Attorney at Law Magazine Los Angeles Publisher Sarah Torres spoke with Noelle Valentino, department manager, and Morgana Blackwelder, senior vice president, of the Trusts and Estates Department at John Moran Auctioneers and Appraisers. Blackwelder grew up in the antiques business and has spent 17 years in the auction sector and Valentino has worked for museums, auctions and commercial galleries.
AALM: Tell me about the history of John Moran Auctioneers.
MB: More than 50 years ago, John Moran Auctioneers was founded on the premise of providing the highest level of service and professional standards to collectors, connoisseurs, trustees and executors. As a family-owned and -operated auction house, a personalized approach remains our trademark, whether a client is selling a single item or an entire collection or liquidating an estate. We pride ourselves on our hard-earned reputation of honesty, integrity and stellar results.
AALM: What is John Moran’s relationship with attorneys?
NV: We have developed partnerships throughout Southern California and beyond through our longtime involvement in estate planning councils, fiduciary roundtables and bar associations. John Moran Auctioneers works closely with divorce lawyers, family law professionals and trusts and estates attorneys who are aiding their clients with the division or distribution of assets, liquidation or settlement of an estate, or other matters related to personal property.
AALM: Who are the professionals behind the appraisals?
NV: We have a team of seasoned experts: gemologists, horologists, art historians, former antiques dealers and a slew of other talented arts professionals on staff. The Moran team of USPAP-compliant appraisers work with private collectors, trust administrators, attorneys and museums.
AALM: What are some of the most interesting items that have been up for auction, past and present?
NV: With over 200 years of combined experience, our team sees a plethora of valuable items, however, what often prompts the most excitement are pieces that offer historical significance. Take the Chantland Blanket named for the Norwegian explorer who acquired the Navajo weaving in 1870 and handed it down to his great-great grandson. The blanket was one of only a handful ever made, ultimately selling for $1.8 million.
MB: Some of my personal favorites were a collection of 11 watercolors done by Chinese-American artist Jake Lee found in a Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles during recent renovation. Each depicted historical scenes showcasing the contributions of Chinese immigrants in California.
AALM: How does one bid on an item?
NV: Each auction is live streamed on our website, as well as posted on Live Auctioneers, Invaluable and Artsy, three leading bidding platforms. These aggregators host online auctions for an international audience. Buyers ultimately have the choice in how to bid — in-person from our Los Angeles saleroom, by telephone, via absentee bid or online.
AALM: How is John Moran operating during the COVID-19 crisis?
MB: Despite the need for physical distance, we are up and running from our respective home offices. While we have suspended in-person bidding for the time being, Moran’s has several exciting online sales slated for the coming weeks. In addition, we’ve been scheduling video-based consultations with clients and collectors. We’re even planning a virtual happy hour with our professional network. Finally, in keeping with our founder’s philanthropic legacy, John Moran Auctioneers will match donations up to 2.5% of net consignment proceeds for the duration of 2020. We have selected several charities that seek to alleviate the burden COVID-19 has placed on our communities.