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Lowestoft Auction Rooms
South Lowestoft Industrial Estate
Suffolk NR33 7NL
Telephone: 01502 531532
Fax: 01502 531241
Sale date: Saturday 3rd March 2007
Sale type: Antique and General Auction
Buyer’s premium 10% plus VAT
“Do you want to explain to people what is supposed to happen at an auction?” the auctioneer quipped to his clerk, when the assembled punters seemed reluctant to raise their hands for some of the early lots. Very sensibly, the clerk decided not to, and as 90% of the buyers were regulars they didn’t really need to be told anyway. They all knew how an auction works and judging by the regular scolding they received from the rostrum – “Let’s keep the chatter down in the corner – otherwise I’ll switch off the heaters!” – they knew the auctioneer’s style pretty well, too. It was new to me, but I liked it. I have always found that a bit of wit tends to oil an auction rather nicely and I quickly warmed to the auctioneer, despite the chill of the day.
A few months ago in the pages of GAN, I suggested that the general sale was in trouble (‘Editor’s Notes’, March 2007). Cheap imports of white goods, electrical items and furniture, combined with a falling interest in brown furniture and traditional antiques mean that many standard items have not been finding buyers or have been selling for ridiculously low prices. This has caused some salerooms to turn away the kinds of bread-and-butter lots that used to be their staple and it has even meant that some rooms have given up general sales altogether. Yet the rude health of Lowestoft Auction Rooms and the evident happiness of both saleroom staff and punters mean that, here at least, the general sale looks set to hold out against the march of time.
Given the very modest prices achieved by most of the lots (I’m pretty sure that the average price was in single figures, while the very highest price of the day was for an old Customs House clock that made £120), I can’t imagine how it pays them to keep running this auction, but it evidently does, and as I have said, it is clearly very popular with the locals. You have to pay £1 for the modest catalogue and a non-returnable £1 for a one-day buyer’s number; so I guess that helps the profit margin, but even so…
The first few lots were standard items of modest domestic furniture and not surprisingly they sold for modest amounts. A gent’s wardrobe sold for £10, a two-drawer wooden desk for £5 and an oak plant stand for £9. The first lot in the sale was a Singer sewing machine with container table. Five pounds was asked but, unsurprisingly, there was no bid.
I think I spotted a bargain in amongst the furniture. This was a squat, art-deco-style circular table with circular stretcher and bowed legs; it looked a little like a barrel that had fallen on hard times and could conceivably have been by a good designer. (Italian art deco, maybe?) It sold for £24. An oak-barley twist table sold for £5, prompting the auctioneer to grumble, “If that was in MDF, I’d get £30 for it!”
One of the bargains of the day was the pair of Queen Anne-style chairs that sold for just £2. I was sitting on one of these at the time and, as soon as the hammer fell, the porter told me that I’d have to move unless the new buyer was happy to let me stay! According to their terms and conditions, as soon as the item sells it instantly becomes the property of the new owner. This is a standard paragraph in most auction catalogues and you will find it in sales up and down the country, but I have never seen it enforced like this! Luckily the buyer indicated, with a wave of his hand, that he was happy to let me remain seated on what was now his property.
“We are starting a new trend!” exclaimed the auctioneer when a nest of two (yes, two) tables came up for sale. Since the usual number is three, two seemed odd (if you see what I mean) and he could only shift them by lumping them in with the next lot, an adjustable bookcase. Combined, they reached the giddy heights of £3, the same amount made by a guitar-shaped CD rack.
Lot 76 was a box full of What’s It Worth? magazines, something that tickled the auctioneer. “Don’t you just love these magazines? First you read them, then you come along here and let us tell you the truth!” he joked. Ironically, they weren’t worth very much themselves and sold for a very modest £2.
Did you know that Royal Doulton have shifted production to China? I didn’t until I saw the box for the miniature figure ‘The Ermine Coat’, which carried a sticker to that effect. In some ways it seems odd that a great British company should be manufacturing overseas, but when you consider that the Chinese invented modern ceramics (which is, after all, why it is known as ‘china’), it is hard to gripe. ‘The Ermine Coat’ sold for £12.
“If you are a robot, this lot will do you proud,” said the auctioneer as a box of what were described as ‘robotic spare parts’ was sold for £2. What was in there? I have no idea: sometimes it is better not to know. I suppose the same could be said of the small box of collectors’ miniature drink bottles. They were full but, as the auctioneer remarked, “with what, we’re not sure!” They sold for £10.
Domestic appliances were often very cheap. A Dyson DC03 vacuum cleaner sold for just £26, prompting the auctioneer to groan: “That is for nothing!” just before the gavel dropped. Mind you, you could have had a Panasonic vacuum for £20 less than that. The Cheritan free-standing electric fire (boxed) made a very healthy £55 – actually one of the highest prices of the day and, even more astonishingly, it sold to a bidder on the phone! Buying an electric fire on the phone? That’s class, that is!
Some more prices:
Large Ertternia solid brass-framed display unit with glass shelves £32
Mahogany-effect glazed display cabinet £5
Large quantity of blue-and-white ceramics (lots of Copeland Italian in there, so good value) £24
Crystal acorn lamp £9
Cutlery box and contents £3
Box of various plated ware, glass, books etc. £30
Pine cottage kitchen table £15 asked, no bid
Early chamber pot with fruit decoration £2
Oak round table £24
Carved wooden artist’s easel £34
Poole ceramic table lamp with shade £4
Large quantity of Johnson Brothers’ Indian Tree china £25
Oval wooden table with 4 decorative carved chairs
Early flip-top tripod table £15
Turned-column shelf unit £30
RNLI lifeboat collection box on stand £22
Crystal bowl and pitcher £32
Mahogany-effect dining table and 6 chairs £26
Pair Queen Anne-style chairs £2
Pine 8-drawer dressing table £5
Quantity of walking sticks £16
Large coffee table £2
Nest of 3 tables £5
Teak-effect TV unit with storage and teak-effect TV/video unit £5
Parker Knoll 3-seater sofa and 1 armchair in dusky pink £150 (bargain)
Gilt-framed oval-bevelled mirror £5
Hexagonal glass-top table with wicker shelf under £26
Mahogany-effect glazed table including chess, backgammon, cards etc. £34
2-tier plant stand £8
Fold-up card table £10
Oak barley-twist gate leg table £5
2 wood-finish 2-over-4 chests of drawers £4
Wood-finish DVD/CD rack £7
1.57m x 1.01m rust handmade woollen Persian Kelim rug £4 (that is cheap!)
2.30m x 1.50m green Persian design Madras carpet £65
1.70m x 1.25m rose Persian design Madras rug £40
2 Chesterfield-style armchairs £15
Small horseshoe-shaped barometer £4
Drop-dial wall clock with HM Customs House written on the face £120
Black Forest postman’s alarm wall clock £36 (no, I have no idea either)
3-foot wooden headboard (unsold)
Early map of Norfolk by Robert Morden, framed and glazed £54
Oriental silk thread picture depicting birds on a branch £22
Early accordion £24 (the early accordion annoys the worm?)
Pool cue £6
4 metal kitchen chairs £3
Large quantity of Catherine Cookson novels £5
Box of videos, including Only Fools and Horses £26
Dark-wood refectory table with 4 chairs and two carvers £42
Willis HMV wind-up gramophone with 78s records and 2 tins of needles £60
Walking stick with silver pommel £40
Quantity of Dinky army vehicles £30
Hornby Thomas the Tank Engine and 2 carriages £11
Triang Davy Crocket locomotive fitted with smoke unit, tender and 6 coaches £24
‘Quick at 340’ fishing reel £9
‘Shimano’ 3500 fishing reel £22
‘Mitchell full runner’ fishing reel £13
‘Shimano 3500 M’ fishing reel £22
‘Bait Runner Shimano 6010’ fishing reel £24
Panasonic vacuum cleaner £6
Dyson DC03 vacuum cleaner £26
White Knight gas-fuelled tumble dryer £5
Set of weighing scales and weights £8
Hotpoint Ultima tumble dryer £32
Dual microwave £6
Hotpoint washing machine £34
Blomburg fridge freezer £8
Large Thermos flask £2
Daewoo No Frost fridge freezer – no bid
Qualcast hedge trimmer £4
Gas lamp £2
Cannon 35mm camera £10
Bush video recorder £10
Computer ink-jet CD printer £3
Carlton Breezy table fan £5
3 tins of Dulux Weather Shield paint £7
GET dehumidifier £11
Amstrad TV £5
Philips TV £5
Ferguson video recorder £5
About Lowestoft Auction Rooms
Easy to get to?
Fairly. Take the A12 into Lowestoft. The Pinbush Industrial Estate is off the roundabout with the A12 and the A1117, also known as the Bloodmoor Road: great name, huh? Go to www.streetmap.co.uk or put the postcode NR33 7NL into your sat nav to make things easier still.
Pretty good parking on site, but it does tend to get a bit clubby at times. Park in restricted areas on pain of death.
Sales are held on Saturday and viewing is on Fridays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. as well as on the morning of the sale.
A list of lots is available for general sales for £1.
Yes! Another sensible auction room with an integral café. Good coffee, sandwiches and all the usual things.
Speed of sale?
Pretty good at approximately 140 lots an hour, but the auctioneer’s badinage helps to keep things rolling along.
A very enjoyable little sale with a fast and amusing auctioneer. Most of the lots were modest enough, but the prices reflected this and there were some bargains if you knew where to look. The general sale is dead: long live the general sale!
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