A novice at the auction

Last wednesday was my first foray into the world of auctions. DJ Manning in Bo’ness was to be my initiation. So with my closely perused and annotated catalogue, snack supplies and a bundle of anticipation, i set off in search of a bargain. I arrived an hour before the sale for the viewing. After a heady 1/2hr of vintage and antique everything, i began to realise that it was going to be a long day….my specific items of interest were spread across the 1000 lots, and thus the 11-4pm sale time. Not having any idea of an approximate price tag in order to leave a bid and depart, that meant sticking it out until the bitter end. I consoled myself by thinking that this would equip me more readily for ‘next time’, in which i would feel more confident bypassing the actual auction.

Surrounded by old men with wads of cash sticking out of grubby back pockets, i settled myself into a corner and attempted to look inconspicuous. Clearly i was not doing a very good job, as i found myself having unsuspectingly bid £30 upon an utterly horrible armchair whilst swiping my hair. Evidently, swiping one’s hair is indicative of a bid. By divine intervention, someone with no taste continued to bid further. My heart racing, i prepared to bid on something i actually wanted – an oak arts and crafts set of shelves. But they eluded me. Then, so did a cheval mirror, 2 towel rails, a fireside chair, 2 footstools, both oak kists and 2 beautiful lamps. Despair was looming. Nor was it dissipated by winning a rather random oversized beaded foot stool for £20 – i admit it, it was an impulse purchase, a consolation. Then again, everything at an auction is an impulse purchase, given that you have about 1 second to decide on your readiness to spend. This certainly goes against all my furniture/home-wares buying principles. (Which are, if you are interested, look carefully for unworkable flaws, consider the actual value, envisage its purpose and home, deliberate on it for a while, maybe even phone a friend. Above all, be selective.)

As the day wore on, i soon realised that having your sights set on a particular item is not the way to go. Despite coming away with a reasonably satisfying haul (see below), as i drove home i started to think about the things i let slip, having focused too much on the key items none of which i won anyway. However, i must say i am thoroughly delighted with my British Rail Notices framed poster. Catches the eye in the porch.

So, what are my auction conclusions? Firstly, its not for the fainthearted! Its a long day, and you spend most of it on tenderhooks. Each lot tends to be quite large, so you often end up with a few choice items mixed in with other rubbish (eg wicker baskets with a 1970’s cooler), which will invariably go straight to the charity shop. On the positive, i saw stunning pieces of furniture going for nothing – antique mahogany or oak drawers and wardrobes selling for around £35. Those buying furniture were definitely onto a winner.

In summary, a time-consuming way to pick up a potential one-off piece for a fraction of its value. If your lucky…

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