Originally written for the Western Morning News, feature September 2020
A day in the life of an Auctioneer
Monday 7th August Returning from a few days leave, it was no surprise to me that I would hit the ground running. Starting early at the saleroom, I was confronted with a wall of boxes, taller than myself, being an extensive collection of model diecast cars, ‘The Abbott Collection’.
This is the second collection of models that we have been instructed to sell at Plymouth Auction Rooms, the first being the Ralph Short Collection , which comes up for sale at the end of the month. The team are going to be busy over the next few weeks cataloguing and photographing hundreds of model cars!
It was a pleasure to see so many new consignments in the saleroom, from contemporary furniture, interesting paintings, objects and numerous collections to be appraised. I spotted an interesting Italian painting that I last saw on the stairwell of a fine property on the banks of the river Tamar, the owners had obviously decided to put it on the van for auction. I’ll take a closer look later as I need to head out to my first house call of the day. I grab my smart jacket and tie and head off before the staff arrive.
A 30 minute road trip takes me to the, a smart house in Bigbury-on-Sea with a beautiful view of Burgh Island. It’s a lovely sunny day and driving past the golf course I was wishing I had had few more days off!
As is often the case today, with the housing market now moving, this was a typical situation of an elderly couple downsizing. Members of the family had travelled down from the New Forest to meet me and discuss the merits of the residual effects. So with face coverings in place, there was a guided tour of the property to appraise all manner of collectables from local art, Parian figures, arts and crafts furniture, clocks and silver. I had to let them down gently with the unsaleable household furniture but I anticipate instructions to sell the other items once I draft the valuations. I admire the owners Aston Martin and head back to town.
My return to the saleroom was slightly drawn out as a result of a thirty minute traffic jam on the A379, due to roadwork traffic lights being red at both end nonetheless once I’m back I catch up with the staff and welcome our new full time professional photographer. Who I’m sure will be in for a bit of shock with the 800 lot auction coming up this month!
I work though my emails and with so many enquiries now it’s a case of divide and conquer. This is the busiest my saleroom has been in many years and I am lucky to have a tight team around me to help to process the valuations as efficiently as possible. The diversity of enquiries is extraordinary from fine watches to clocks, a Jack Charlton trophy and even a signed Charles Dickens cheque from 1896! We introduced our WhatsApp valuation drop box this year and it has really taken off. The ‘valuation phone’ is constantly pinging with some owners sending over 100 images of their entire house contents. It works and we can view lots very quickly which is really helpful for potential sellers.
I was delighted several valuations had come to fruition, and could see several items that had been delivered to the saleroom while I was away, including a rare Sailor’s Valentine. I was pleased to spot this amongst a array of general effects. These charming shellworks originated from the West Indies in the 19th century and were brought home by sailors for their loved ones. In fact at one point there was a real cottage industry in Barbados making these around 1850. Some years ago we sold one for £2,400! The owner was thrilled to know all about it and I’m looking forward to selling this later this month.
Emails attended to, back into the saleroom to have a briefing on what’s coming up. With so many collections to sell this month we have opted for a two day sale which brings a range of logistic issues. All the lots must be online soon so we can alert UK & overseas collectors to generate the best possible prices for our sellers.
I have some time to take a closer look at the Italian painting, it’s a stunning view of the Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice painted in oil on canvas in a rich gilt frame. We often find more information form the back rather than the front of a painting and this was no exception. Turning it over I found a label inscribed ‘Jacopo Marieschi (1711-1794) from the collection of G.P.Dudley Wallis Esq, late curator of the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, purchased 1945′. This is quite exacting and I am sure will generate a lot of presale enquires and will be one of the headliners at the auction.
It’s all hands on board for a trip to a large house in Mannamead, Plymouth where an family of German and Italian origin, who originally relocated to the city after the war are now on the move. With so many interesting objects and valuables, we decided to attend the property ourselves and pack up the items. It was a pleasure to go round with the elderly lady and for her to identify where many of the items came from, including Bavaria, Germany, Murano and Venice. They more times than I first saw including a collection of 19th century miniatures and even a Bavarian Pickelhaube helmet. The girls enjoyed the trip out of the office even if they were kept busy packing up 20 boxes!
Another day tomorrow, and there is plenty lined up but back home now where I spend an hour on some more valuations some lovely Omega wristwatches an yet another collection of model cars!