01/08/2023 General News
The world of auctions is to a large extent ultimately driven by enthusiasts; people who love to own and enjoy collections, whether that is fine art, ceramics, rare books or jewellery.
When it comes to common collectables, putting a value on them is relatively straightforward. It requires knowledge and years of experience of course, but if, for example, someone brings a Seago picture in for valuation, there is an established market which will help predict with a degree of accuracy what it will make in the saleroom.
But not all collectables are so mainstream. In a recent sale, for example, we had a vintage Chesterman cattle gauge measuring tape, which looked like a brass paperweight but opened up to reveal a tape measure and gauge designed to allow the user to estimate a cow’s weight by taking linear measurements of the animal.
We had never seen one before, so putting a value on it was tricky. We estimated the lot at £50-£75, but it eventually sold for £130, proving that you can never second-guess what will appeal to collectors.
Last year we rescued a box of buttons from a weekly sale, spotting their potential to attract collectors. By recognising the value of what was there, splitting the collection into several lots, and using targeted online marketing, what would have perhaps made £50 in the weekly sale ended up selling for over £3,000 in total.
It is not always straightforward converting such potential into actual sales. It requires an experienced eye, solid knowledge of the kind of things which will appeal – and why – and a sound grasp of the potential of the internet to reach specialist collectors. We simply don’t know how many similar valuables items end up selling for peanuts in junk shops.
The demand is certainly out there for quirky collectables. Enthusiasts have become assiduous users of the internet to feed their enthusiasm, making full use of keyword searches and online bidding platforms such as our own KeysLive.
Ensuring those buyers are online for the auction is just as important as recognising the value of an item consigned for sale in the first place. Bidders competing for the same item is what achieves maximum value for the vendor, and can lead to hammer prices several times above the initial pre-sale estimate.
For example, in a recent Silver, Watches and Bijouterie Sale at Keys, an antique treen wood box nutcracker was estimated at £50-£70, but made £480; in the same sale, a late Victorian glass and silver riding flask was estimated at £100-£140 but sold for £320.
It pays not to underestimate the appeal of the quirky collectable. But getting the best price needs a specialist auctioneer with the knowledge and experience to recognise its value, and with the online marketing skills to find the right buyer.