Critics say popular auction house can’t verify its items are real

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    http://nypost.com/2017/07/29/critics-say-popular-auction-house-cant-verify-its-items-are-real/

    Critics say popular auction house can’t verify its items are real
    By Melissa Klein
    July 29, 2017 | 9:39pm

    [IMG]
    Showplace Antique & Design Center
    Helayne Seidman


    The auctions at a Manhattan antiques mall, where celebrities like Angelina Jolie have browsed for treasures, may really be selling a bill of goods, critics charge.

    Questions are being raised about the legitimacy of the sales at the Showplace Antique and Design Center on West 25th Street, where probers are separately looking at dealers who may have illegally sold ivory.

    The center, which opened in 1993 and houses nearly 50 dealers, is run by Amos Balaish.

    In 2015, Balaish began holding auctions every other Sunday, which promise “estate fresh” items including jewelry, silver, pottery and artwork.

    A former staffer told The Post that items were often leftovers from dealers and that Balaish could not always verify their categorization correctly in the auction catalog.

    The former employee told The Post that “if something looks like it’s bronze or it’s coated bronze or it’s bronzed, we would put it in as bronze.”

    Or “if something looked like silver plate, we would put it in as silver.”

    The auction catalog warns buyers that the merchandise is sold “AS IS” and that Showplace does not guarantee the “authenticity” of the merchandise sold, and states that “Buyers must rely on their own knowledge when purchasing merchandise.”

    Yet, the former employee said buyers who purchased items through phone or Internet bids would sometimes return them.

    “They would send it back because it wasn’t what they thought it was,” the former staffer said.

    Bidding practices have also drawn scrutiny, with the former worker describing a “mystery buyer” from Israel who would bid up the price of items by phone, but drop out at the last minute.

    Buyers said they were also disturbed by the unseen bidders.

    “I questioned a few times myself if there was actually anyone on the other end of a phone line,” said someone who regularly attends the sales.

    Buyers have also griped that they lost out on items during an auction, as they dropped out when bidding increased, only to be contacted moments later by Showplace staff telling them that the winning bid did not go through.

    The center lacks a city auction house license and the Department of Consumer Affairs is looking into whether it needs one.

    Balaish declined repeated requests for comment.

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