Repatriation: A Collector's Guide to History, Ethics, and Giving Back - Thomaston Auction
New England’s Trusted Auction & Appraisal Professionals.
51 Atlantic Hwy
Thomaston, ME 04861
207-354-8141 • 800-924-1032

October 9, 2023

Repatriation: A Collector's Guide to History, Ethics, and Giving Back

This October holds an important observance day, Indigenous People’s Day. With the history this day brings, it would be a good time to reflect how we as an auction gallery can promote respect and appreciation for indigenous history and art.

We have sold countless handmade jewelry, pottery, fine art and textiles from tribes across the country, all from either collectors or individual artists themselves. We have partnered in the past with collectors and repatriated items to the original tribes on items that hold historical significance.

But how can you, a bidder, repatriate items? We’ve had this question occasionally, often from bidders who feel intimidated by the process.

Let’s start at the beginning. What is repatriation?

Repatriation is the process of bringing items to the original indigenous group or community that created/held them. These often hold spiritual, historical, or political significance.

The process of repatriation of artifacts varies depending on the country, the gallery or museum’s policies, and the nature of the items you purchased.

Here are some general steps to help you repatriate your auction purchases:

Understand the Gallery's Policy: Before participating in an auction, carefully read and understand the gallery's terms and conditions regarding repatriation of items. Auction houses often have specific rules and procedures for this.

Payment and Fees: Ensure that you have paid for your items in full, including any buyer's premiums, taxes, and any additional fees associated with the purchase. Some galleries may require payment before they release the items.

Arrange Shipping: Determine whether the auction gallery provides shipping services. Some galleries have in-house shipping. If this is an option, inquire about costs and timelines.If the auction gallery doesn't provide shipping services, you need to arrange your own. You can use international shipping companies or freight forwarders. Consider factors such as size, fragility, and value of items when selecting a shipping method.

Customs and Import Duties: Be aware of the customs regulations and import duties in your home country. Different countries have varying rules and taxes on imported goods, and you may need to declare your purchases and pay import duties.

Documentation: Ensure that you have all the necessary documentation, including the auction invoice, receipts, and any certificates of authenticity. These documents may be required for customs clearance.

Packaging and Insurance: Properly pack your items to prevent damage during transit. Consider purchasing insurance for high-value items to protect against loss or damage during shipping. Maintain clear communication with the shipping company or freight forwarder, and track the progress of your shipment. Ensure that you receive updates and delivery estimates.

Customs Clearance: Depending on your country's regulations, you may need to go through customs clearance. Prepare to provide the necessary documentation and pay any applicable import taxes or duties.

Receiving the Items: Once your items have cleared customs, arrange for their delivery to your desired location. Inspect the items upon delivery to ensure they are in the expected condition.

Feedback: Provide feedback to the auction gallery regarding your repatriation experience, whether positive or negative. This can help improve their services for future buyers.

Remember that the process of repatriating purchases can be complex, especially for international buyers or for high-value items. It's essential to plan ahead, do your research, and seek professional advice if needed to ensure a smooth and successful repatriation process.
        Thomaston Place Auction Galleries has experience with repatriating items, and can assist buyers with any questions or concerns regarding repatriation. We embrace the arts across all cultures, and wish to celebrate them all within our galleries and share them with our clientele.

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Kaja Veilleux, ME AUC902
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