Christie's and Sotheby's make headlines with multimillion-dollar sales, but they aren't the only game in town. There are smaller auction houses, often featuring less expensive lots, which even the casual buyer of art and decorative objects can easily patronize. And the viewing hours in the days before the sales, usually free to the public, are sometimes as good as a museum visit.
STRONG SUITS Swann started out as a rare-book auctioneer and still has 20 book sales a year and employs six specialists across a range of subtypes. The house also is known for selling vintage posters and other works on paper, and for being the only house to have an African-American art department, which has set a number of records in the field.
RECENT PRICE Group of four Saturday Evening Post covers by Norman Rockwell, 1948-49, $500
DOYLE NEW YORK, 175 E. 87th St.
UPCOMING SALES Doyle at Home, Feb. 27; Collection of Charlotte Moss, March 7; Asian Works of Art, March 18.
RECENT PRICE "A Fortified Town on a River," 17th century Dutch painting by an unknown artist, $938
BONHAMS, 580 Madison Ave.
STRONG SUITS A London house nearly as old as Christie's and Sotheby's, Bonhams covers the traditional categories (furniture, silver, paintings), with fun curve balls thrown in, such as its recent dog art auction, and even a dedicated whiskey sale in the fall.
UPCOMING SALES World War II: The Pacific Theater, today; Fine Oriental Rugs & Carpets, March 5
RECENT PRICE A model of the clipper ship "Independence," 19th century, $812
INFO 212-644-9001, bonhams.com
HERITAGE AUCTIONS, 445 Park Ave.
STRONG SUITS The scrappy, Dallas-based Heritage has become the world's third-biggest auction house. Its main business is "collectibles," meaning comics, stamps and coins, posters and sports memorabilia, though it has branched out into wine and other fields. It holds New York auctions in a variety of venues, and has a particularly loyal following for its online-only sales.
UPCOMING SALES Vintage Comics & Comic Art, ends tomorrow; Platinum Night Sports Auction, tomorrow and Sunday (both at the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion, 2 E. 79th St.).
RECENT PRICE 1946 Boston Red Sox team-signed baseball, $986
INFO 212-486-3500, ha.com
GUERNSEY'S, 108 E. 73rd St.
STRONG SUITS Despite the old-sounding English name, the house was founded in New York in 1975. Celebrity collections are signature: Jerry Garcia's guitars, Elvis' Graceland archives and some of Princess Diana's jewels have been on the block here. But folk art, photos and presidential memorabilia have their day as well.
UPCOMING SALES The archive of Movie Star News, the largest trove of Hollywood photographs, April 5, 6 and 7 (at the Arader Galleries, 1016 Madison Ave.)
RECENT PRICE Bob Mackie Design for Ann-Margret, $306.25
INFO 212-794-2280, guernseys.com