The best is yet to come? Last cliché of the day, with any luck.
Do you go to auction sales? Whether as a buyer or a seller, they are very exciting. Even as a spectator you can feel the thrill and the tension. I should think that there is something of the same excitement as a gambler feels, except that at the end you have something to show for it.
I don't want to put in our website address as I don't want to tell everyone who visits it via Google about this blog. A girl has some modesty. Not much of course, but I prefer to remain a closet exhibitionist. So, if I tell you L*w*st*ftch*n*a dot co dot uk, I expect you can work out the rest and so, if you choose to, you can look us up. If you can't, email me and I'll tell you.
The sale started with a few books - there have not been many books written specifically about L/ft china, and they are all out of print, so there is a keen second-hand market for them. Then we went on to teapot lids. Yes, just the lids. So besotted are collectors that they are willing to buy the cover in the hope that, one day, they might find a matching pot.
I won't run through it all. I'll be writing a report for the website within a few days which will say a good deal more. It was a fantastic sale though. The Sage said that, busy as he was, it was one of the easiest sales he had ever had. Arms waving all over the room. Sometimes four or five bidders vying with each other at the same time. They were not always easy to spot as the room was so full. There's always something that goes bananas and this time it was a little vase. Only four inches high and in perfect condition, it was pretty and quite uncommon - certainly, it's rare to find an undamaged one. But this, estimated at £400-£600, rocketed up to £1,450 - plus the buyer's premium of 10%. The bargain of the sale, in my opinion (because I liked it), was a nice barrel-shaped teapot - Lot 36 if you look it up. There was a big chip off the spout and a crack which didn't really matter and it made £484 in total. Spend £50 on restoring the spout and it'd easily fetch £800.
You don't have to spend a lot, if you don't mind some damage and you want a hand-made, hand-painted item, well over 200 years old. A couple of pieces went for £55 each and another for just over £70. A teabowl and saucer in fine condition can be bought for around £400, which was the price of Al and Dilly's new washing machine. It might not be so useful, but instead of throwing it away in ten years time, you will be able to sell it at a good profit, and have had considerable pleasure from it in the meantime - which is the point of buying it. People who invest without pleasure for the beauty of the item miss a lot. I don't think there are many of those however, it's not that sort of china.
The thing is with much of this china is that it is accessible. It is not necessarily for the rich. I know lots of people who just have one or two pieces, because L/ft is their birthplace or their home town and it is a bit of their heritage. There are splendid pieces, many of them in museums, but it is a homely, domestic sort of china and was mostly made for use - which is why much of it is damaged.
However, some pieces were made to be decorative, commemorative and to be displayed proudly and handed down the family. And this is what happened to our prize lot, that was briefly left behind on the kitchen table. It is a small disc of china, carefully painted in underglaze blue. On one side it has a painting of a Chinese house and walled garden. On the other is a name, Th0s (short for Thomas) Anders0n and his birthdate, September 13th 1790. It is only 3 inches in diameter and is in perfect condition. These little commemorative b1rth pl@ques, which have one or two small holes to thread a ribbon through to hang on the wall, were unique to L/ft. There are, probably, around 25 of them still in existence, but I don't know of one that has been sold at auction in some time and we have never been able to offer one before.
We estimated it, rather conservatively we knew, at £8,000 to 10,000. I had a bidder on the telephone and there were several potential buyers in the room. One person, who did not want to be seen to be bidding, had arranged a code with the Sage. The bidding started at £7,000 - the Sage does not waste time by starting boringly low - and quickly rose. My bidder held back until £12,000 and then told me to bid. I waved my card. I was outbid. He told me to bid again, but there were two bidders in the room, and his bid had to be £12,600. £12,800, £13,000. The discreet bidder stopped, but there was still another buyer in the room. "The bidding's at £13,500, do you want to put in another bid?" "One more." One more was enough. Everyone applauded. I congratulated him, said goodbye and put the phone down. The end of the sale and a queue of people waving cash and chequebooks was forming. Ro printed off all the invoices and I got to work.
The man who had remarked on the friendly atmosphere had bought a piece. He looked at us. "Is this an entire family business, then?" he asked. Well yes it is, really, us and our three children, the Sage's cousin C, Dilly and Pugsley...... during the sale, Pugsley squeaked and Dilly hastily wheeled him out to be fed. "Ah, sorry about that," said the Sage. "My grandson just woke up."