12 May 2020
Online auction houses are experiencing a surge in interest as many 'over the counter' retailers remain closed or offer reduced services around the country.
The Covid-19 pandemic appears to be creating a divide in the way modellers are making purchases. Retailers with a greater online presence are experiencing an upturn as modellers make more purchases from their homes and social distancing measures remain in place. Specialist auction houses are experiencing the same upturn, though not without added complications brought about by social distancing measures.
Hugo Marsh, a Director at Special Auction Services (SAS) whose speciality is toys, trains, figures, cameras, photographs and ephemera explained "When this crisis hit, we had four or five sales in the pipeline, which we postponed. For the sake of our vendors, we were concerned that with fairs and swapmeets cancelled, sale results might drop off. However, I remember when I started in this business nearly 40 years ago, bomb scares and snowdrifts used to drive up prices, and clearly the same is true today. Everyone I have been talking to says that online trade has been incredible and in several areas dealers are getting low on stock."
SAS is now holding live online auctions only, using its platform and the-saleroom.com. It is to hold a sale of nearly 300 lots of OO gauge and smaller scales on May 28 and a large sale on June 30 and July 1, combining the old-school Roy Chambers collection, Glorious Trains and its Hornby Centenary Sale in what is expected to create more than 1,000 lots.
A 5in gauge live steam coal-fired GWR 48xx Class 0-4-2 Tank Locomotive, built by Mr. J. Roberts to the Neville Evans design, expected to reach £4000-5000.
"We are being very strict on the number of people we allow in our building and we are open from 10.00 to 13.00 every day, weekends included," continued Hugo. "Viewing and collection of lots will be strictly by appointment on a rota basis."
So, has the epidemic changed the landscape for the specialist auction industry long term? Hugo Marsh explains "When – one day – things get back to relative normality, I expect to be welcoming crowds back in. As an example, Christie’s started the annual Trains Galore sale in 1986, and I took over in 1989 and have been involved in most of them since. It has always been a social event – in the old days the gentlemen came to the Christie’s sale and the ladies went off to Harrods to spend their money. Little has changed, except some wrinkles and DIY shops around SAS instead of Harrods! Everyone is pleased to meet, chat and compete in a friendly way. The parameters of what people buy are much the same – just more so."
For details of upcoming auctions, visit the SAS website.