The Flog It! team explores what it means to be an auctioneer and there is a sneak peek behind the scenes to see how the programme is made.
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Now, when I first started on "Flog It!" I thought I knew
a thing or two about antiques.
But over the last 11 years, I've learned more than I ever knew.
I've met thousands of you
at our valuation days...
..and I've seen objects that are constantly surprising
and interesting - not to mention, valuable.
-Are you all done?
This series is a celebration of everything I've learned.
Welcome to Flog It! Trade Secrets.
On today's show, we're giving you the inside track
on what we've learned over the last 11 years on Flog It!
If you're starting a collection,
want to make a few pounds by buying or selling,
or if you just love antiques, there's something here for you.
Coming up - our experts know all there is to know about auctions.
So get some insider tips on how to buy well.
Tip number one, examine the object closely.
Don't buy something across the room that you haven't seen.
Because you can guarantee, if you think it's going cheaply,
it's because there's something wrong with it.
And get their advice on what to do
if you've got things at home you want to sell.
If you don't put good things in an internet sale,
I think you cut your marketplace
just so much.
And find out how the "Flog It!" favourite Troika
is faring in today's market.
Well, there were three of us.
My father was Russian, "Troika" means three.
-It's a carriage drawn by three horses.
-And there you have it.
And there you have it.
Most of our experts cut their teeth working in the saleroom,
either as an auctioneer or a valuer,
and that's how they know how much your antique is worth.
But even they cannot predict how a bidder
is going to behave in the auction room. Anything can happen.
So listen carefully, if you want to learn some tricks of the trade.
Most small towns have an auction house
and it's easy to check on the internet or by phone
when they have sales and whether they specialise.
You don't even have to bid in person
and there's no substitute for getting to know your local saleroom.
Six, seven, eight, nine.
-Any advance now, at 520?
-Last call, then.
22, five, I'm out.
If you're selling, the auctioneer is acting on your behalf,
so if he pushes up the price, you'll get more money.
-So, how do they do it?
-I'm selling, then.
All auctioneers have different styles.
And some might say that mine is a little theatrical.
And who am I to dispute that?
520, fresh bidder. 520. 550.
-Anita's weaving her magic.
-She's very, very good at it.
-He's hidden at the back of the room.
-Doesn't get any better than that.
A good auctioneer, I think, has to be larger than life,
because you have to
contain the room, control the room, entertain the room,
but also, be very professional.
One more? 1,350. At 1,350, 40. No.
You've got them. Always pays to have another go.
You have to have a certain
presence, I would say, similar to an actor on stage.
If you've got no stage presence,
then who are the audience going to focus on?
Thank you for your help. At 550, original bidder, then. At £550.
You've got to be confident.
You have to control the room.
It's like conducting an orchestra.
And you are the centre point to it
and everything comes from your gavel, from your rostrum, from you.
920, I have. 920, I sell. 920.
Yes! That was short and sweet.
It is a piece of theatre.
I like to think of the auction as a piece of theatre,
with the bidders as part of the cast.
You can read their body language. And quite often, I will know
if a bidder is about to bid
or whether they're at the end of their bids.
At 190. At 190, seated.
Still in, sir? For the sake of another tenner?
Don't lose it for 190. I've got 195, on the book, against you, sir.
You can encourage that extra bit out of them,
if you think there's one or two left still in the tank to come out.
A lot of it is knowing and reading
and understanding their body language.
Any advance on £200? Nothing online. It's with you, sir, at 200, seated.
210, to the left. At 210, now.
210's the bid. In the room, standing, at 210.
You sure? You finished? At 210, I'm taking.
All done? Yours, at 210.
-Oh, that was close!
-Who said being an auctioneer was easy?
The more your lot is sold for, the better.
And it'll help you to pay the other saleroom costs, too.
So choose your auctioneer with care.
-They need skill and plenty of energy.
-Are you all done?
To be a good auctioneer, you have to enjoy doing what you're doing.
Because if you're having a difficult day or a bad day, it soon shows.
And you've got to enjoy even the toughest of situations,
in order to do a good job.
At 170, now. In the room, at 170. Where's 80?
At 170. Am I missing anybody, at 170?
I always remember watching the auctioneer at Tattersalls.
And he would be very loud and brash
and throwing his arms left, right.
And then as the bidding slowed,
he would almost come down to a whisper
and he would lean onto the rostrum
and he would be engaging one-on-one with the bidder
and just eking out that extra bid.
And I think that stayed with me.
I'll never forget my first-ever auction, how nervous I was.
I thought, "I never want to do it again."
But actually, it's addictive and you get the bug
and you just want to get back up on that rostrum.
Adam is brilliant at it.
Every auctioneer has their own style, their own manner, own pace.
Some are better than others.
I think that the main qualities,
of course, are humour and speed.
It can be very tiring.
I can do eight or nine hours on the trot, auctioneering.
So my secret ingredient would be bananas.
Now we know how they squeeze money out of the bidders.
So remember, do not get carried away, if you're buying.
Here are some more trade secrets, if they're selling items for you.
Check the conditions of sale when you are selling at auction.
A lot of auction houses have a minimum commission price.
So, therefore, you might think, "Ah, the commission rate is 15%,
"I'm selling something for £10, I'll get £8.50."
No, you won't, necessarily.
There might be a minimum charge of £5 or £10,
plus VAT, plus a lotting charge. Read the small print.
Accept what the auctioneer says.
Quite often, I'm afraid, we find people coming into us and saying,
"I've done some research," and they've spent five minutes online.
I've spent 30, 40 years doing this.
So, without wishing to sound big-headed,
do listen to what the auctioneer has to say.
Agree a reserve and off you go. And everything will be fine.
My best tip for selling at auction is, be relaxed.
These are objects.
They won't love you back. Don't get concerned about them.
If you're putting them into auction, let them go.
Our "Flog It!" experts are all great friends,
but there's no denying the sense of competition
when they get together at a valuation day.
Rivalry? Between who?
Yeah, there's quite a lot of rivalry.
And when we take one auctioneer to a colleague's saleroom,
they'd better keep their wits about them.
Adam and the Moorcroft vases.
Huh! He's so naughty.
Alison, Laura, at last.
We're here in Stoke, the home of Moorcroft pottery.
Do you know what pattern they are?
-Haven't got a clue about any of it, have we?
No? Not at all?
They're carnation pattern, one of the most saleable designs.
-How about 150, 250?
They're not worth that. BOTH: Oh. OK.
-They're worth 300-500.
-You are kidding?
-They should certainly make that.
They are really desirable things.
I was just being mischievous. I don't know why.
It's not in my nature, really.
But these vases had come in
and my friend James Lewis had valued them for £300-£500.
And Adam had a conversation with Paul at the auctioneer chat
and said, "He's clearly missed the damage.
"They're not going to sell. I don't think they'll make 400."
-He must have noticed the damage.
-Must have. Look at it.
There's a chunk out of it
and it's obviously been repaired all around there,
which is a great shame, because they're beautiful vases.
The pattern is actually the brown chrysanthemum
-or new cornflower pattern.
-So he got the pattern wrong?
Probably as well as the estimate.
I think we still may have a chance of selling them,
-but I don't think they'll fly away, because of that damage.
Now, we had loads of interest on these.
And I already knew they were going to make at least £1,100,
because of the bids that we had in advance.
So I thought we'd have a bit of fun and I'd wind him up.
So when I read the description out, I think I said,
"Oh, they're in a terrible condition.
"One looks like it's been under the hammer already."
The Moorcroft vases.
-One, of course, it's completely smashed to pieces.
One seriously damaged.
-The other one has normal ageing.
That doesn't help it, does it?
One has a massive chunk out of it and it's been re-glued,
so you have been warned on these.
And the look on their faces!
"What's he saying? He's not doing a very good job!"
That means I'll start at £1,200.
50, now? At £1,200.
At 1,200. 50, anywhere?
And then, suddenly, he came straight in at £1,200.
"Taxi for Lewis!"
I thought, "Oh, here we go!" And he was off on one.
1,250, 1,300, 1,350, 1,400, 1,450.
Taxi for Lewis! At 1,500. Anyone else?
At £1,500. We all done?
Brilliant! Well done!
-That is great!
The successful bidder was determined
to have those Moorcroft vases, whatever the price.
Not the nicest, kindest thing to have done to poor James,
but it was a bit of fun
and it was meant in good fun, rather than in malice...honest.
But even for a novice, auctions can be a great place to buy.
Look in the press or online for local sales
and you, too, can learn how to become a bidder,
without making expensive mistakes,
if you follow our experts' advice.
When you go to an auction, go to the viewing before the sale
just to have a look at what might interest you.
I would say, get hands on with the piece that you're interested in.
Pick it up, turn it upside down, get a drawer out,
ask questions of the people that work there - the porters, the auctioneer.
It's not like a museum.
These pieces are there to be held, looked at.
Make sure that you are happy with what you're buying.
And if you're not, wait for the next sale.
There'll always be another piece.
Buy the best you can afford.
So if you've got £100, buy one nice object for £100,
rather than ten indifferent objects for £10 each.
Put a ceiling on what you're going to bid.
Unless, of course, you can't live without it.
If you want to collect, you're likely to get rarer items
at a specialist sale or in an antique's home region.
But remember, there'll be more competition in the saleroom,
so don't get carried away.
We had a very interesting collection of Mauchline ware
in from one of our "Flog It!" programmes.
Now, this was a terrific collection.
It is the best collection of Mauchline ware I've ever seen.
Does your family have a connection with the Mauchline factory?
Yes. My father worked there.
I chose that collection, because we were in Scotland
and, somehow, it is quintessentially Scottish.
Particularly the tartan ware.
And I suppose I knew that Anita would like it, too.
Mauchline covers a wide range of items.
They were made as little souvenir items,
but the earliest ones are much sought after and very valuable.
Seek out an auctioneer with local knowledge
and you'll be ahead of the game.
The Mauchline factory was established in the early 19th century
and in the early days,
they hand painted the tartan decoration onto the boxes.
But at a later date,
a method was invented, whereby the tartan pattern
was transfer printed onto a piece of paper
and the paper itself was glued to the wood.
Which, in every instance, I think, is sycamore.
In 1933, production ceased.
But I was only three at the time.
I wanted to split these up, to maximise the price.
I think if you'd have put it all in one lot, people would have felt,
"Well, although I really rather like that little box,
"there's going to be someone who wants the tulip vases
"and I won't be able to afford the box, therefore, I won't bid at all."
So if you just spread it about a bit,
I think you give more people an opportunity to bid for it.
I tried to make interesting and enticing groups of each of them.
-And what we have here are two of the best lots.
-I think so.
I mean, these wonderful tulip vases don't come up all that often.
I was just about say that.
I've not seen any like this before.
What sort of value have you put on the tulip vases?
We've put 400-600.
That's the bulk, really, of the estimate.
So I separated out the very expensive items,
so that the serious collectors
could have a blast at them,
without having to bother about items
which they probably would have in their collection, anyway.
-Here we go.
-50, 60, 70 with me.
Yes! Yes, good!
I knew that these were going to sell.
And I knew that they were going to sell very well.
-That's a very good start. We're on top.
-This is such good news.
-And now, here's the third lot.
-We're well above our target.
Phone bid. £150. And now, my favourite lot.
-Next lot, the three tulip vases.
And this is the last lot. A pair of tartan vases.
Any advance on 520?
Yes! That's it. It's all over.
That is the last lot gone and we're just short.
50 quid short of £3,000.
How do you feel about that, David?
Whether you're buying or selling,
it always pays to talk things through with the auctioneer.
They'll do their best to give you a realistic estimate.
Of course, the price of any treasured possession is only half the story.
Objects are precious for many different reasons.
We've all got something at home, that one special item
that we're particularly attached to.
But I want to know, what's the one thing
our experts would rescue from a burning building?
What would I save in the event of a fire?
It's a very difficult question.
Because I've got so much clutter -
sorry, fine antiques - in my home.
But one of the things, certainly,
I'd have to grab is this charming little Lalique circular plaque.
It's very simply done, quite Art Deco, which you would expect,
of the Madonna, in a very simple iron cross frame.
I bought this several years ago from a local auction
for very little money, but I had a feeling about it.
And Lalique is a funny designer. He produced these roundels
slightly larger and they're illustrated in reference books,
but this one isn't illustrated,
and I did a lot of searching on t'internet and found
a Belgian dealer who had two of these,
one as a paperweight and one as a pendant,
and he says they're the only two known in the world.
So I explored this over the internet with him,
and he mentioned he'd shown it to the writers of the Lalique book
and he explained to me that Lalique often produced experimental pieces,
but never put them into mass production,
and would given to friends.
So I had to then write to him and say,
"Well, actually, there are three, because I've got one, as well."
And I'm rather proud of discovering that in a box of bric-a-brac.
So I'd have to save it, really, wouldn't I?
It's been said before that buying a job lot
at your local auction house could reveal a hidden gem,
so don't be afraid to delve into boxes, and who knows?
You could even find some Lalique.
Each week, hundreds of you bring your antiques and collectables
to one of our filming venues. But for the millions of you
who could not make it to a "Flog It!" valuation day,
here's a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes.
Back in December, we took our team to Oxford.
It's early morning, and our runners, researchers
and other team members are already at the venue.
I'm Alex. I'm the location manager, and here we are in the Oxford Union.
Stupid o'clock in the morning,
setting up for today's "Flog It!" valuation day.
Before the doors open to the general public,
there's lots of setting up to do.
There's a strict system for queuing so that everyone is seen in turn.
The team is briefed,
and the crew start lighting the main hall ready for filming.
Just like to say, I haven't had a cup of tea yet, either.
When the hall is full of people,
around 20 stewards will help to keep them in line.
They're often students, keen to get an insight into the TV industry.
Some of our stewards started out at 20... What time did you say?
-20 to three.
-20 to three this morning, from the North West.
They've driven all the way. Through the night. That's dedication.
And they're not the only ones who had an early start.
People have actually turned up already.
It's 7:30 on a Saturday morning,
and we've already got two ladies waiting
for the valuation day, which doesn't start for another hour.
Didn't realise we'd be first in the queue.
Oh, and I've got a hot water bottle.
-Which we'll need today.
-Which we'll need today. Look.
A very old hot water bottle.
The experts arrive. Some of them are never seen on camera.
They are the off-screen valuers, and the backbone of the day.
Seen on screen from Oxford will be Mark Stacey, Will Axon,
-and Christina Trevelyan.
-Well, today I've been given red stickers.
Usually I'm blue or green, but today I'm red, which is interesting.
It goes with my dress.
And what we do is, we go and sticker people
so that our researchers recognise that they've got some pieces
that we might be interested in filming.
And while they rummage in the queue, I'm on my way to the venue.
My day starts in the car on the way to the gig, really,
learning my script. I've got a handful of scripts here.
There's about 60 pieces to camera,
because we make five shows at every valuation day
and then split them up throughout the year.
I learned the first three or four pieces to camera, so I feel
confident when I get out of the car and I meet the general public.
It's a meet and greet.
Without the general public, we would not have a show,
so God bless them, because they're so patient and they get up
in all weathers to stand in a queue to meet our experts.
Stand-by. Hello, how are you?
Our experts are on their starting blocks,
keen to see what antiques they can uncover.
Get ready. This is "Flog It!"
And cut. Lovely.
While the queue gets longer,
I've got time to do more filming outside.
Let's have a rehearsal. Three, two, one.
SOME PEOPLE: What's it worth?
OK, about five people took part there!
OK, and cue Paul.
And they're all here to ask our experts
that all-important question, which is...
CROWD: What's it worth?
And what are you going to do, if you're happy with the valuation?
CROWD: Flog it!
Cut. Lovely. Very, very nice.
Good job, people, good job!
Anyone with a yellow, green or red sticker,
please take three steps this way.
It's time to open the doors to our patient visitors.
And we're off.
And the off-screen experts get busy doing initial research
and valuing items.
Meanwhile, Mark, Christina and Will film their favourite finds -
around ten each, of the hundreds that will be valued today.
The plan is that we film four items - sorry! -
we film four items on each
of those tables before lunch.
You've got a ring worth...
I now hand the proceedings over to Rebecca.
Thank you so much, everybody.
THEY SING "Mas Que Nada"
When we stop for a bite to eat,
a group of local singers come in to entertain the crowds.
One of my favourite parts of the day.
Well done. Thank you so much.
People are still bringing in their items,
and are we finding anything exciting?
Well, of course, we are.
By the end of the day, we'll have filmed more than 30 items,
which are being wrapped up, ready to go off to the saleroom.
As you can see, it's starting to thin out here
at our valuation day venue, but, good news.
You know, we've got our quota. We've had some wonderful items.
Oxford's done us proud.
And hopefully, you've seen behind the scenes today,
you've seen how this all knits together.
Everybody knows what they're doing, it's a big production team.
We've been doing this now for 11 years. We're in our 12th year,
and I've just seen the quality out there.
It just gets better and better and better.
It's still out there, and we're going to find it.
There are some wonderful works of art out there -
great names and superb antiques, and we want to give you
some more information on what makes them special.
Another English ceramic that's made a name for itself
over the years, and one that has turned up
at countless "Flog It!" valuation days all over the country, is Troika.
-Firstly, because of where you got it from.
-Well, a car boot sale, yeah.
Not a bad little earner, there. I came across it.
And did you recognise it as a piece of Troika that was worth...?
No, I didn't. I basically just liked the look of it.
-The bits and bobs on it, and...
-Do you still like it?
I don't know, I've gone off it a bit now. It's...
-I've never heard of it.
-You've never heard of it?
I looked at it and thought,
"Somebody's written that on in marker pen."
-It does look like that, doesn't it?
-Look at that.
Looks written in marker pen.
Did you acquire this from a car boot sale?
We bought it from a shop in Tintagel, in Cornwall.
How wonderful. So what was the appeal?
Just the look of it and the feel of it and the Aztec part of it.
I've just always liked it.
My parents had been to Cornwall on holiday.
My mum, she said to me, "One day, these will be valuable."
I said, "Absolutely not a chance.
"They are revolting, they are horrible
"and they have nothing about them, at all."
-So what are your feelings?
-Are they? You don't like them either?
-No. I don't.
Well, we were holidaying in St Ives
and we went in and was looking around, and I saw this piece.
So when she said, "Got enough money for petrol,
"but not to have any food,"
so I said, "Well, we'll have to go hungry all the way."
Very impressive-looking piece, isn't it?
-Now, can you remember what you paid for it in the 1970s?
You've brought along this lovely Troika vase.
-I can see there's no love with you and the Troika vase.
-There is not.
No love, at all. What were you going to do with it?
-Put it in the bin!
-Put it in the bin?
Love it or hate it, it's dear to my heart
because it comes from my beloved Cornwall, and I can't help
but admire the distinctive look of this highly-collectable pottery.
The Cornish coast and the landscape has inspired many famous names,
including Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson.
It was the natural place for the three artists with a vision
to set up their art pottery business in the 1960s.
The Troika factory was established in 1963, and they created,
very often, these flat-sided, slab-sided pieces, normally vases,
and they were destined to imitate either granite or concrete.
It was very much a modern look.
Hans Coper and Ben Nicholson were great influences on their design
and their artwork, so two big names who they looked to for inspiration.
Yeah. Sounds familiar.
The pottery moved to Newlyn in about 1970
and then it closed in 1983, so actually, it was only 20 years old.
So they produced a lot in, when we look back at it,
a relatively short space of time.
I met up with the main designer, Ben Serota, a few years ago.
-It's a real pleasure.
-Nice to meet you.
-It's a real pleasure.
-How did Troika all start?
It all started in The Sloop pub in St Ives, Cornwall.
Just over a pint?
Over a pint with this guy I'd just met, who was painting down there,
Leslie Illsley, and we started talking
about what we liked, modern art...
-Swapping ideas, basically?
The ceramics down there, which was Bernard Leach
and there didn't seem to be anything different.
And the name Troika, where did that come from?
Well, there were three of us.
My father was Russian, "troika" means three,
-it's a sort of carriage drawn by three horses.
-And there you have it.
-And there you have it.
-History was being made.
So why did you gravitate to Cornwall?
Was it like all artists, you go west, it's the landscape,
is the terrain, the light...
The whole... The cliffs, the roughness of the place.
Yeah, you can see it in the pots.
-The gorse, the granite, the texture, it's all there.
-It is, isn't it?
-That is North Cornwall.
In 2003 and 2004, Troika hit a new peak of popularity,
and it seems collectors couldn't get enough of it.
300, I see. 310 anywhere? Selling at 300.
310 or no? All done. 300.
Lot 247, £300.
All done on these three pieces, at 300.
580, on the phone. Are you all done?
-Top end and a little bit more.
90. All in, at £90, then.
We've finished, at £90.
Hammer's gone down. Short and sweet.
Are you all done?
It just goes to show, you never know what your holiday
souvenirs could be worth in the future.
And although Troika isn't fetching the same high prices today,
it does mean you can now buy good examples at reasonable prices,
and who knows when they might come back into favour?
Well, that's it for today's show,
and I hope we've been able to equip you with the know-how
for some successful buying and selling.
Go on, give it a go. And, hopefully, it's inspired you
to come along to "Flog It!" if it's in your area.
Come and take part in the show and see how we put it together.
But until then, for now, it's goodbye.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd