Auctioneer and valuer, Edward Crichton heads up the Fine Art and Antiques department at Lacy Scott & Knight‘s auction house in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
What are the current hot sellers in the auction room?
Mid-century furniture, especially Danish rosewood, rare toys from the ‘60s and 70s; we recently sold a collection of prototype Matchbox models for ridiculous prices, and modern British art, think LS Lowry and his contemporaries
What antiques do you have at home?
Having four young children not as much as some auctioneers, however clocks (Georgian) and watches (Omega) are a magnet to me, both of which I have far more than necessary. I have started buying art as the kids tend to leave it alone!
What piece would you love to sell in the auction room?
As someone proud to be from Suffolk, an original oil painting by John Constable would be a real treat, even just a sketch for a more important painting. However there is a saying in our business, ‘Constable painted 2000 pictures of which 3000 are now in America’
What has been your most exciting sale so far?
In 2010 during a routine probate valuation I stumbled upon seven very little used classic cars in two purpose built barns, three had done less than 1000 miles. The Daily Telegraph did a full page spread about reclusive Suffolk millionaires collection of hardly driven cars. It was the easiest sale I’ve ever taken, they realised over £200,000. The best part was all the people who travelled to buy a car but went home with a teapot or painting instead!
Will people go to auction houses in 20 years or will sales all be online?
Yes, as you still can’t beat inspecting pieces in person. However whilst many people will view the auction and then bid online, even more will rely on images, which will continue to improve with technology. At times the internet feels like an irresistible force, but an auction is a wonderful place to socialise with like-minded souls, let’s hope that continues.
Tell us some trade secrets – what are you top tips for being at an auction?
Drown in clean water, in other words buy the best you can afford and look for original ‘untouched’ pieces
Do you think brown furniture will make a comeback?
No, it’s wishful thinking to believe otherwise. Of course tastes have changed and will change again, but lifestyles have moved on. Some pieces will buck the trend, Regency period furniture is underrated, but who seriously craves a carved oak court cupboard or a mahogany bureau bookcase, where can you place such pieces in today’s homes?
Where are your favourite destinations for antique hunting?
Auctions of course, at auction most things are fresh, but crucially the buyer(s) decide the price, what a brilliant idea? Window shopping in New Bond Street is always great fun.
Young people don’t like antiques – agree or disagree?
Agree, the biggest challenge to the whole industry is how to attract the next generation. Antiques is a dated word (sorry!) hence many auctioneers calling sales ‘Country House’ ‘Attic’ or ‘Interiors’. Clever marketing and endorsements from influential people in design and fashion is our best bet. Homes that resemble museums have very little appeal, but a Victorian library chair with a contemporary fabric can look stunning.
What’s the future for the trade?
Who knows, but those who are knowledgeable and on trend will surely enjoy wonderful careers, coupled with a slice of luck and very hard work of course. Being a general dealer, especially at the lower end of the market looks tough to me, the fall in recent years of willing buyers and the ability for people to buy online from auction is a worry, if only the shipping market could take off again.