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Along with showing the lots during the auction, one was often asked by dealers to execute absentee bids, rather than have them given to the auctioneer.

In these days of strict regulations and form filling it seems incredible to think that instructions were mainly given verbally or, at best, written on scraps of paper.

On one memorable occasion I was approached during a sale by the legendary Maurice ‘Dick’ Turpin. All he said was: “In three lots time bid on the writing table until I put my pipe in my mouth.”

While the item in question was being sold he feigned total indifference, chatting to fellow dealers. Several thousand pounds later, having bought the table and with no sign of his pipe being replaced, I was unsure still as to whether or not I had bought the right lot.

Imagine my relief when shortly afterwards he walked past me with a brief “well done young man”.

Patrick Toynbee, Bath