However, it can also be an opportunity to try something different, as Essex firm Sworders is demonstrating with a new auction title: Into the Groove.
The first one of its auctions under that brand was held on July 9 in Stansted Mountfitchet and the range on offer was definitely eclectic, as a Ferrari, a Lambretta scooter and a huge collection of vinyl rubbed shoulders with Warhol prints, pin-up pictures and Beatles memorabilia.
It all fits a recent trend in which auction houses have been trying to come up with new formats beyond the traditional regular general art and antiques sales to encourage new bidders and enthuse consignors.
John Black, Sworders’ director, 20th century decorative art and design, said: “We do three design sales a year, and we thought ‘why don’t we throw in another’ and do it covering 25 years, 1950-75, and that began as Into the Groove. Then we went ‘you know what, let’s just put some really interesting groovy stuff in, and open it up. We were very lucky to get a good collection of cars and boats from one estate so that really did help centre things on that.”
The auction branding, and a more flexible timeline, meant the saleroom could play on several themes. Black added: “A lot of our sales are quite furniture-heavy, this one wasn’t, and it was quite refreshing really.” Although many lots came from existing clients, Sworders did get “a few new vendors coming through and it was nice to be able to place it into a different sale”.
As with any new format, some things work well while others fail to shine so brightly. A lot comprising every number one hit from 1952-92 - 684 in total - from the ‘golden age’ of the single record did not get away on the day but Black said there was a lot of interest and hoped a post-sale deal could be sorted out. A selection of photographs struggled too, but many varied items certainly did impress and Black was very pleased overall with a premium-inclusive sale total in the region of £160,000.
Top-seller was the 1986 Ferrari 412i, at a hammer price of £21,000 (plus 23% buyer’s premium). The Lambretta Innocenti 125 li Series Li motor scooter took £2800, while a Phantom 23ft powerboat made £12,500.
As you can probably guess by the size of these lots, Sworders benefits from a large site with ample car parking and storage facilities just off the M11 up from London.
The 1992 Dutton Mariner (experimental amphibious vehicle) sold for £4000, while an earlier amphibious vehicle, albeit now just the body shell, sold for £450: a c.1960s Amphicar Model 770 which was built in West Germany from 1961-65 but marketed for sale as late as 1968.
Any auction called Into the Groove inevitably will include music-related lots. Highlights here included an RR126 Radiofonografo record player, designed by Pier Giacomo and Achille Castiglioni for Brionvega in 1965, bought for £1700 by ‘a London TV celebrity’.
Lower down the price scale but still highly desirable was a set of gig promotion posters relating to the Rhodes Centre in Bishops Stortford – just down the road from the Sworders saleroom – consigned by the promoter of these events. One advertising a certain David Bowie and the Buzz on July 30, 1966, sold for £820.
Word gets out
Black said that the “feelers and information about the sales is getting out there” and Into the Groove could become an annual sale. The nature of the lots certainly helps with publicity: an eye-catching Tweet involved no less than 18 members of the Sworders team sitting comfortably on the de Sede sofa (which sold for £9400). See photo, top.