LUCK WAS WITH ME BUT HARD WORK PAID OFF TOO!!
No holiday but what a reward for that? The House sale proved to be the treasure house anyone looks for but to no avail. it was a great reward for tall the hard work and bad luck of earlier sales.
(Greek, [1873- 1937] Well-reputed sculptor of the first half of the twentieth century and professor of Art at Athens School of Art. His work is very rare and therefore valuable. Auction price range £10,000 plus)i
The sculptures were estimated at £300-400 each and I knew that only a miracle would allow me to buy just one; the quality was just too high, too obviously good. The first one came up for sale and just managed to reach the reserve of £300. Who was the lucky buyer? Me! Am I going to buy another one? Patience, neophyte! Patience! One after the other all four sculptures, unbelievably, were knocked down to me at an average price of about £400 each including the auction’s commissions.
The miracle I had dreamed about, the hat trick I had hoped for became reality near the scene of my first baptism into the auction business in 1983. I felt lost, hopelessly dizzy and euphoric at the same time. Does that make sense?
Surely the sculptures were worth more than four hundred pounds each! How much more I did not know and did not want to know. They were worth every penny face value. Nothing more entered my thoughts. It was impossible to think more about such a purchase of seven fabulous items in just one sale. My mind refused to function normally. I lost control of reality for a while, in no man’s land mentally. I was lost in bliss! Was it reality or a dream? Pinch yourself man! Wake up! Breathe! Breathe the fresh, sweet air of Sussex and the more oxygenating air of auction with its promises and miraculous hopes.
I had to wait for some time to come to my senses and absorb what had happened. It was a wait to the end of the sale to collect my purchases, but I could wait days and nights in order to collect such art. I was overcome with such emotions of gratitude to my lucky stars and powers of the universe that I was screaming with joy and hoping of profits, immense profits. It was mid-afternoon by the time I carried those gems to my car. By then the auctioneers were also leaving the premises, having finished their business. They looked happy with the day’s sale.
“Good afternoon,” greeted one of them. That was the same gentleman who, three years earlier, had remarked to me and my friend, “I hope you knew what you bought chaps.” I still remembered his comment so it was pay back day today. “Very nice items you bought, Peter,” he added.
“Yes, they are good, aren’t they?”
“I can’t believe they did not sell more than they did,” he stated matter of factly.
I looked up while I was sorting out the car. I had the question ready for a couple of years now. This was my chance to level the score with this all rounder and good friend since that day in 1983.
“Do you remember what you told me three years ago in October 1983?”
“No? What did I tell you? Come on, tell me.”
I did not want to boast. I did not want to look cocky and vindictive. However this was my chance to get all that negative feeling off my chest.
“Three years ago you told me and my friend, “I hope you knew what you bought, chaps!”
“Did I really say that?”
“Yes, you did, in good heart of course, but you obviously don’t remember the occasion.”
“No, no, I don’t remember.”
“Today, I am telling you, “You wish you knew what you sold to me!”
“Yes, I know,” he said trying to justify himself, “these are very good quality items and I am very surprised they did not sell for more.”
I was not an ignoramus any more, even though I could not claim I was an expert either. However, compared to the country auctioneers, my knowledge was far superior even though I knew I was still well behind the really good traders in town. Could I catch up with them and surpass them? Could I make it up the ladder of art investment? That was the challenge!
The trip to Sussex was over. The target was hit dead centre, but how fruitful would this hit be? Any art is worth as much as it sells, we say in the art trade. Was I a better trader in 1986 or was I a very, very lucky person.
No hat trick, at Sothebys, but 500% profit could not be sneered at
October 1986, Sotheby’s London Sale
(Greek, [1857-1939], a superb watercolourist, who painted Corfu, Athens, Venice and Spain. His work can be seen in the most important Greek collections and museums. Auction price range £1000-20,000)
The account was empty after the seven purchases. The stock was plenty and rather valuable in my view, but the fact staring me in the eyes was stark and serious; you are penniless and you owe a large sum of money. How could I manage that situation under the circumstances of 1986? No major income from anywhere, no sales in the summer and a young family to support. I could have managed my finances a little better, couldn’t I?
All three Giallinas’ works were consigned with Sotheby’s for their Topograpical sale of October 1986. I was desperate for cash in order to survive, let alone invest in anything else. Rich in assets but penniless!
That sale was very patchy and long. I stood in the corner of the St George’s saleroom and counted the people present. Just twelve present but a few Greek faces. I was not so confident any more. I crossed my fingers and reminded myself that Giallinas is a top name for Greek collectors. It only needs one or two to make a good sale, I reassured myself. My fears were unfounded as the successful bidder, a cool, composed and no nonsense investor bought both sold items to make my day one of the most memorable. The Corfu View sold at £4000 and the Venetian Scene at £3800. The Scene of Farmer with Oxen remained unsold but was bought immediately for £2000 by a friend of mine. So much money in October 1986 was mind blowing. What about the statues and the rest of the sales? Would I be a millionaire overnight? Dreamer!!
With the total investment on all seven purchases back in the account plus profit from those sales, I breathed comfortably and patiently waited to sell the Thomopoulos statues. No need to hurry, no pressing money matters. A couple of doors I knocked at were very interested. Name your price was the quote. By the end of October 1986 and at a considerable profit, (500% profit), I sold the four marble sculptures to a very good collector. With my finances in great order, my attention was already turned to New York and the sale of Montezin and Hofmann.
I was an innocent amateur in 1983. It was obvious for the knowledgeable to see and I was aware of it myself. I was feverishly working to close the gaps and build new blocks of knowledge, but the art business is complex learned gradually through experiences and the process of trial and error over time. With plenty of energy and with good luck, by 1986 I was more than capable of turning a penny into a few pounds. Three years was long enough to acquire basic knowledge. I was on my way, but was it really all roses in my path?