Auction Anecdote January 21

Posted On: 11 Jan 2021 by Rita Kearsey

At Smiths Auctions in Newent, we had hoped that our January antiques and collectables auction would prove to be early enough after Christmas to escape the almost inevitable third national lockdown. However of course, this could not have been further from the truth, and the two-day sale on the 7th & 8th January had to be held without any public viewing and behind closed doors. Buyers have however now become used the ‘online only’ buying format and even the lack of viewing seems to be no deterrent to the current frenzy of lockdown buying.


Many readers might be amazed to find that the auction actually proved to be our most successful ever on record, with an overall hammer total just a notch under £90,000. The sale attracted over one thousand three hundred and fifty bidders who registered to bid online and £160,000 worth of autobids – which are commission bids left online before the sale. Many new private buyers have been attracted to trying their hand at online bidding during the pandemic and it’s lovely to see how excited they become after successfully bidding and buying something at their first ever auction.

The first day of the sale included specialist sections for stamps, coins, postcards and books which all sold like wildfire with the highest price paid for a fine Victorian stamp album which included a fantastic selection of some of the world’s earliest postage stamps and made £2,300. The coin and postcards also sold extremely well - with gold coins predictably making the most, due to the recent rise in bullion prices.

On day two of the sale the top price of the day was £2000 paid for a fine diamond solitaire ring whilst a vintage Rolex wristwatch in poor condition made £1,100 and a surprisingly trendy Ercol light elm and beech day bed made £820. However, it was the consistently high prices of all the lots across all sections of the sale which made the whole day feel rather electric and exciting for me. It is always a pleasure selling on the rostrum when the bidding is so dynamic, although after selling from 10am in the morning to 8.30pm in the evening the sensation does tend to fade a little!

My favourite items in the sale were a collection of four 1930’s Japanese silk kimono’s with printed and embroidered decoration in near perfect condition. I thought they were beautiful, and I was so pleased the owner had sent a letter with them explaining how a friend of her grandparents who worked as an engineer on a Japanese merchant ship had bought them with him each time he stayed with them, whilst docked for repairs in Cornwall. They had always referred to him as ‘Greek Uncle Jack’ and the ‘special’ kimonos had never been worn – just carefully stored away and passed down through the family. After a significant amount of pre-sale interest, the four heirlooms made a total of £800 – with three selling to a Brighton textile dealer and the fourth to a determined local private buyer.


Smiths are adapting their future sale strategy according to the ever-changing pandemic regulations and with an eye on staff and customer safety. Entries of small good quality antiques and collectables for auction can currently only be accepted by a pre-arranged ‘drop off’ of boxes at the door. For an appointment please telephone to discuss this on 01531 821776 For further information and sale dates please visit our new website at


Written by Rita Kearsey

Auction Manager