Irita Marriott of Irita Marriott Auctioneers.

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A dream scenario for many auctioneers is an amazing find, brought in to the saleroom on the off chance by a curious local. Or a house clearance commission that yields infinite treasures.

But most auction houses have to work at gaining significant consignments. It is either built through establishing a reputation for being a very successful auction house or through valuation days to attract potential consignors.


This globe c.1560 sold for £116,000 at Hansons in Bishton Hall, Staffordshire, on December 16, 2022. It had been brought to a valuation day along with a range of other items. It sold to a private buyer in New York bidding online against another US bidder on the phone. See ATG no 2524.

Hosting valuation days is easier said than done, however. There is the venue to consider, the format, location and frequency.

One auctioneer speaking off the record said: “It is about finding the right place; some locations seem affluent but in fact these places are not always the best source. People might come for a day out and get an item valued but don’t actually want to sell.”

And other auctioneers have warned that although a grand venue can sometimes attract ‘day-trippers’ the quality of consignments is less impressive.

One thing many auctioneers agree on is the competitive nature of finding consignments. Many auction houses like to keep their plans quiet for fear of rivals coming onto their patch.


BBC antiques specialist and valuer Kate Bliss at a valuation event for Leighton Hall Auctions.

Familiar faces

Having a ‘TV star’ can be a big draw for regional auction houses.

Lee Young, managing director and head of Asian art at Frome firm Dore & Rees, has a host of familiar faces to call on. Among the firm’s consultants are Susan Rumfitt (jewellery), Mark Allum (collectables) and Duncan Campbell (silver), alongside Young himself (Asian art), who are all specialists on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow.

He says: “Being a recognisable ‘brand’ I am sure does help. People are more likely to come and visit as you are familiar to them as we are ‘in their front rooms’ as it were.

“I think people feel more at ease and it breaks the ice. Many people can be nervous about antiques and getting it wrong so seeing a ‘friendly face’ does bring people in.”

Dore & Rees has held a couple of valuation days in London as well as regular valuation days in Harrogate with Rumfitt who is based in the Yorkshire town.

The Somerset firm has also held events in Hong Kong with Asian partner firm Argent.

Young adds: “A lot of auctioneers will agree that if a valuation day is tied around an exhibition or an event such as a charity angle, that is an ice-breaker and they can really work.”

Hansons Auctioneers is among the most prolific holder of valuation days with events averaging 20 a month across 11 areas of the country from Devon to Yorkshire. Among its latest recruits is a tie-up with Eric Knowles as a consultant hosting some events.

Telly savvy

TV fame also has benefits for relative novices. Irita Marriott launched her auction house, Irita Marriott Auctioneers, in Melbourne, Derbyshire, late last year and held her first sale in January 2024.

She does have more than a decade of experience as an antiques dealer and is a regular on TV with has BBC’s Antiques Road Trip, Celebrity Antiques Road Trip and Bargain Hunt. She has also just been filming for her own show planned for broadcast on Really later this year, following in the footsteps of Angus Ashworth whose Ryedale Auctioneers firm is the star of TV series The Yorkshire Auction House.

Marriott’s saleroom will be branded in the show as The Derbyshire Auction House and this has also boosted visits to valuation days for the firm.


A valuation day at Irita Marriott Auctioneers.

Attracting visitors (with consignments) to valuation days remains a tricky art form.

Marriott says: “The auction house environment can be intimidating to people who don’t know this world. They feel they need to have something worthy to bring and can feel pressured. But in a more neutral environment they can relax.”

Many of the firm’s valuation days are held just a three-minute walk from the saleroom and others are just a 10-15 minute drive.

She adds: “It really is feeling more comfortable in a different environment.”

Being on TV is also an attraction for potential consignors.

Marriott adds: “Everyone says ‘ah we saw you on telly’. It brings in people. People instantly relate to you and feel like they know you as they have watched me on telly. They don’t feel uncomfortable. They don’t worry about small talk as they can talk about what they saw me on and then they feel relaxed.

“People are really excited about valuation events. It gives them a reason to come and visit and they feel more open minded rather than coming into an auction house on spec. They think, oh we can visit that person from the telly and take whatever they have without feeling intimidated. It is a much more pleasant for them than the pressure of an auction house environment.”

Marriott holds valuation days in Kent which have done well and is planning one in Preston and in other locations alongside her local events.


A couple moved into a family house and found something left at the back of wardrobe. They took it to a valuation day in Kent held by Catherine Southon just to find out a date for the item. It turned out to be an Atlas Royal of c.1733 which then sold for £24,000 on February 8, 2023. See ATG No 2581.

Spread the word

Young auctioneer Toby Hall runs Leighton Hall Auctions in Staffordshire and has recently launched a valuation event with antiques TV star and valuer Kate Bliss.

Hall says: “I do feel as though a celebrity valuer, as brilliant and kind as Kate, did attract new consignors to the auction especially for us as a fairly new auction house as we are only a few years old.

“We also hold valuation days around the Midlands which helps spreads the word, mainly because we are a new company which is ever seeking to grow our customer base and awareness.”


Shown to associate director Matthew Lafite at a local valuation day, this 18ct vari-coloured gold box by Cartier sold for £8000 at Kinghams’ Silver & Objects of Vertu sale in Moreton-in-Marsh on March 22, 2024.

For Paul Martin, attracting the crowds has been part of his day job on and off screen for many years. For 17 years he fronted BBC show Flog It! and is now working as head of valuations at Henry Aldridge & Son of Devizes (alongside running his own gallery in nearby Corsham).

Henry Aldridge & Son managing director Andrew Aldridge said: “The general public love Paul, he is very popular. We have started with two valuation days a week in Wiltshire and will branch out to Somerset and Dorset. We have started ticketing events and had to re-book one as it was so popular.

“We also did one for charity and have pledged to give the seller’s commission to Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance.”

Martin adds: “Creating valuation days is why I am here at Henry Aldridge. I have visited all the old Flog It! venues to talk to curators and owners about hosting valuation days. Doors have opened up for me. But it is important not to tread on other auction rooms’ toes and pick areas not already covered by others.

“The venues must be desirable, have facilities, a café and free parking. It is a day out for the visitors. It is important to make them feel welcome.”

Martin says between 50-90 people attend and queues can be for three hours because it is just him hosting.

“Usually you end up taking in about half of the items that are brought but there are also follow-up house calls that lead to consignments and it is great publicity. The venues being free to visit is important.”

He adds that it is also key to get local groups involved, from the Women’s Institute to local Facebook groups.

The new valuation days are paying off for the auction house. Known for its Titanic memorabilia, Henry Aldridge & Son had never held a two-day sale of art, antiques and jewellery.

But following consignments it has more than 850 lots for a sale so is extending to two days.


This rare Waverley typewriter came to Exeter auction house Bearnes Hampton Littlewood via an online valuation and was subsequently brought to a valuation day. Estimated at £6000-8000, it sold for £23,000 at a sale held last year on November 21-22. See ATG No 2620.

Away days

Simon Watson of Lyme Bay Auctions in Seaton, Devon, agrees that a venue away from the auction house, even if very close geographically, attracts people.

Watson says: “Many customers appear to be far more comfortable coming to their local village hall for a valuation, even when the hall is less than half a mile from the auction house itself.

“This may be the influence of popular auction TV shows where customers come to a familiar environment to learn about the history and value of their items … and in turn then feel comfortable consigning them to auction.”

Valuation days are hard work, but for many the hard work pays off.