Five For Friday: It’s Business as Unusual for Potter & Potter Auctions

Rebekah Kaufman
Published on

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected auction house operations and strategies? Auction Daily checked in with Gabe Fajuri, President of Potter & Potter Auctions in Chicago, to get a snapshot of how one company is adapting to the new business realities of social distancing during the global health crisis. 

Photo courtesy of Potter & Potter Auctions.
Photo courtesy of Potter & Potter Auctions.

Auction Daily:  

Thank you for speaking with us today. Please tell us about what’s happening in your offices now. Have your operations been impacted by the current COVID-19 public health situation? Can employees go to the gallery to work? How are your teams communicating? Are you holding auctions previews? And can customers drop off or pick up merchandise at the gallery?

Gabe Fajuri:

Absolutely. To borrow a friend’s phrase, things are business as unusual for us these days. From working at home (or not at all) to isolated employees, we’ve had to restructure schedules and work patterns to adapt our business to the public health crisis. We are no longer holding auction previews in the traditional sense, but are able to provide video previews to bidders on a case-by-case basis, and now offer a curbside hands-off pickup/dropoff when necessary.

Auction Daily:  

In terms of auction purchases, have you noticed a change in what customers are buying and are willing to spend during the pandemic as opposed to before?  

Gabe Fajuri:

We have not noticed much of a difference, since the nature of our auctions and the content of them has not changed. That said, the first post-COVID sale we conducted did prove to be quite lively, bidding-wise, even though we had no live floor of bidders in the room. 

Picture of Potter & Potter Auctions on the day of an event. Photo courtesy of the auction house.
Picture of Potter & Potter Auctions on the day of an event. Photo courtesy of the auction house.

Auction Daily:  

How has COVID-19 impacted your auction sale schedule and logistics in 2020 and beyond? Has it changed the way you think about and plan for events in the future?

Gabe Fajuri:

We will definitely shift our schedule to account for the safety and health of our bidders, who will most likely not want to attend a live sale this summer. We have also set up live streaming video for all future sales, in an effort to bring our saleroom to the living rooms of our bidders. 

The Potter & Potter Auctions gallery room. Photo courtesy of the auction house.
The Potter & Potter Auctions gallery room. Photo courtesy of the auction house.

Auction Daily:  

Have you had a noticeable change in the number of inbound consignor inquiries or contracts as a result of COVID-19? Has COVID-19 impacted your merchandise pipeline? 

Gabe Fajuri:

There has definitely been an uptick in inquiries. Our pipeline is quite full for the foreseeable future. 

Auction Daily:  

What, if any, business practices that you have developed out of necessity as a result of this COVID-19 situation do you think will remain once social distancing and other public health guidelines are lifted? Which ones will you be happiest to say “goodbye” to?

Gabe Fajuri:

We can’t wait to get back to visiting with customers and consignors in person, traveling to shows and conventions, and visiting collectors in their natural element – among their collections! Out of necessity, we have completely eliminated all of the above elements, all of which are essential to any healthy business.

Potter & Potter Auctions, founded in 2007, is a Chicago area auction house specializing in paper Americana, vintage advertising, rare books, playing cards, gambling memorabilia, posters, fine prints, vintage toys, and magicana – antiques and collectibles related to magic and magicians. The company’s next sale, Fine Books and Manuscripts, will be held on Saturday, April 18th, 2020. It will feature an array of Sherlockiana, fine bindings, and illustrated works, as well an amazing collection of James Bond and Ian Fleming materials – including first editions, signed books, and associated ephemera.