Andrew Ewbank, who now runs Surrey saleroom Ewbank’s.

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The firm is now run by his son Andrew Ewbank.

Ewbank’s says a combination of Covid and later illness had forced Chris to take a back seat in recent years and although Chris catalogued almost to the end, Andrew completed his gradual move to lead the firm earlier this year.

Andrew started his career on a different track before joining the family firm as a partner.

He says: “I had set out on a career in music licensing and promotion and had originally seen myself staying with that, but as time moved on, I found I couldn’t escape the pull of the auction house.”

Interviewed in 2020 to celebrate 30 years of the company (founded in 1990), Chris had said: “When Andrew got involved it was out of the blue. It was fantastic for me because small family businesses always have the worry about what is going to happen with the next generation.

“When a family member joins a business like this it can be a bit tricky, but in our case, it has worked very well indeed.”

Extra offerings

Under the guidance of Andrew, the firm in Send, near Woking, has expanded its focus on entertainment and sporting memorabilia including a recent series of James Bond material.

Ewbank’s has also set up dedicated sales of retro video games, consoles and trading cards. Other areas of growth are jewellery, watches and vintage fashion.

The core of art and antiques will continue but Andrew says: “We’re also looking at our more traditional sales and how to adapt those. For example, as demand for modern design continues to gradually move away from Art Deco towards post-war, mid-century design, into the 1970s and ’80s, we have placed more emphasis on what is becoming more popular by putting those lots at the beginning of these dedicated sales rather than placing them towards the end.”

Among the new hires at the firm recently are James Gadd running the Fine Art department; Hans Pugh joining as a general valuer, John Silke heading up vinyl music, musical instruments and memorabilia; and Thomas Francis- Duma focusing on comics and contemporary collectables.

Changing times

On the tech challenges and opportunities he has faced, Andrew adds: “Timed sales work and the development of advanced auto bids has helped speed up the process now, but it is still slower than before Covid because so many of those taking part are new bidders. Rates tend to be 60- 80 lots an hour now rather than 100.

“I think a major change has been towards presenting lots from the buyer’s point of view rather than just the expert’s point of view. Curating sales has become more of a thing so that buyers can relate to what you are doing. We are slowly adapting our terminology so that the words we use to describe things have a clear meaning to the average buyer.”