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Tony Pratt, managing director, The Canterbury Auction Galleries


Tony Pratt of Canterbury Auction Galleries: 'position good lots at start and finish'.

“Auctions are theatre and that is what you have to think about when you plan the sale.

I hold two-day sales and always like to start with something decent and finish with something good too.

I think, particularly for a mixed auction, it is positive to start with something good to get people to come to the auction at the beginning. It sets the pace for the rest of the sale.

You also need to maintain interest in the auction. Ideally you could have a few good pieces that you would spread through the sale and start and finish on something very good.

You are trying to get people into the room, set a pace and keep them interested until the finale. We do sections such as jewellery and silver first, then pictures, then furniture, but within these sections I also plan good things to start and finish.”

“You are trying to get people into the room, set a pace and keep them interested until the finale


Paul Viney, chairman, Woolley & Wallis


Paul Viney, Woolley & Wallis: 'always end your sale with a high-flier'.

“The psychology of the positioning of lots in a catalogue and the difference it can make to the hammer price should not be underestimated. After 45 years as an auctioneer, I offer a few modest observations.

Begin with a lot you anticipate will do well, as it can set the tone for the rest of the sale.

If lot 1 takes off, then potential buyers may think it’s going to be a buoyant sale and adjust their limits accordingly. After that, it’s sensible to have some of the better lots spread throughout the sale to sustain the interest.

Ending the sale with a high-flier is usually a good idea. It keeps people in the room and, with internet and phone bidding, salerooms need all the people they can get these days. It increases the sense of anticipation and hopefully builds up to an exciting finale.

Lastly, not to be underestimated is the contribution a skilled auctioneer can make to the results.

Most of us think we do a reasonable job and would like to feel that we contribute perhaps 5-10% more to the overall sale total than a poor auctioneer.

There are great auctioneers who can add a further 10-20% to the sale total, but these are rare beasts.

I have only come across two or possibly three, in half a century of attending auctions.”