Bargain Hunting

There is little I like more than a mission and bargain hunting.

(When I lived in Paris, I would set myself small missions to give structure to otherwise very, very, very boring days. Whether it was seeing a particular picture in the Louvre or buying a wooden spoon from a kitchen shop several miles across the city…..)

Anyway, I was on a couple of missions to Chichester which, luckily, has two auction houses and some good charity shops.

I like auctions a lot.

I like the range of people there, I like the auctioneer’s savvy and the fact they maintain a straight face when a lot doesn’t even manage to get a £10 bid or goes for several thousands of pounds more than the estimate.

Infact one picture – an Indian one with an estimate of £200 went for £22,000. It made the seller very happy as he had picked it up in another auction  a few years ago as part of a general lot and paid not very much for it – it is the internet viewing and bidding that has made the difference.

I like seeing the dealers in action and the sheer, nerve-wracking excitement of people bidding for the first time for something they really, really want.

Anyway, we need a replacement for the table in our spare room. The current table worked when the best beloved changed the spare room into a history-writing room, but now he has moved back into his old study, the large table is something that has to go.

So mission number one was a smaller table.

I had been to the Stride and Son auction rooms a week or so before to take the Victorian photo albums – oh please do keep up, all that was in a previous blog – and had had a mooch around the sale room which was gearing up for a sale and found a couple of tables which would work nicely in our spare room.

Each auction is run slightly different and this one had a quirk I hadn’t seen before.

For the first hour or so, everyone was in their back yard bidding for the ‘outside stuff’ which you couldn’t view until the day – so, dear bidder, be quick in your assessment and even quicker with your bidding.

Then everyone moved inside for the posh stuff.

I had seen a very nice Georgian round table in yew and fruitwood which was estimated at £100 to £150.

At the country auction I usually go to, the estimate is a bit optimistic so I pitched up prepared to pay £100 but rather hoping to get it for,say, £60.

After all you have to pay a buyer’s premium on top of the hammer price and that is about 20% – yes I know, quite a lot, but they have to make a living out of all this.

This auction turned out to be a better place to sell than buy. That table went for £220  (before buyer’s premium.)

That is, presumably, the difference between cosmopolitan Chichester (think Westeros, for those of us who know Game of Thrones ) and out in the country north of the Downs (Winterfell) auctions.

I like a bit of yew and fruitwood but I am not proud and there was another similar Georgian table but in mahogany which is nowhere near as popular – but of course this table dates from the 1700s.

It has survived from then and I could own it but, dear reader, ‘brown’ furniture is not in vogue so it goes for less than pine furniture. Can that be true? you ask, indeed it can.

Anyway the latter lot was a long way from the first lot so I went out to hunt around the shops on Mission Two.

I was looking for bits of a wedding outfit – not my wedding you understand – and I went into TK Maxx and found a nice pair of shoes that would do and/but they were £29.99.

I say and/but because my charity shopping personality says, ‘What? How much?’ and so I left them behind.

I then did a fingertip search of the charity shops and found a pair of shoes for £7.

Here they are:



Yes indeed Ferragamo designer shoes, and I paid £7.

Then I found a lovely vintage Jaegar silk scarf – might not work with wedding plans but hey who cares for £4.


And then I went back to the auction. It was still hours, and I really do mean hours away from my lot so I put a commission bid on it and set off home.

Recently I have signed up with the website Saleroom which allows you to bid live online but I wasn’t sure I would be back and sorted out with a bidding identity in time, so I left the commission bid.

I hate doing that because you have no control – if you have left a bid of say £30 then the auctioneer is probably not going to start the bidding at £10 but if you were sitting there and holding your nerve and not bidding too soon, you might get it for say £15.

Or you could be outbid in the room by £5 and if you were sitting there you might be reckless and bid another £5 and get it. But the auctioneer is limited to what you told him to bid – no leeway and no extra fivers.

When I got home, I got logged in and ‘watched’ the sale live and could indeed have bid via the wonders of the internet.

My lot was one of the last ones – everyone is tired, many have gone home –  late lot is always a good bet.

I got it for £28.

So, this is a table that has ‘lived’ for more than 300 years, is handmade and with a good polish will look lovely.

Missions complete.








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