The role of the Auctioneer & Valuer in advising anyone who wants or needs to sell items at auction varies according to the circumstances and needs of the potential client. Some people will be downsizing with a good clear out of years of accumulated belongings; others are forced, by personal circumstances, to sell much treasured possessions. A percentage will be convinced they know the value of everything based on popular TV programmes. It follows, therefore, that the Valuer needs to evaluate every circumstance carefully and approach each situation with care and professionalism.
Often, when everything has been unpacked and laid out for me to estimate, memories of loved ones, relatives, situations and associations come flooding back. It can be an intensely emotional time. Clients may become distressed and tearful as they attempt to let go of their possessions. So, it is vital that no-one is pushed into a decision they don’t want to make. Immense sensitivity and empathy are required together with patience to allow them to take their time before coming to the right decision to sell all or some of their possessions at auction.
Many people are familiar with TV programmes where experts surprise and delight owners of carefully selected antiques, Fine Art or collectables some of which have been handed down through generations. Often, to the current owner, an item will be priceless – meaning that they can’t bear to part with it even though it could realise many thousands of pounds at auction. Undoubtedly, this makes good television. But it can also raise expectations in those who don’t see what the expert takes into consideration before the valuation is announced.
Many factors are taken into consideration when valuing an item. Of course, condition and age influence the price someone might be prepared to pay at auction but on TV there’s seldom time to explain the subtleties. Therefore, the potential vendor who thinks their item is worth a considerable sum because they’ve ‘seen one on the telly – or eBay’ may have their hopes dashed. This, again, needs sensitive handling. It is a truism that the vendor who has an exaggerated expectation of the sale price will be disappointed; while the person who leaves their item to the Valuer’s judgment is more likely to be pleasantly surprised.
The Valuer will need to demonstrate not only their expertise but that the Auction Room will look after the client’s interests – i.e. do their best to sell every item for the best possible price having researched and identified it, catalogued it professionally and promoted then displayed it to its best advantage for sale.
A good Valuer may also suggest an alternative method of sale. For example, if the cost of removal to the Saleroom of a low value item outweighs the likely proceeds, it may be better to sell it privately – or donate it to a local charity.
Anyone wishing to send items for sale should discuss everything they have considered but not necessarily shown. For example, an item that seems to them to be of little consequence could be of considerable interest at auction. This happened when a lady came into Biddle & Webb’s South Warwickshire Valuation Centre and, reluctantly, produced a vase from a plastic bag little expecting interest let alone a few hundred pounds. What turned out to be a Japanese porcelain Koro jar by Makuzu Kozan fetched a life changing £10,000.
From Steven B Bruce
Japanese porcelain Koro jar by Makuzu Kozan