AN auction house on the Cumbria Lancashire border, that’s been trading for over 200 years, says thanks to its resilient staff and prompt action to improve its online sales, it’s fared well in an extraordinary year.

Auction Manager at 1818 Auctioneers, Bill Nelson, says the best news is that there were no redundancies and the business is in good shape for 2021.

As Bill Nelson explains:

“Auctioneers are entrepreneurs at heart, making the most of new opportunities and change. For us, this year, that meant working hard to get the best out of our online auctions, making the experience as bidder-friendly as possible, and making it simple and safe to drop and collect items.

“We introduced timed auctions, improved descriptions and photography and made video viewings available. It’s brought in new bidders, people who do all their other buying online, and younger buyers who like antiques because of their quality, uniqueness and as an antidote to our single-use, ‘throw-away society’,” adds Bill.

1818 Auctioneers rolled out a new sales calendar and ran 76 sales between April and December. It led to record levels of online interest, bidding and results. Top lots for the period include a Victorian cameo brooch which sold for £17,200, a pen and ink sketch by Alfred Wainwright which made £10,200 and tiny, 19mm gold Caterpillar pin which was bought for £4,700.

Bill Nelson says supply and demand for smaller, portable items such as jewellery, coins, collectables and books, has been strong. From major watch brands such as Rolex and Cartier to gold sovereigns, vinyl records and collectors’ toys. Bill says bulkier goods such as furniture and sculpture were less popular at the peak of pre lockdown, but the demand for interior items returned as people spent more time at home.

“We managed one live auction in our new mezzanine level saleroom before lockdown,” comments Bill. “Then we used the space to work safely and to provide safe viewings of sales.

“After a long hard year, we’ve got through virtually unscathed and fared much better than many companies,” concludes Bill.

“We’ve adapted and changed so we could continue trading and keep all our staff. Our new timed auctions, a resounding success, meant we got the best use of the space we have whilst working to COVID-19 guidance. Our sale percentages are up, price per lot has increased massively and registration for sales is also up and spread worldwide.”

In terms of what next, Bill says:

“We will continue as we have since coming out of lockdown two with a full calendar of dates and sales for 2021. We’ll also be recruiting for an assistant manager, who will be part of the management team, and work alongside me. And we’ll be complying with new legislation from the 1st January with Britain’s departure from the European Union.

“This year has presented our industry with operational challenges that none of us could have predicted. The pandemic’s forced everyone to work harder and faster in order to survive. I’m proud of my team, and our role in keeping this 200-year-old firm, and the ancient tradition of auctioneering, going.”