On June 12, John Still, a private collector from Edinburgh, walked along a deserted Bond Street to arrive at the doors of the Fine Art Society at 6am, just a minute ahead of a second enthusiastic collector.

Enthusiastic buyers, including watercolour dealer Rupert Maas (standing under the gallery sign) gather outside the Fine Art Society for the launch of the Andrew McIntosh Patrick selling exhibition.

They had come for the selling exhibition of the Andrew McIntosh Patrick Collection, and although they had a 12-hour wait ahead of them before the doors opened, Mr Still said the time flew by thanks to the wonderful company.

By 6pm, the queue numbered approximately 60 people, including a number of leading London art dealers.

Mr McIntosh Patrick worked for The Fine Art Society from 1954 until his retirement in 2004, and began collecting with his modest salary soon after he joined as a gallery assistant. Half a century on, he has decided to sell his collection of fine and decorative arts.

He has already dispersed his impressive holding of Christopher Dresser metalwares through the Edinburgh saleroom Lyon and Turnbull in 2005. Now, breaking from the tradition of selling dealer's stock through an auction house, he offered the bulk of his remaining collection at the F.A.S. on a first-come-first-served basis, in an exhibition running until July 5. The show comprised 170 paintings, sculptures and works on paper and 150 pieces of furniture and decorative art reflecting his passion for Scottish painting, the Aesthetic, the Arts and Crafts movement and his love of North Africa, where he now plans to spend much of the year.

Within two hours of the doors opening, over 200 works - two-thirds of the collection - had sold to the tune of £1.6m. One private buyer paid £135,000 for The Morning Paper by Sir James Guthrie, which Mr McIntosh Patrick purchased for £32 in a London auction in 1961.

"The things were all bought for what they looked like, not because of what they were going to be. I never thought of selling them, so I never thought of the value of them," he said.

By Stephanie Harris