I believe there is something unique and special about the auction industry. Perhaps it is the long-standing tradition of buying and selling goods or services by offering them up for auction, taking bids, and then selling the item to the winner (which is said to have originated as far back as 500 B.C). And here we are in 2017, seeing the industry thrive even more so year on year because of those that have spent their lives dedicated to their hobby.
To some it’s the tradition, the hobby of turning up in the morning, buying a printed catalogue, enjoying a butty with a coffee and catching up with the regulars that you have built a long-standing relationship with over the years. To others, it’s a means to an end and a way of life. Calculating strategically which lots can be won and moved along to generate a margin that involves a strong understanding of the market. This could be your regular public, right through to dealers, shop owners or just people with an eye for an investment piece.
I have been involved in the internet bidding sector of the industry for 3 years now, first starting out as I entered my twenties. Before I began, I had been aware of the concept through passing auction houses time to time, or from seeing the popular TV shows such as Antiques Road Trip and Flog It. The idea of going to a real auction at first seemed intimidating to me, with one buyer noting my hesitant approach. He told me, ‘be careful not to scratch your nose in this section!’ as we approached the jewellery part of an auction. Seeing prices cruise into the £1000+ bracket I spent the next ten minutes carefully tryng not to flinch or make eye contact with the auctioneer! But with hindsight, I could not have been further from the truth with my hesitation.
Three years later, I have found a real passion of auctions and I sometimes wonder what exactly it is about this industry that has become so enthralling, so exciting and quite simply- so addictive!
So here are the 5 reasons why I love auctions, as a young professional in his twenties…
1 - The Thrill of the Theatre
‘God help us if we ever take the theatre out of the auction business…’ is a quote from Adolph Alfred Taubman (1924-2015), an American businessman, owner of Sotheby’s and fanatic art collector. Despite the controversies that surrounded him, he could not have better hit the nail on the head. The show and the theatre put on by auctioneers can really captivate an audience of buyers, and create a competitive atmosphere that literally takes control of you. I always find myself entranced by the showmanship of an auctioneer. They have the ability to drive prices up by simply engaging with their crowd. I have found myself bidding higher than I intended, purely for the thrill of winning the item I’ve had my eye on all day! This is a fundamental element of a successful auction, and watching the competition can be like a sport itself! To buy at an auction is an experience where you genuinely enjoy the thrill of participating, as well as the reward of your wins at the end of it all.
2 - Low cost for high reward
Whilst auctions are a competition between people bidding against each other, the joy of finding something desirable, or that maybe you didn’t even know you wanted at a low cost is something to be admired about the auction world. At Bidonthis.co.uk, our team have one by one found this out for ourselves. I have seen my colleagues have items delivered to our office that have ranged from £5 fully working drum kits and high end jewellery, to beautifully designed capodimonte vases or 19th century daggers (worryingly!). What I love and find amazing about this, is that for a low risk, why wouldn’t you bid and potentially win big? I find myself frantically looking through catalogues and regularly finding products I had no idea I wanted, but for such a low price, what’s the harm in simply going for it?
3 - Affordable treasures and investment pieces for a modern lifestyle
Young people are feeling the challenge now more than ever before of being able to find and afford a property of their own. And when you’ve finally got the flat that you wanted, or the house you’ve been dreaming about, you need to furnish and compliment it. So where do you go? For many everyday consumers, IKEA and John Lewis immediately spring to mind. But why pay through the roof for modern furniture or commodities that have a ‘vintage’ effect, when we can get the real thing at a fraction of the price in auction?
4 - Shock element of price realisation for sellers
Sometimes the value of an item can really take us by surprise in auction. TV shows like ‘Bargain Hunt’ produce very public and well covered examples of how something totally unexpected can be worth a small fortune, or a pleasant surprise. Some high-profile stories include the controversial release last year of the new plastic £5 notes, where one of the new polymer £5 banknotes featuring Winston Churchill managed to sell for a staggering £4,150 at a Bank of England charity auction on Monday 3rd October. Another example was the high-profile sale of a teapot valued on the BBC’s ‘Flog It!’ at £120, that actually sold for £2200 after it was discovered as part of a precious collection of antiques from Tibet. The set went on to fetch a whopping £140k altogether, after auctioneers Aldridge & Sons took the full set in for sale from the anonymous seller.
With these being a slightly far-fetched pair of examples, vigilant buyers know it is wise to try and expect the unexpected. The shock element is something to be admired about this industry and form of buying/selling.
5 - The Community
I believe personally that the pinnacle of this industry is the community spirit amongst buyers and sellers alike. Auction houses do compete with each other for the best goods from vendors locally and nationally, but there is something to be said for the community we find ourselves indulged in. National and professional bodies such as NAVA & SOFAA are groups of leading auctioneers with a real passion for the industry, who seek to pro-actively provide a comprehensive and specialist service for their buyers that keep the auction business thriving. Auctioneers are often seen enjoying a coffee and chatting with the lifeblood of their industry; their buyers. Whether it’s discussing the potential price realisation for their batch of goods submitted for the next sale, or their weekend plans, there is something heart-warming about this way of life that we find ourselves addicted to.
I have grown to love the auction industry, and hope that many other people in their twenties and thirties can too. Having introduced the idea to many friends and family, most of them have attended an auction now and found that actually, not only is it great fun, but the theatre, thrill of participating and general atmosphere combined are more than enough reason to enjoy a sale day.
I love to talk with fellow professionals, so if you have anything to add, or fancy a chat, please do let me know. I look forward to meeting and speaking with anyone in the industry or quite simply interested in it.
Sales manager for ‘Bid on This’