My Blog will consist of an entry from Rags or Riches and a new one from today’s events weekly.
Ecstatic after the first ten-pound trade
Early October 1983, London
Unsuspecting of my venture and future adventures in art I settled in London and soon enough adjusted to new routines and a new life. I secured a supply teacher’s job and an evening job as an English teacher. Having plenty of time on my hands I accompanied my friend to the couple of auctions he knew. Those were eye-opening experiences that ultimately affected and shaped the rest of my life. Those early auctions widened my horizons and opened my eyes. From then on my mind was on auctions and the opportunities they offered. Somehow, even in those early days, I knew that one day I would be able to play a part in the auction business.
It did not take years to happen, it took only a few weeks. I was anxious to test the waters and jump in at the deep end in spite of being inexperienced and penniless. If you have not bought anything in order to resell for profit, you might find it difficult to understand the euphoric feelings I had with my first investment and success! Success? What success? An investment of ten pounds turned into…
This is not a joke. It was indeed my first purchase as a dealer of all items, a jack-of-all-trades. It was the first buy of a mega-ignoramus who dived into the auction/art business to make money without much thinking and without a plan. Far more importantly, without any knowledge about auctions, antiques or art! Had I been wiser, I would have read a little about the business. Where though? I still have no idea. There was nobody willing to share the knowledge.
I spotted the pair of electroplated candelabra in a local charity shop. The price was ten pounds, which I gladly paid, thinking that I would make a fortune on reselling at auction. I wasted no time entering them for sale in a small local auction house that my friend had shown me. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, even though just round the corner in North Finchley, London.
The auctioneer suggested a ten pounds estimate and reserve, which I was happy to accept, hoping for better than that. I had no idea whether that was a fair estimate or a very low one. I was in the hands of the auction owner who was much more knowledgeable than myself.
Happy days! First sale at auction! Living memory! How can I forget? It was the first time I had sold anything at auction or indeed sold anything for profit. Naturally, I was worried and very fidgety. That auction room was good in those days. Many people frequented it and there was a lot of bidding from the floor on nearly everything.
I stood dazed and frozen at the back of the auction following the events and contemplating my riches to come. I was honestly expecting a huge return and a major push into the new adventure I was entering. The loud clear voice of the auctioneer boomed, “Ten pounds, eleven, twelve, thirteen pounds and fourteen,” and sped like an express train, “fourteen and fourteen, sold at fourteen pounds!” The gavel thundered down and I was speechless!
Done! Amazing! All over so quickly! Increments of pounds and in that order! Yes, fourteen pounds it made. I was back to earth, but nevertheless ecstatic and so happy! I was like a child getting his first Christmas present. I collected twelve pounds three days after the sale and it felt great. I had made two pounds net profit! Happy and proud of myself after that first venture into buying and selling antiques, I kept preparing for more of the same. For a beginner, a two pounds’ profit was immense, and more than that, it was 20% profit within two weeks. Watching the bidding climb by a pound each time was such a joy. It was sheer bliss, but so short! I wanted it to last much longer.
Memories are sweet, the experience well rooted. A profit of two pounds gave me confidence for the next purchases and sales. I was to discover later that buying and selling had to do with confidence and belief in what you invested. Time and experience made me more confident, more daring and thus the game became more exciting, more exhilarating and simultaneously more emotionally and financially demanding and riskier!
Looking back I admit that perhaps my petrol to and from that auction cost more than two pounds. Did I think of that though? Never! I was an apprentice prepared to invest time and money to learn, learn and learn! It was education with a difference! It was education in the real business world with real money and real dangers. I had embarked on a new real life degree, but I was not aware of that at the time. I was in the zone, I was inside the zone and it was instant love for art.
My time, my expenses and investments in tools of the trade such as one-pound catalogues and the Antiques Gazette put me in negative territory very quickly. I could not see that though as I was gradually getting deeper into the auction world, learning things, but paying dearly at the same time. It did not matter to me as I was enjoying that new world I had accidentally discovered and consciously chose to follow and make part of my life. I never regretted the few pounds investment in 1983, even though it was a serious sum of money to spend week in week out.