Home Accessories at Auction: Interview With an Auctioneer
Elizabeth Talbot is a Norfolk-based valuer, cataloguer and auctioneer. After three years spent running an auctions department for a firm in Lincoln, she married and moved to East Anglia in 1995 to take up the position of auctioneer and valuer at the Diss auction rooms of TW Gaze & Son. She was made the firm’s first female partner in 2000. Elizabeth has worked with the media on many occasions over the last two decades. She has featured in several well-known television series, including Flog It! Bargain Hunt and Cash in the Attic as a resident on-screen expert.
Q: What has been important to your success as an auctioneer?
A: Having a sound general knowledge: knowing as much as I can about as many aspects as possible has opened many doors and provided me with some exciting opportunities with clients, businesses and the media. You could also say that being female but with a voice and presence has been a personal specialism of huge value within a (still) very male-dominated business.
Q: What are your specialist areas within the auction business?
A: I have my own strengths and weaknesses, such as paintings, and preferences (Arts and Crafts), as well as dislikes. I also have huge self-knowledge so know when and to whom to defer. I have a flair for the economies of the wider market and an instinctive ability to appreciate the humanity that is an inseparable aspect of every aspect of the business. The specialist areas of TW Gaze within the auction business are architectural salvage and garden statuary, rural and domestic bygones, and modern design - in all of which we have an international following.
Q: What sorts of home accessories and furnishings are typically sold through your auctions?
A: You name it, we sell it - provided it is legal to do so. We have separate sale rooms dedicated to antiques, furniture for restoration, new and nearly new and ex shop-stock and outsides effects, eg garden effects and shed contents/tools etc. Therefore, on any given week you could furnish every room in your house (with antique, old and new). So for example, for a dining room you could find a dining suite, table linen, dinner service, crystal glasses and canteen of cutlery. For a kitchen - pots, pans, utensils, crockery, (sometimes white goods and cookers), cookery books and spice racks and for a sitting room, you could find a three-piece suite, coffee tables, light fittings, television and audio equipment, a magazine rack, carpets and rugs.
Q: What are the most interesting pieces?
A: That is in the eye of the beholder - one person’s clear-out is another person’s “just what I’ve been looking for.”
Q: What sorts of smaller home accessories can be picked up at auction?
A: Where do I begin? Corkscrews, cushions, footstools, recipe book stands, storage jars, bread bins, money boxes, knives and forks, Christmas decorations, light shades and table lamps, mirrors, curtains, curtain poles and rings - it goes on and on…
Q: Can you think of any particular bargains you have seen recently?
A: There are bargains every week, but sometimes we sell new items for more than they can be bought for on the high street.
Q: What advice would you give to someone before bidding for a home accessory at auction?
A: Expect more fun (and adrenalin) when buying at auction than on the high street. Remember goods at auction do not come with a guarantee, so “buyer beware.” A bidder at auction is entering into a legal contract with the vendor and at the fall of the hammer the item becomes the property of the purchaser. You cannot simply have a change of heart and take the item back.
Buying at auction provides an opportunity to make your home unique. Buy an object because you like it and it gives you pleasure; do not fret whether ages, periods, woods or colours “go together.” It will be an extension of your personality within your furnishing scheme and magically it always works. Do not buy with the sole intention of making a future profit.
An item is only worth what someone is prepared to pay for it on the day. Remember, if two people fall in love with the same object, the price could escalate out of all proportion to its expected value.
Q: How important is it to examine items carefully before buying them?
A: To my mind, absolutely essential. Otherwise, by definition it is a gamble - whatever the value of object. Although all auction rooms provide the facility of selling to long-distance absent bidders these days, I would recommend viewing the item in person before bidding. Inspect, handle, and satisfy yourself about what you are going to bid on. If necessary, ask questions of the auction staff if you need more information.