Working with rare pieces of art, antiques and collectables is a dream job for many, but for those who work at Wright Marshall auctioneers, it’s a reality. Johanna Bolhoven went to meet Rachel Houston-Holland, regional head of fine art, at their Knutsford salesroom.
Wright Marshall is one of the leading auction houses serving Cheshire, Derbyshire, South Lancashire, North Wales, Shropshire, Isle of Man and Yorkshire.
Auctions take place in its Knutsford and Beeston salerooms, with both general sales and sales of speciality items of interest to collectors such as fine, rare and unique wines and spirits; designer fashion, handbags, jewellery and 20th century design and art.
From tracking down hard-to-find or rare pieces for customers, cataloguing items for an auction to being the auctioneer in charge of the sales room, Rachel’s job is never boring: “I love that each day is different, and you never know what you’re going to see next. It’s exciting when a delivery arrives at the salesroom as these often unveil the most wonderful items.
Nothing beats the drama of a live auction with people fiercely bidding before the hammer slams down at a record price.”
With 600-800 lots per auction, who could blame anyone for wanting to work in this world of seemingly non-stop glamour?
“Our specialist sales are renowned for their quality and range, attracting buyers from across the world via online bidding.”
Although auctions may appear daunting, bidding is simple and straightforward, and can be done in a number of ways.
In person – you register, provide photographic ID and give your name, address, contact telephone numbers and date of birth (for anti-money laundering checks) and a utility bill with your address. You’ll be given a unique bidding number and you can bid by either raising your catalogue or bidding number.
Someone else can bid on your behalf. Complete one of the salesrooms commission bid forms available from reception, and hand or email it to the team prior to the sale.
You can bid by phone by registering at least 24 hours before the auction. Someone will call you before the item you wish to bid on comes up for sale.
The next best thing to being in the auction room is the live online bidding experience. You can bid from anywhere in the world.
Lots appear on screen just as they appear in the auction room and the auctioneer is aware of your bids as soon as you make them. A live audio feed adds to the excitement. To bid online you need to register with one of their providers www.thesaleroom.com, www.invaluable.com or www.ukauctioneers.com.
Even Minnie the dog gets in on the act and provides a relaxing welcome when you first arrive. [dog image]
“Our auctioneers are very experienced and engage with bidders, so you don’t need to worry about buying an item with an accidental nod or cough.
Bidders come from all walks of life. I think anyone setting up home should
check out local auctions. You can pick up some fabulous furniture, paintings and works of art at very affordable prices.”Minnie is there to greet you upon arrival
The Knutsford salesroom is based in Marshall House – the former Egerton Primary School – an atmospheric listed building, and their home since April 1977.
I felt I was stepping into a wonderful museum. Before you is…. everything….on shelves; hanging from the ceiling, on walls and the floor. My hand clutched my heart at the wonderful collection of antiques, works of art, fine jewellery, clocks, wines, books and vinyl’s (my music-obsessed partner would be in his element), laid out as far as the eye can see.
The nine-strong team were busy cataloguing items, so I got to see the experts in action.
Each is an experienced general valuer specialising in a different area, from rock & pop vinyl memorabilia to militaria, coins and books.
Each salesroom has a slightly different focus.
Knutsford has a general collectable sale every two weeks; a bi-monthly fine arts sale and a boutique sale three times a year.
Beeston has a sale 12 times a year, on the second Saturday of each month.
Their expert valuation team will provide you with a free appraisal of your items at ‘valuation days’ in Knutsford, every Friday, and at Beeston, every Monday (9am-12pm-1pm-4pm).
Call either saleroom to arrange a free home visit by one of their expert valuers.
Valuation website ‘Value My Stuff’ suggests the ten most valuable collectables likely to be found in our attics.
I asked Rachel if there was anything that people overlook when considering what’s worth saving. She said: “The contemporary furniture market is often overlooked and brands such as Ercol, which has been making classic timeless pieces of furniture since 1920, and which are now worth more, but it’s more typical that people throw this type of furniture away.”
Arriving nice and early allows you to spend time looking around before the sale starts. There is also a viewing day 3-days prior to each sale.
When asked what it takes to develop a career in this industry, Rachel said: “There are many routes open to you, from taking degree or diploma courses in fine and/or applied arts, to working as an antique dealer’s assistant or saleroom porter.
Although you don’t need to have a specific qualification, having strong knowledge in the field is helpful, and a passion for antiques is essential.”
Rachel joined Wright Marshall in August 2013 as senior valuer, Asian art specialist and auctioneer having worked previously for Bonhams.
Before this she completed an undergraduate degree and a postgraduate master’s degree and was working as a painting conservator.
“In this job you can never know everything. Fashions change, and what was collectable ten years ago has either dropped in value or cannot be collected anymore, and new trends evolve all the time.
A few years ago, the ‘Downton Abbey’ effect saw an increase in demand for period furniture. Now the toy market is particularly popular.
We keep up-to-date with trends and prices as much as we can, and we spend a lot of time researching.”
With my visit to the ultimate treasure trove almost complete, I took one last look at the tantalising array of objects and made a mental note to come back.
You can find details of all future sales at www.wrightmarshall.co.uk/fine-art/general-auctions-and-interior-sales/