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“Our first sale was in May that year, which was largely just outdoor statuary, since which time we have built a 5000sq ft gallery [in 2012], as well as a warehouse,” says SPA director James Rylands.

Just as Sworders is holding a 10th anniversary auction to mark its ‘straw saleroom’ being opened, SPA has decided to make its June 12 Home & Garden sale in Billingshurst, West Sussex, a landmark occasion. SPA grew as an independent auction house out of the Sotheby’s Country House saleroom at Summers Place. So what is the business model, 10 years on?

“Our USP is that we have the space to display large pieces and since we only have four sales a year, the lots don’t have to be shipped into the gallery and then out again the following week,” adds Rylands. “We don’t know of another saleroom gallery where you can view a family of Ice Age mammoth skeletons next to a 25ft long 1970s Soviet rocket…”

Tribal concentration

June 12 will also include a big tribal art selection – a market that SPA has been targeting recently.

“We’ve sold tribal art for the last couple of years, but this June we are offering an impressive collection of over 100 lots,” says Rylands.

He adds that ‘quirky and unusual’ is an SPA speciality. “We continue to expand our ‘toys for boys’ offerings… these could be anything from vintage football tables to ejector seats.”

The ‘Expect the Unexpected’ section intro on its website “is really what our buyers love about our sales – they never know what’s going to pop up in the next one”.

More than 50% of SPA’s buyers are from overseas, adds Rylands, and about 95% are private rather than trade. He is happy to admit that “no one needs most of the material we offer, but they certainly want it.”

(Also see longer Albert Pierrepoint archive preview)