David agreed to buy back Russell’s part in the business, over an agreed period. I can’t remember how long, but it was all agreed amicably. And Russell opened up a small antique shop opposite the saleroom. The difference between that and the other shops in town was that he sold on commission only. He’d been an auctioneer for so long, there was no question of him buying for the cheapest price and selling for the dearest. As in the auction house, he agreed the minimum price that the vendor would accept, he’d put a price on the object and, when it sold, he’d pay out, having deducted an agreed commission. He was always acting for the vendor and just took his cut.
He took with him one of the clerical staff from the business, because they’d always got on very well and she was ready for a change. He didn’t have to be in the shop all the time, as a result, it certainly wouldn’t have suited him. He went when he made an appointment with a client, buyer or seller, and probably spent about three days a week there. He specialised in pictures, but also had furniture, china and decorative objects – he was never in direct competition with the auctioneer and would tell a client if he thought something was more suited to auction. He never fell out with David over it, there was room for both businesses.
As time went on, he became more drawn to Lowestoft china, though. He had a particular client, who’d been a china collector for many years, he was very fond of. He went to visit him and his wife quite often – they lived in a little cottage a few miles away and it had never had any home improvements for decades. Once, trying to see the china in a cabinet in a dark corner more clearly, he tipped the overhead light and it blew the fuses. He mended the fuse, switched back on, and only then realised that the wires were old, cracked and brittle and he’d been quite lucky not to electrocute himself. He used to take Weeza to visit his clients sometimes, to give me a chance to rest in the afternoon with baby Al, and he always told the tale of how fascinated she was with this old man’s long, white beard.
Eventually, the old man died, his wife moved out into a smaller place and it was decided to sell the china collection. Some pieces were fabulous and hadn’t been on the market for decades. It could have been done as a special exhibition, but in the end it was decided to hold an auction, with a difference. Potential buyers were invited to submit their maximum bids in sealed envelopes. On a given day, Russell would open the envelopes (in the presence of an independent witness: our vicar) and the highest bid would win – at one bid above the next … think eBay. You don’t have to pay your top bid unless it only just beats the next one. The auction was held in three stages, June 1992, November 1992 and June 1993.
My business colleague David has given me a copy of the sales particulars, which I was very grateful for because I didn’t have them. I’ll write it all down tomorrow.
When I started writing, it was because of the snow. I had no idea it would bring forth all this. Blogging, hey. I might well end up the last ‘personal’ blogger standing. I have no focus, no theme. I might write about what I’ve been doing today, something I’m interested in, something I remember, I often sit down here and don’t know. But, to quote the late John Ebdon, if you have been, thanks for listening.