Broken watch.jpg
The risk of damage to objects at saleroom viewings is feared by auction houses. Image: A broken watch. Credit: col_adamson.

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There is always the risk of damage to lots viewed by probably hundreds of people, some of them quite careless, as there is to items in fairs, shops and centres.

Our own shelves have various pieces broken in transit, stuck together but no longer saleable.

I once witnessed, at an outside stand at one of the London markets, an episode when a tall glass-fronted cabinet full of breakable objects blew over onto a table covered with china on the next-door stand.

Another happened at a fair in France when a forklift truck driver who appeared to have overdone the morning brandy came through with his lift up, hit the crossbar connecting two stands and completely demolished them both.

My favourite story was when I was collecting from one of the major London rooms. On top of a twin-pillar dining table there was a 50-piece dining service and above this was hanging a chandelier.

The buyer of the chandelier appeared and asked the porter to get it down. To my horror the porter got a chair, climbed onto the table and unhooked the chandelier. At that moment the inevitable happened: the table gave way and everything including the porter collapsed in a heap of debris.

So I quite understand why the vendor did not want his watch handled by dozens of people.

Michael Todd

Cherrie & Michael Todd Antiques Taunton, Somerset