I was reminded, by reading Mike and Ann’s blog today, of the first time that I bid at one of the major auction houses and that, in turn, reminded me of when Ro started his buying career. I told Mike that he was three or four, but I have checked the details with the Sage now, who looked up the sale and Ro was actually five, and the sale was in May 1990 at Sotheby’s. Hug0 M0rley-F1etcher was the auctioneer (he still appears as an expert on Ant1ques R0adsh0w). The Sage and Ro sat at the front and, when the desired item came up, the Sage touched Ro’s elbow and up went his hand. The bidding went up and up – they nearly got the piece quite cheaply, but then a fresh bidder came in and the price doubled in a few minutes. It was a sparrowbeak jug in a Mandarin pattern, we still have it. Finally, the auctioneer’s hammer went down. “Sold!” he said, pointing, “to this young gentleman.” Ro held up the card with the bidder number. After the auction was over, the Sage told Ro to go and thank the auctioneer … and ask for a catalogue – the charge should have been £12 but he was given it.
Ro often went with his father to view sales in London. At that time, we used to buy a family railcard and could take the children for £1 each. We used to blithely let Ro handle the china, when he was very little this caused some anxiety once in a while, as he was reluctant to let go and had to be distracted – though it rarely happened, he was very good. I remember once, I showed him a life-size china greyhound when he wasn’t quite ready to give me an item.
There was another sale that we viewed in Woodbridge in 1986, when he was not yet two years old. There was a Lowestoft birth tablet in that sale and he was very tickled with it. He picked it up and held it to his chest. “Badge!” he said. That was a rather worried moment before I was able to remove it from his hand. It later sold, not to us, for £4,200 (this was a quarter of a century ago, remember, it has probably quadrupled in value now).
Ro never dropped or damaged anything and, remarkably now I look back, none of the staff ever suggested that it was the least unwise, letting him handle valuable china. It would have been our responsibility if anything had been broken, of course. He was, genuinely, extremely careful and trustworthy. All our children handled china, almost from babyhood, and nothing was ever dropped.
Oddly enough, now he of our children has least to do with the china at our auctions. He is in charge of the computer, registering the potential bidders, filling in the prices realised and printing the invoices. Weeza helps at the view, taking china to be looked at and handled, and Al holds up each piece during the auction for people to be sure what they are bidding for. None of them collects art or antiques, although Weeza, in particular, is pretty knowledgeable about Lowestoft china.
*I really hoped that he was three years old, and had the post title planned. Still, wouldn’t want to waste it.