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Going once, going twice, SOLD!

Hearing the words “auction house” might spark the image of a jam-packed room with a fast-talking auctioneer calling out bids from potential buyers who want one particular item that’s going, going, going . . . gone. While this nostalgic atmosphere is full of excitement, it’s not the most efficient commerce system in modern society. Cottone Auctions in Geneseo has shifted its auctions in a new direction, creating a unique online platform that’s not only more accessible but reaches individuals around the world.

Matt Cottone grew up learning his father’s business and has naturally accumulated more responsibilities over the years.“We used to have 500 people in the audience bidding on things, but that was kind of working its way out even prior to COVID,” Cottone says.“So when COVID started to really slow down in-person auctions, we were already shifting toward more of an online model. Now you can bid by swiping on your phone or using a computer through live online bidding. We also have a live phone bid. One of our representatives will call the person wherever they are in the world when the item comes up and relay the bids to them. So you don’t necessarily have to rely on technology if you do not want to.”

While ecommerce may be the new go-to system, individuals can still bid in person if that’s what they’d prefer. In fact, Cottone’s invites people to come look at items in-store whenever they’d like.

Just as items are auctioned online, they are marketed and acquired worldwide as well. Cottone Auctions has built up a large clientele over the decades, making them highly searchable online. Items are marketed through sites such as Artnet and LiveAucitoneers, which allow people looking for niche items to be notified when they become available. Likewise, it allows sellers to find items similar to theirs and look for appraisals.

“When people have items or find things such as artwork, Tiffany lamps, or modern art, they’re brought to our site where we’re able to give them some ideas of the value and explain to them how we go about marketing these things to national and international audiences,” Cottone says.

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19th Century American Folk Art Cat Portrait Photo by Michael Hanlon

Sellers can call Cottone to discuss the items or visit the website to submit photos and information for an online appraisal. Once an agreement is reached, the collectibles are insured and stored free of charge until the date of the auction.

Cottone Auctions’ items range from affordable decorative pieces all the way to items that sell for over a million dollars. They try to find collectibles the market wants, whether that’s jewelry and silver, fine arts, or marble sculptures. In March 2022 Cottone sold a rare oak hall chair built by Charles Rohlf (1853–1936) for a world record price of $306,000.

“The markets go up and down, and about fifteen years ago, we sold not that exact chair, but the same model. It brought about $175,000 at that time, and it has stood as one of the most expensive Rohlf chairs that has ever sold anywhere in the country,” Cottone says.“Certain things are worth tremendously more than they ever have been because of the global audience they now have.”

Items are acquired, marketed, and advertised in a variety of ways for a couple months, but final sales come to an end in a relatively quick amount of time come auction day.

“For Charles Rohlf ’s chair we kind of knew who the top players were in the country, and it came down to them. Some of the other items we sell have more of an international demand; you never know who might participate. But as far as the day of the auction, something like that only takes three or four minutes to actually sell to get to that price,” he explains.

For those new to the field of auctioning, Cottone Auctions has an app that allows for easy bidding. Individuals can program the app to automatically bid for them or simply swipe to bid as the price rises.While this is a great tool, the process can still be intimidating, and Cottone recommends speaking to a member of their team for guidance.

“If you’re new to auctions and there’s an item you really love or want, trying to learn how to bid in the heat of the moment for the first time could be challenging, and you could end up being disappointed that you missed the item you were trying to acquire. Our staff is great at walking people through the different options of bidding, and we’re available by appointment anytime,” Cottone says. “If someone likes an item, they can come view it in person and gain a better understanding of how to go about bidding on things as well as the value of the item.”

Cottone’s next auction will take place on Friday, September 23. Items can be viewed and appraised online at or in person at 120 Court Street in Geneseo.

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