The idea is to solve two transatlantic problems. First, how can UK and European collectors consign to the right auction house when they have specialist items that would likely achieve the best price if they were featured in a US sale?
Morphy’s solution is to partner with Swiss firm CBR Trading, a retailer of modern and contemporary weaponry, sporting arms and ammunition (generally known as Munitions Depot as it runs the munitionsdepot.ch website).
Owing to the nature of what it sells, the Swiss firm’s venue in Zwingen is already set up specifically for firearms storage, with appropriate levels of security. It also has extensive experience in the legal exportation of weapons to authorised dealers in other countries.
A European collector consigning to Morphy can have their goods picked up by Munitions Depot. If the consignment consists of firearms, Munitions Depot will handle the packing and completion of paperwork needed to ship the goods to Morphy’s government-authorised arms importer in the US.
If the collection is comprised of militaria such as medals and uniforms, or any other type of antique, artwork or jewellery, it will be shipped directly to Morphy’s Pennsylvania gallery. Guns will be available to preview at the Zwingen gallery approximately one month before they are auctioned.
The auction house’s founder and president Dan Morphy said: "In firearms, for example, some categories sell for two to three times as much here as they do in Europe. World War I and World War II arms from Europe are the hottest areas in gun collecting right now, and the biggest collectors of early German, French and Austrian militaria are here in the States. The US market is hungry for it. The way we see it, Europe has the goods and North America has the buyers. Our new European branch is the link that brings them together, in a sensible, stress-free manner."
The same protocol applies to many types of antiques and luxury items currently residing in Europe. "Amphora pottery, Rolex watches, high-end German and French toys and trains, for example - they still have a strong following in Europe, but many pieces would do even better in the States," says Morphy. "We’ve also seen some fantastic collections of Tiffany lamps in European homes. That’s a category with which we have had great success [selling in the US]."
Second, the tie-up also solves the issue of how US consignors can achieve the best price when consigning items to a US auction house that would be more attractive to European bidders. In this instance, Morphy intends to hold two auctions a year in Switzerland with the first scheduled for the autumn of 2024.