{15/10/2010}   Auction challenge
Newly acquired tea sets

I have a friend (CA) who lives three doors away from Greenwich Auctions.  I’ve occasionally walked past during or after the auction and seen cars being loaded with antiques and, well, stuff.  It’s crossed my mind that I’d like to go in.

The idea of auctions has always scared me, particularly a twitching/scratching/fiddling = bidding paranoia.  Then last week I decided to go in.  I felt extraordinarily brave in a way-out-of-my-depth kind of way.  I didn’t go alone though, I was with another auction virgin (CG).

I announced at reception that I knew I needed something to commence my auction experience but that I’d need help knowing what.  A nice, cheery girl giggled then produced a form to be filled out, a bidding number (how exciting!) was handed over and a brochure with 583 lots was purchased (£1.50).

We were in there about 50 minutes before the 11am kick off.  If you’ve never been to an auction before you may not believe how unexpectedly exhilarating it all is!

The lots were displayed around a large warehouse, things piled on top of each other or in rickety display cabinets.  All very dirty and junk shop-like.  But somehow, the matching of the lot number to the catalogue number is a very exciting process, especially because of the guide price.

For example, there was a display of old glass bottles, a ‘vintage’ ironing board, an old wooden child’s seat, kitchen scales and other vintage/shabby kitchenalia.  All that, maybe 30 items (admittedly, some were dustbin fodder), with a guide price of £10-£15.  Two or three of the glass bottles alone could’ve been sold to get the money back.  I asterisked that lot, lot 76, most vigorously.

I then proceeded to asterisk more lots.  Then CG got giddy and marked a load of lots too.

The bidding commenced at 11am.  We were seated, poised and ready for lot 30, the first of our highlighted lots:

“Early 20th century twenty two piece white glazed oriental tea set with geisha girl relief £20-£25.”

By about lot 16 I was a bundle of nerves.  I’d already convinced myself I’d inadvertently bid on a whole range of things because I developed a bizarrely itchy face and my hair kept needing to be fiddled with and I was a fidgety mess.  I couldn’t even look at the auctioneer for longer than a quick look of horror that his pre-hammer-slamming “£20 to the seated lady” seemed to be directed at me after a particularly active scratching session.  I seriously thought I’d bid on loads of things … until I realised he couldn’t have seen my number as it was firmly face down and well hidden from him!

So then I got nervous about bidding.  But before I knew it (auctioneers are so fast!!) it was lot 30.  My hand went up, nobody else bid, and suddenly I was displaying my bidder number as the hammer went down on my £20 (plus 16% buyers’ premium) bid.  It felt like a victory, more so than a closely fought last-second eBay win!  I was shaking and on a real high that never subsided, despite losing (giving up on?) a few lots I’d hoped to get but that went above my budget.

A teacup from lot 30, complete with the concealed lithophane “simple geisha with flower”

I lost lot 76 in a flurry of bids.  It went for £20.  I probably should have joined in the bidding but I had £10 in mind and I was trying not to be too rash or impulsive!

I got two further lots, another tea set (why??!) and an oak nest of tables.  Yes, yes, I know, a nest of tables. But they’re for the market stall challenge, as are the tea sets.

Even CG, a careful planner where purchases are concerned, had a giddy smile on his face and bid furiously and with uncharacteristic enthusiasm.  He came out clutching more stuff than me, including a walking stick for a person far shorter than him … but with the added bonus of a hidden drink flask.  Oh the joy of impulse buys!

I’m going to the preview day of the following week’s auction tonight.  I will mark more things in the catalogue and pay more attention to anything that’s of even vague interest.  There were a few things that sold for £5 with a £10-£15 guide price.  Maybe they could’ve been missed bargains.  I will then google/eBay search things to get an idea of value.

Bidding and being at an auction is fun and not scary (except when something you really want starts quickly increasing above your limit and you don’t have time to faff and dither!).  There’s a lot of rubbish but there are also some wonderful, interesting and unusual things.  Ikea?  Never again.  The next time I want a coffee table, desk, drawers, I’ll go to an auction and get something cheaper that’s made of solid wood and has character.  Seriously, give it a go, I’m pretty sure there’s enjoyment to be had for everyone, even if you have no intention of bidding and only go along to laugh at some people’s hideous taste, particularly where cruet sets and ornaments are concerned!


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