Rewind to 1992, in the midst of a deep recession. There weren’t many people breaking out on their own, but Auctioneer Paul Keen took his chance and never looked back. This year marks 30 years since the inception of Plymouth Auction Rooms and it’s certainly been a journey!
How it all began
Company Director and Auctioneer Paul Keen had an interest in the industry from a young age. Training to be a Property Surveyor at an Estate Agents that also offered surveying and auction services, Paul developed a passion for antiques after attending weekly sales. Spending his time researching trends and broadening his knowledge, Paul took the leap and started his own company, Plymouth Auction Rooms.
Originally based in Faraday Mill, the business went from strength to strength and the need to expand soon arose. Paul said “We moved to an old school building named Edwin House, which we slowly developed into an established Auction Room. We soon outgrew this and in 2005 we relocated to where still operate today – back to our roots in Faraday Mill Business Park”.
Memorable Moments at Plymouth Auction Rooms
When thinking about a highlight over the last 30 years, Paul’s mind immediately springs to the discovery of a pair of Kangxi Chinese Porcelain parrots. Sitting atop a bookcase in a South Hams farmhouse, the incredibly rare porcelain figures sold for an astonishing £200,000 including fees! Much to the delight of the owners and the international collector who won a fierce bidding war for the pair.
Paul explains that there have been a number of memorable moments over the last 30 years, perhaps too many to count… but some notable events include auctioning Charlie Chaplin’s suit, losing a pair of Queen Victoria’s stockings in the saleroom and bringing two kittens on a road trip after they jumped in the boot of Pauls car following a home visit.
No two days are the same at The Auction Rooms. When asked about his favourite part of the job, Paul said
“it’s the excitement of the find for me. 30 years on and I still enjoy visiting customers’ homes and finding treasures that they perhaps didn’t know were valuable. It’s the element of surprise, the social aspect and the history of the pieces that are the real highlights, personally”.
How the industry has changed
Having been in business for 30 years, there has no doubt been significant changes within the industry. In the last 10 years alone, Paul notes that there has been a big boom in online sales which has benefitted Plymouth Auction Rooms massively.
“Even though attendance to the Auction Rooms has dropped, our ability to market items to an online audience has never been so good. We can get items in front of bidders all across the world”. Not only has it broadened the scope for bidding, but it has also made researching the history of items a lot easier. “Where I used to spend all my time in local libraries sifting through books and historical documents, I can now find all the history I need with a few clicks online”.
Having to evolve over time also brings some challenges. Interest in antiques started to wain and the demand for certain items like antique furniture, specific jewellery and crockery sets isn’t as big as it once was. To compensate for this, Plymouth Auction Rooms had a big uplift in specialist items such as watches, modern and contemporary art, medals and historical items with proven genealogy.
What sets Plymouth Auction Rooms apart?
Plymouth Auction Rooms doesn’t feel like your ‘stereotypical’ idea of an auction house. They have a certain energy that can’t be matched elsewhere. Whether it’s a low-value lot or a sought-after piece, the energy remains the same. You simply have to attend an auction to see the passion that Paul radiates on the rostrum. No wonder it takes him 2 days to recover!
What does the future hold for Plymouth Auction Rooms?
The future looks bright for Paul and his team. “We are working towards the consolidation of the specialist sales, as this is where we will grow. We have some exciting plans in the pipeline, notably the introduction of a Chinese ceramic specialist to the fast-growing team”. Interest in Chinese ceramics doesn’t seem to be slowing down, so to have an in-house professional offering advice on sought-after pieces, is a step in the right direction for further business growth.
Are you interested in attending an upcoming auction? Plymouth Auction Rooms are busy getting ready for the next Lenkiewicz & Contemporary Art auction on Wednesday 18th of January. Soon after, they have a Fine Jewellery & Watches Auction, taking place on Wednesday 22nd February. You can view the complete auction calendar here. Or get in touch with the team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.