One of the oft-repeated and valid claims of recent years has been that Antiques are Green. As things that come up for sale time and time again at auction or from dealers, they are the ultimate recyclables.
Someone even went as far as putting together some statistics on this to show how a solid chest of drawers made in the 18th century could still be eminently serviceable in the 21st century having passed through the hands of several different owners, They compared this with a prefabricated flatpack alternative that might look good from the front but was unlikely to survive a house move or a single owner.
This meant that the solid antique had a shelf life equivalent to something like a dozen of the flatpack alternatives, with all their raw materials, as well as the power, energy and wrapping used in their manufacture and transport and the ensuing toll on the environment.
The fact that the solid 200-year-old chests of drawers are often far cheaper than their flatpack rivals is another major point in their favour, so the whole argument for using recycled antiques really is a strong one whichever way you look at it.
Now Richard Hammond, late of Top Gear and The Grand Tour has highlighted another reason: recycling your possessions is not just green; it’s an excellent way of raising cash for something else.
Hammond has just announced that he is to fund a new passion by exploiting an old one: in short, he is selling off part of his collection of cars and motor bikes to fund a new enterprise: The Smallest Cog. It’s inspired by his grandfather, a coach builder, and will focus on the restoration of classic cars.
Perhaps it’s time to clear out your attics and see what you could fund with the proceeds.
As the country heads out along the cautious road from lockdown, how will things change? Will the general public retain the habit of face masks or not? How crowded will pubs, restaurants cinemas and shops become? Will the older generation start to lower their guard? And what of our business lives?
Some firms are desperate to return to as normal a nine-to-five routine as they can as soon as possible, while others, freed from the shackles of London business rates and soaring rents, have found a new lease of life.
In the auction world, the biggest change has been the acceleration of online bidding, which is now the norm rather than the occasional feature of sales. People still come to the saleroom, for consigning, viewing and bidding, but while it remains the hub of activity for all we do, the world in which we operate is now largely in the ether.
Does this matter? Perhaps to a degree; it is difficult to see how we will again witness the buzz that electrified the saleroom when packed with bidders – the febrile atmosphere often contributed to rising competition.
In the end, though, auctions are all about getting the best price for the consignor while also making sure that those who bid have the chance to acquire something that they simply wouldn’t find elsewhere.
At the heart of a good auction house is knowledge, expertise and a clear understanding of excellent customer service. Focus on those, and the rest will follow regardless of the changes wrought by technology.
Only last week, I explained how timing can be everything when it comes to auctions. In that instance, I was writing about Roger Federer’s decision to sell 20 lots of his Grand Slam match-worn clothing and racquets to raise funds for his charitable foundation, and to do so to coincide with Wimbledon.
No sooner had Roger bowed out of the tournament in the fourth round than another tale of perfect timing arose. HUGS, a charity shop in Bath, found itself in possession of a selection of memorabilia from the 1966 World Cup, including a copy of the official programme for the legendary final between West German and England at Wembley, as well as semi-final and final ticket stubs.
Naturally, with England reaching the finals of the Euros on July 11 this year – our national team’s greatest achievement since Geoff Hurst slotted home the winning goal 55 years ago – this seemed the perfect moment to put these treasures up for auction.
How do you price such things? Well the charity shop put up a starting bid of £200. That seems a reasonable sum when compared to past auction prices and what eBay has to offer, especially when taking condition into consideration.
Whatever they raise, however, anyone going to Wembley for the Euros final would be well advised to preserve their programmes and ticket stubs in as immaculate a condition as they can – especially if England win (I write this before the match) – as they will be collectors’ items immediately.
A few weeks ago I mentioned that Roger Federer had decided to put up 20 lots of his match-worn clothing and racquets from his Grand Slam wins for auction to raise money for his foundation.
Now I’m pleased to report that so far the timed auction has raised £1.3 million and counting. Bidding will remain open until July 14.
Of course it helps that Fed is still in the running at Wimbledon, as I speak, having made it into the fourth round – and the second week – for the umpteenth time. And this illustrates one of the most important things about auctions: timing.
I’m sure Federer’s kit would make a great deal of money at any time, but I’m equally sure that more and higher bids will result from the auction being run alongside his favourite Grand Slam tournament, when many more minds are focused on all things tennis.
Such synchronicity is commonplace and for good reason.
In recent years, landmark exhibitions of largely forgotten or overlooked talent among Modern British artists have taken place at some of the most influential public galleries, including Pallant House Gallery in Chichester and the Dulwich Picture Gallery. As these exhibitions spark new interest in the likes of Cedric Morris, John Minton, Christopher Wood and Keith Vaughan, so collectors who have held their works for many a year decide that now might be the time to sell them at auction. Prices rise along with demand and the artist enjoys a greater profile. Depending on how much work of the first quality becomes available ongoing, this surge in popularity and value can last into the medium to long term.
It’s all about getting the timing right.