be able to arrange a pick-up at the auction house and provide full insurance.
Identify payment options. In remote areas the shippers may not take credit card payments or may be unwilling or unable to fully insure packages. You may need to accept less insurance and pay via a wire transfer.
Best Tip: Where possible, always obtain quotes from multiple shippers even from those who typically quote high. You may be pleasantly surprised! Consider all options.