Why Antiques Expertise is Vital When It Comes to House Clearances

28/01/2022     Latest News

Tim Blyth of Keys Auctioneers & Valuers, says that surprising valuable items can be missed when disposing of a loved ones belongings or clearing a house.

Several cases in the last month have focussed our minds on the importance of seeking out independent specialist knowledge when dealing with property of loved ones or family members.  These situations often coincide with times of acute stress in people’s lives, often while dealing with family bereavement, and because of this it is easy to overlook something which might not be immediately visible to the untrained eye, or to take the path of least hassle.

But there is a real danger that in doing so items of real value can be overlooked, with the result that either those involved (or loved ones) may miss out or, potentially more seriously, those responsible for executing probate fail in their duty of care to realise best value for the beneficiaries.

Three recent examples demonstrate how easily this can happen (and can be prevented).  In one house clearance, we identified a piece of wood which to the untrained eye would perhaps be regarded as something for the fire.  However, one of our specialists immediately recognised that it was a hardwood club of tribal and ethnographical interest – possibly an Aboriginal nulla-nulla.  Placed in our January Antiques and Interiors Sale, it made £1,100 (predictably, it sold to a private collector in Australia, bidding live online).

From another seller in recent weeks came a mixed box of framed prints, of the type which change hands for a few pounds on car boot sales or are sold in house clearance sales as a mixed box-full.  Fortunately, we take the time to go through such lots to see if there is anything more valuable; again, another of our experts spotted a very interesting modern painting, which he identified as being by the Polish 20th century painter and printmaker Andrzej Kuhn.  It went under the hammer in our January Pictures and Prints Sale and made £1,150.

Finally, a box of buttons was brought into us to sell, with the vendor expecting them to make just a few pounds.  Our expert disagreed, splitting them into a number of lots to be sold separately in our January Silver and Watches Sale.  One lot made £720; another £550.

Of course, not every consignment or property clearance will include such gems.  But the point is, if you don’t allow genuine experts to take a look, you will never know, and the chances of missing out are that much higher.

I attended a small terraced property last year, which was being cleared by non-local family members and where the first impressions were not promising.  At first sight, the house looked to be literally full of rubbish; the untrained eye would be ordering a skip within minutes.  And yet it soon became clear that there was more to it than the first impression suggested; in total, items found in that house made over £20,000 at auction.  

For many people, commissioning a house clearance is about convenience, seen as a process which is first and foremost about resulting in an empty property which can be sold.  Unfortunately too often this approach results in owners missing out on the true value of the property’s contents, not to mention items which may have been lovingly collected by the late owner being consigned to the skip rather than finding new, appreciative owners.

Spotting items of value requires a range of expertise, whether that is in pictures, jewellery, furniture, or indeed Aboriginal art, and realising the full value of those items on the open market is (in my opinion) best undertaken by offering at auction with a professional auction house which can offer the items in the correct sale, to the right market.  

Our specialist knowledge is always available, without obligation, at the end of a phone, an email, or via a home visit.  It seems a shame to miss out.

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