Firstly regarding sticky labels: we use labels supplied by Print Systems Ltd (tel: 01562 888066). They’re reusable and don’t damage polish or delicate surfaces – that solves that.
Secondly, while I appreciate Ray Woodruffe’s ‘love’ (Letters, ATG No 2370), he’s missing the point. Of course if you choose to add the buyer’s and seller’s premiums and other charges onto the hammer price of a lot and then deduct what the seller receives, the percentage is less, but fundamentally it seems churlish (and a bit glass houses) to moan about auctioneers’ margins when in many cases the profit margin charged by dealers is a) undisclosed and b) far higher than the percentage auctioneers charge.
A great example of my point is a Victorian rosewood Canterbury I saw sold at a UK auction this year. Having made £340 (on which, I assume the auctioneer made about £100 plus VAT adding together all the charges), I saw the same piece priced retail at £1495! Tell me, what’s the percentage mark-up on that?
I appreciate that not all dealers are working on such margins and indeed, the Canterbury may have stood unsold in the shop for a couple of months, but my point still stands.
The phrase I used was “I don’t begrudge any dealer making any amount of unspecified profit” and I’d hope the same applied in reverse.
“The key is being fair, transparent, offering a good service and being straightforward"
A key part of my original letter was to underline the need to charge the fees we do, especially when selling lower-value lots – simply to make it economically viable to sell them.
My firm handles a large volume of house clearance work; were we not to charge our current commissions, it simply would not be worth selling often the majority of items in many of these properties – and I suppose we’d simply transport more items to landfill. Is that what the trade wants? When antique dealers up and down the country start running dry on stock, probably not…
Of course, I’m not defending rip-off fees and certainly we’ve also heard a couple of daft ideas lately relating to the sale of low-value lots which I also don’t endorse, but in order to sustain a viable business we do need to charge appropriately.
The key is being fair, transparent, offering a good service and being straightforward to deal with: these are the principles on which I run my business. As an auctioneer, I am not in the industry to get rich: instead I feel privileged to be able to make a living in such a varied and fascinating environment, dealing with all levels of society and all manner of objects.
I am sorry if not all auction houses operate with the same ethos as mine, but my door is always open to new clients…
Head of department
PFK Auctioneers, Cumbria