New York's smaller auction houses offer affordable art

People view the offerings at Swann Auction Galleries People view the offerings at Swann Auction Galleries in Manhattan. Photo Credit: Handout

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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.

SWANN GALLERIES, 104 E. 25th St.

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.

UPCOMING SALES Fine Photographs, Feb. 26; Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books, Feb. 28

RECENT PRICE Group of four Saturday Evening Post covers by Norman Rockwell, 1948-49, $500

INFO 212-254-4710, swanngalleries.com

DOYLE NEW YORK, 175 E. 87th St.

STRONG SUITS Doyle has a classy reputation and sells a broad range of items, from old Italian paintings to jewelry. Its Doyle At Home sales are a great mishmash of high-end decorative items. Doyle is specially known for its single-owner and estate sales, which can yield great bargains on the lower end of the price scale while other eyes are trained on the marquee lots.

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

INFO 212-427-2730, doylenewyork.com

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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

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