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As we gear up for our latest set of busy sales in the run-up to Christmas, we are also getting to that time of year when – assuming there is time to stop and grab a breath – I like to take a moment to reflect a little on the past 12 months.

Looking at the auction industry today for fine art and chattels, it’s remarkable how far we have come in the past 20 years. From being a leading light of the local area and a little further afield, we now have a global reach when it comes to bidders, and an international reach when it comes to securing consignments, in great part thanks to the internet.

There’s simply no getting away from the importance of the Web and live online bidding, but what also strikes me is that when it comes to developing specialist knowledge for identifying objects and carrying out cataloguing and valuations, the old ways remain the best.

Speak to many of the managing directors of auction houses today, and they will say the same. Ask them how they started and, for the most part, you will find that they began as teenagers humping round furniture as humble porters before stepping on the first rung of the ladder as a junior cataloguer.

There is no substitute for handling things as they pass through – that’s the bit you simply can’t learn from a computer screen, even today.