On Friday, Sotheby’s closed its third dedicated sale of Banksy prints. Every last one of the 23 prints offered in the online auction sold, and each achieved a price at least double its high estimate—several sold for prices four, five, or even 10 times their high estimates. The sale’s total take of £2 million ($2.7 million) more than tripled its presale high estimate, and more than half of the buyers were buying from Sotheby’s for the first time. The auction’s top lot, a version of the iconic Girl with Balloon (2004), elicited 24 bids that pushed it to more than five times its low estimate of £80,000 ($103,000). It ultimately sold for £438,500 ($567,000), an auction record for a work from that particular edition of 150 prints and an even more startling result considering what the seller originally paid.
“When the consignor purchased it in 2004 from Pest Control, she told me she paid £275 [around $500],” said Yessica Marks, a deputy director and senior prints specialist at Sotheby’s in London. The collector got in touch with Sotheby’s after reading about the 2018 shredding of another version of Girl with Balloon. “She called us to get an insurance valuation, and she was so shocked to learn that it was worth £80,000 to £120,000, she decided to consign it.” The decision paid off handsomely: In 16 years, the print’s value had increased to nearly 1,600 times its original purchase price. That result is exceptional, but not wholly surprising.