I am the president of the Staffordshire Figure Association, which is a global association of those interested in Staffordshire figures; I am also a Staffordshire figure collector and latterly, in retirement, a dealer in Staffordshire figures under the name RTS Antiques.
I appreciate that my fellow Staffordshire enthusiasts and I are something of a rare breed these days as Staffordshire is not as popular as it used to be… but like everything it will come back.
Lack of thought
I address the question of lotting at auction sales. Two sales I looked at earlier this month were typical. I simply use them as examples as other salerooms are culprits too.
First is the lack of thought when lotting and in particular not recognising obvious pairs!
At the first sale, I had to buy four separate lots to acquire two pairs of figures. I suppose the auction house might argue that assists them (the auction house) in getting away less desirable figures… but actually all it does is irritate the precious buyer.
The second is the current preponderance of lotting huge numbers of figures together – sometimes 10 or more and, in the case of the other auction, rather more than that number in some lots AND putting figures making desirable pairs in different lots.
To acquire two pairs of figures I might like to buy in this auction I should have to buy 50 or more figures. These would have to be collected from a distance, due to the location of the saleroom.
Alternatively, the buyer has to be prepared to pay somewhat more than the lots have cost and the value of the figures one wants in order to have all the lotted figures professionally packed and shipped.
I was in the US last week visiting a prominent US collector who will simply not bid for figures she would like in UK auctions that are part of large lots. The cost of shipping of the additional figures with those she wants makes the exercise prohibitively expensive.
I appreciate that one can buy the large number of figures, cherry pick those you want and re-enter the remainder in the next sale. Who benefits there? The auction house, me as the purchaser or the original vendor? Certainly not the latter!
My fellow collectors and I would welcome the return of the occasional specialist sales as used to be the case and undertaken by Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Woolley & Wallis. I suspect they would all say that market forces coupled with the internet now make such sales unprofitable.
And so, if we therefore have to continue with the status quo, can auction houses please exercise their knowledge and care to better serve both their vendors and their purchasers?