Death, Divorce, Debt and Disaster. These are the four Ds, as they are known, that have traditionally defined why people decide to sell their belongings at auction. Now, I am adding another two: Downsizing and Decluttering.
From family heirlooms to duplicates within collections that can be recycled to fund the next purchase, these sources of auction consignments bring hard-to-find rarities to the surface all the time. Auctions provide probably the best hunting ground thanks to house clearances and deceased estates, where interesting antiques and collectables that have been hidden away for decades get their first public showing. Pitched right, they can create a lot of bidding competition. But these circumstances also create the perfect opportunity to pick up a bargain. That’s why general auctions are such an exciting experience – you never know what will turn up.
Before the days of throwaway consumer culture, this is how many people furnished their homes.
One of the great obsessions in our industry is how you attract the next generation of buyers and sellers. Forty or fifty years ago, newly married couples tended to go to auction to buy furniture and decorations for their first home. They were the original recyclers, unwittingly supporting the green end of the economy.
Then the era of mass consumerism, with its disposable, flatpack furnishings, took over, tastes changed, and the local general weekly auction started to look like a thing of the past.
Well, close to half a century on we’re still here and as relevant today as we have always been. Yes, we have had to adapt, offering more specialist sales, better catalogues, clear costings and, in the advanced technological age, live bidding via the internet.
What hasn’t changed are the twin thrills of finding something special hidden among the day-to-day items and the charged atmosphere of competitive bidding and ultimate victory as the hammer comes down. I’d say they are as attractive characteristics of the auction process for the young as they are for the more mature among us. What’s more, the concept of recycling and upcycling is stronger than ever, so the tradition continues!