‘What made you decide to become an auctioneer?’ – is a question I’m regularly asked, usually followed by ‘You have such an interesting job’.
Though I’ve been asked this question probably thousands of times, each time it makes me reflect – and agree.
I am extremely lucky to have a job I love.
Being competitive and ambitious, I find running a business extremely rewarding, the enjoyment of hitting targets and motivating staff a continual challenge.
I enjoy sales and customer service, helping people resolve issues such as house clearances dilemmas or inheritance tax valuations, problems that can often seem insurmountable but are often straightforward.
I’m at home on the rostrum, taking the sales, achieving good prices for our sellers whilst having fun and hopefully giving an enjoyable performance!
But the biggest appeal of my profession is of course that of the objects themselves, the diversity, knowledge, art and social history that they represent.
Humanity has created such a rich tapestry of objects throughout history, from objects created for purely functional reasons (which might now be classed as ‘Industrial Design’) through to items of artistic splendour.
It never ceases to amaze me the sheer breadth of items that I regularly encounter. A great example of this is a recent Charity valuation evening I held at St Lawrence Church, Morland where – believe it or not – a client brought in a cased Viking sword for appraisal! A family heirloom, it was a genuine treat to see an object as powerful as this, found in the churchyard over a hundred years ago and cherished ever since.
A sword such as this – with a neat, apparently ceremonial break to the blade – represents a moment in time, a perfect capsule of history, never to be repeated.
And this to me is the heart of my job, my goal and objective as an auctioneer: finding those objects that are impossible to forget – objects that collectors simply have to buy, regardless of price!
This is summed up perfectly by a recent sale at PFK of an Ann Macbeth (1875-1948) watercolour.
Bolton born and studying at the Glasgow School of Art, associated with Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Suffragette movement, Macbeth moved to Patterdale in 1920 and is locally famed for her ceramic and textile designs.
Consigned for sale by a Patterdale family, whose ancestor knew Macbeth, the watercolour we sold depicted a young woman in the Art Nouveau style, dated 1912.
A stunning piece, about A4 size, the watercolour was bought by a leading London specialist for £3,300, the world record price for an Ann Macbeth watercolour, the sale result being a combination of exquisite painting, famous artist and good provenance.
Discovering, researching and selling rare and valuable objects is a thrill.
In many respects, being an auctioneer is the Pursuit of the Sublime.