Thursday, 4 October 2012

Christie's Auction "Posters with a purpose" London Transport Museum archive sale auction

One of the oldest closes in selling is :-

“Buy now while stocks last”

For Auction House Christie’s ( founded in 1766) the promotion of the sale No 6,934 was duplicate  posters from the London Transport Museum  archives  werebeing sold in aid of this not for Profit organisation at South Kensington.

The copy in the mini publicity card promoting the sale read
"A train every 90  seconds"
A lot sold every 90 seconds at the
Posters with Purpose Auction
at Christies , South Kensington

“… never to be repeated opportunity to acquire iconic Underground Posters from the archives of the London Transport museum.”  ( buy now while etc.…in other words)

The Coleridge gallery in their South Kensington Rooms on the Brompton Road was the venue for the sale.

The pulpit-like rostrum was placed centrally at the far end.

To the right was a desk ‘manned’ by a row of beautiful ladies managing the telephone bids.
Nearest to the rostrum was the on line bidding desk although the auctioneer mainly used the monitor mid way above the audience.

This enables the auctioneer to maintain more eye contact with bidders in the room.

To the left of the rostrum was a desk where the confirmation paperwork was received and entered on a pc.

Usually on line auctions are rather remote and lacking in personality but in this auction  it was subtly orchestrated by the auctioneer to the four different bidding audiences i.e. The absent bidders who had left bids with her, bidders via the internet, bidders placing bids via the telephone and those in the room itself.

The auction was a little delayed due to a queue at reception registering .

So a little after 11 o’clock wearing a stunning purple dress the auctioneer mounted the steps to the rostrum set up her radio mike and welcomed everybody in the room plus the over one hundred  on-line bidders.

“ Christies are proud to be entrusted with running the auction for the museum....”

To the front above the rostrum either side were TV monitors. To the right the 'lots' were displayed and to the left were the prices of the bids in pounds sterling, US dollars, Euros, Swiss Francs and Roubles.

The selling job of an auctioneer requires many skills. She was like an orchestral conductor multi tasking like crazy. A confident, friendly and clear and authoritative voice is key.

Although never making bidders feel hassled she needed to keep things pacey. On average each lot took around 90 seconds on average to sell. Yet there were 300 lots to sell so she did not hang about.

Ironically Lot No  5  “90 seconds per train” by Abram Games 1914-96 was sold in a little over that time  for £3,200 to an on-line bidder.

She noted in the summary  of each sale the final bid and recorded  winning bid details by sum and the bidder’s paddle number.

Bidder in the room had paddle numbers. Some on made for the job - ones presumably by regulars and others written on show cards.

The ladies on the telephone desk raised numbered paddles but the  numbers used by the online bidders were referred to as their paddle number although here we were in virtual reality domain.

The auctioneer also needs to build rapport with the various bidding audiences. Here are some of her calls..

“ On the telephone at..”

“I have on line …”

“ I have interest here with me my absent bidder”

“ My interest on the book for this lot”

“In the room…”

She would encourage those in the room with

“ I have two bids here at ..”

“ Shall we go up/on

“Bid here in the front / aisle/ at the back”

“One more might do it”

“ You look unsure… we can wait there’s no hurry..”

“I’ll take whatever you’ll give me”

“Bid with the Lady here”

“Bid with my gentleman”

“ With Nicolette then ( telephone bidding representative)”

“ Against you in the room/ on line “

 Click here for  Video Clip of one of the early lots being sold at Chrsities

“Any  advance on..?”

“in the room at .. it’s not yours on –line”

“There it is then at..”

“Are we all done ?"

“ I am selling at.. (hammer)"

“It’s yours / Sold to you – Thank you"

“Paddle number…

Her role is obviously to do well for all concerned to get the primary client 0in this case the museum) a good price but also  for the various bidders. In particular when she had a reserve limit by an absent bidder she would start at a lower price.

Clear use of body language communicated to the room where the bids lay.

Her eye contact in the room had to fix with bidders as well as look around the room and the on-bidders screen bids.

Her eyebrows were also effectively and expressively used.

Although you might think that a set of Underground Poster from London’s tube would interest mainly Londoners- bids came across the country from London e.g. Ringwood, Stratford upon Avon but also from France, from the USA - New York , Illinois, Massachusetts  and Abu Dhabi  in the time I was in the room.

Courtesy was given to all in the room with thank-yous for winning bidders.

I was not able to stay beyond the first 100 lots but I guess the sale would have finished mid afternoon  when a call of “ come in Sale No 6934- your time is up!”

Passing through the gallery on the way out on the forthcoming James Bond  auction ( 50 years) the theme - "Nobody does it better " came into my head.

Nobody has done it better than Christies since 1766.!

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
    The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.