Busting the myth that the older generation are only interested in antiques, Joseph Trinder is a rising star in the antiques world. Auctioneer, general valuer and cataloguer at Wotoon Auction Rooms, Joe is also Chairman of The Antiques Young Guns. Find out how Joe became interested in the world of antiques and what have been his favourite finds!
What first attracted you to the world of antiques?The initial excitement that drew me into the world of antiques is the same feeling that I experience and truly adore today. Antiques allows one to literally hold history in their hand, whether it be an ancient piece or something dating from the 20th century. You feel this through an object which communicates a collective, uniting social history – so perhaps objects from the trenches of WW1 - a fellow’s medals and his letters home to a loved one. It's something which speaks a little of where we have come from.
Equally intriguing can be the personal history which antiques can capture so poignantly. An antique gavel that I recently acquired is really fascinating- its appearance shows years of use and handling by its Victorian owner which has given the handle a beautiful, rich patination, smoothed and shaped over time. To use this object as its 19th Century owner did is to literally handle history. To contemplate the sales the object has presided over is beguiling.
And of course, the medals and letters above mentioned, as well as speaking of a shared social history, hold the history of an individual, honest and captured on paper and in metal. To read of the hopes and fears of a young man, fighting far from home at the age I am now is truly humbling and cannot be artificially found outside of these old ‘things’.
How did you get involved in the industry?I entered the world of the auction room and antiques through a trick of luck at the age of 14. My compulsory week of secondary school work experience was looming ever closer and I had organised nothing. Up until this point I’d dreamt of working as a chef – a love affair with food which is still very much alive & well!
A family friend had agreed to drive me to a favourite local restaurant one evening where I’d planned to speak with the owner on my fast-approaching need for a work experience placement. The family friend had to call into my local Gloucestershire sale room to view a sale first though…we never made it to the restaurant that evening.
My first trip to any auction house coincided with a spectacular sale. The company had received instructions to sell the most stunning collection of antique fishing rods, tackle and sporting goods – made even more intriguing as it was a single owner collection (of 836 lots!!) and the sale was instructed by the Assets Recovery Agency.
Id never seen such an Aladdin’s cave of puzzling things to explore. It seemed every inch of the sale room was occupied by a charming old thing. The lure of curiosity. And they did this every 2 weeks!?
I subsequently wrote to the company’s offices as was warmly welcomed a few weeks later for work experience. I was then welcomed back again for more voluntary work until turning 16 when I was delighted to be given a position as trainee sale room assistant at weekends and school holidays. I continued in this capacity until finishing my A-Levels, at this point joining my current team at Wotton Auction Rooms Ltd, back in 2012 at the age of 19.
What’s your current role?My current role is Auctioneer, General valuer and cataloguer at Wotton Auction Rooms Ltd in the beautiful Cotswolds of rural Gloucestershire.
I’m currently also Chairman of The Antiques Young Guns and Vice President of NAVA, the National Association of Valuers and Auctioneers, with my presidency staring later this year.
Whats your favourite aspect of the industry?It has to be both the subject matter and the people and characters which populate the industry. Handling antiques brings appreciation on so many levels- to experience history, to see the unusual, beautiful and thought provoking objects on a daily basis is such a gift. The best part is that I genuinely never know what will turn up next- every box entering the sale room doors with newspaper clad contents, every front door of house visits holding its own unique mystery and secrets- it is really the thrill of the chase, of never knowing what’s next!
The people in this industry make it what it is. In my relatively short career to date, I’ve met some of the most intriguing, incredible people. This is found in the customers that we work for at the sale room – stories of how objects were acquired and remarkable family histories, gifts for feats of bravery etc, but also of the professionals within the trade and wider industry. I’m consistently amazed by the work and ferocious appetite to learn of both fellow auctioneers and dealers alike. I have many mentors in many positions in this business and each are incredible professionals and characters.
Which departments/objects most interest you?A jolly good question! As currently a general valuer and cataloguer, I find interest in every facet of the sale room, whether works in ceramic, silver, or swords or settles…A particular interest is early treen (small, often domestic objects crafted in timber) as well as boxes and caddies. This rather wide ranging field is of particular interest as I adore how items in timber age and mellow over time. The beautiful aesthetic found in even a reasonably mundane, domestic item which over the years has achieved an honest and pleasing patina. Ive always adored caddies and boxes. Both through appreciation of the skill and beauty found in the craftsmanship needed to create them, but also of a childlike wonder at what they may contain or were originally created to hold.
I've always been very interested in glassware too. I lean towards earlier works and have always appreciated Georgian stemware and drinking glasses from both an aesthetic appreciation, but also an awe of how these things were made.
What have been some of the most exciting items you’ve sold?Numerous examples come to mind! One has to be recently a 19th Century Irish side table. In a climate often perceived as difficult on antique furniture, we saw no such hesitation as a flurry of telephone bidding took the room by surprise, far surpassing our estimate and taking the piece to a price of £40,000. The drama and atmosphere during such sales is just intoxicating and delivers a buzz like no other!
It isn’t only high flying prices which deliver drama and excitement though. We recently sold a grand tour bronze and marble study of Trajan’s column. Our client had been using the heavy object as a door stop, not realising its value. They then attended the sale room for (I believe) their first auction visit on sale day, which happened to be her birthday. When the hammer finally fell at around £7000 from memory, I looked to a lady with happy tears in her eyes at such a birthday present. It felt wonderful to achieve such a price for her, and the buyer to was delighted with their prize. A different kind of excitement.
Items themselves can deliver great excitement and drama through just being what they are. A while back we sold a seemingly normal, well painted watercolour study of a great Dane dog. What was so humbling and rather tear jerking was the plaque below giving commentary to Juliana’s, (was the pooch’s name) story, explaining how she was awarded a Blue Cross medal for extinguishing an incendiary bomb dropped by the Luftwaffe in 1941 on her owner’s shop by, well, ‘relieving herself, then was awarded a second Blue Cross medal in 1944 by alerting her owner to another fire on the property. The plaque ends with words ‘poisoned 1946’ – allegedly someone dropped poison through the proud owners’ letter box one day, prematurely ending the life of one remarkable dog. Complete with both blue cross medals, she sold for £1,100 to a room captivated by her story.
|Trajan's Column and Juliana|
Tell us about your role at The Antiques Young Guns.Im currently Chairman of the newly appointed management committee at AYG. Member-run, the committee is formed of 7 active industry professionals from across the AYG membership spectrum, to include fellow auctioneer, Tim Medhurst (Dukes), antiques dealers Edd Thomas (Eddintheclouds Antiques), Jason Clarke (Jason Clarke Antiques), and James Gooch (Doe & Hope) together with our most recent appointment Joe Kennedy (London House Antiques) and Marika Clemow of ATG Media.
AYG is a collective of young, active professionals within the wider antiques trade, so including auctioneers, antique dealers, restorers, fair organisers, researchers etc. we aim to champion and encourage the next generation of professionals into this exciting and captivating industry. We provide our members with a platform to announce and promote their business and activities, as well as a platform to sell their stock/list auction lots etc.
We work alongside prominent partners and supporters in the industry to negotiate member benefits such as incentives to stand at internationally renowned fairs, pop-up shops etc, all with sight to give our members great opportunities to further their businesses and profiles etc.
AYG was founded by three great names in the industry: Mark Hill (previously a specialist at Bonhams and Sotheby’s, now an author, publisher, TV-presenter,) Gail Mcleod (Editor, Antiques News & Fairs) and George Johnson (Dealer, Lady Kentmores.)
My role as AYG is to oversee the everyday running of the group and to develop more long-term initiatives with industry partners, to continue progressing and developing AYG, to bring even greater benefit to our members. We’ve recently spent time getting detailed feedback from our members and look forward to announcing some exciting updates very soon!
Why do you think many more young individuals are interested in antiques?The appeal of working within antiques is clear. That is, to mirror the above stated joys of handling history and working in an ever-changing environment with an ever-changing line up of artefacts to lean from, all in the company of wonderful people.
The appeal of owning and surrounding oneself in antiques is as strong as its ever been, and, although probably against the current of some peoples belief, my personal experience is that the desire of younger people to own and handle antiques is looking strong and is only growing in momentum.
Firstly, antiques conform with a number of popular concerns and increasingly prominent trends found in popular culture and the younger contingent of society in particular. Younger people are breaking away from the follies of mass-made, poorer quality objects and are instead in pursuing an individual, high quality, unique item. This can be seen in pretty much every commercial arena and marketplace and younger people seem, from my experience, to be discovering the auction room and antiques shop/centre or market to be a great source of objects and inspiration, whether practical furniture or decorative objects, with better prices and ultimately better content than mass-made modern options. People are discovering that they can furnish every room of the home for less money, in a more individual, bespoke and, interesting way when antiques are allowed in.
Another key attraction of antiques to a younger people is that they are, so often, truly ‘green’. With ever concentrated concerns on climate change and product sustainability, people are realising antiques are the way forward. Paying less money for something that will be here long after you are gone, which can be resold and that didn’t ‘cost the earth’ to produce is alluring to any canny shopper. Take a good, honest antique Windsor kitchen chair for example. Often similar in price to an Ikea counterpart or less money than many examples from other high street outlets, it will last many, many times longer, for the rest of your life at least. Together with the cost benefit, it was crafted honestly by an artisan many decades ago, using less invasive techniques and ecologically damaging processes that can be practised today. If you get bored of it, you can sell it and probably get your money back (even make a profit if bought well). After all of this, it still will have an honest patina of age and aesthetic to die for which no modern copy can deliver….guess what’s in my kitchen!
What are your plans for the future?I plan to continue in my current roles which I adore and aim to continue to learn as much as I can each day. I hope to progress several departments at the sale room and am really excited with plans for our future. Forward from here, I’m currently considering specialising in a particular field. Away from the sale room, I plan to continue my work at both AYG & NAVA as I strive to continue to build and enhance both groups, continuing to provide real benefit to members of the industry. That’s it really! Enough to keep me busy I’m certain…
What advice can you offer to those who are looking to purchase their first antique item.• Buy what you love! Sounds simple I know, but don’t be tempted to buy only for investment unless your 100% certain of the market and its forecasts for the future – easier said than done. Buy things which please you and that you find beautiful and interesting.
• Don’t pay too much. It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment in an engaging auction when bidding against another devoted collector for example. There’s nothing worse than loathing a purchase that cost you too much – take a breath and let it go, something equal or better will come along soon (well nearly always).
• Ask questions. Whether your buying at auction or from a dealer at a fair/shop/market or centre, if you’re not sure of things just ask! The vast majority of people you’ll meet will be friendly, and happy to talk. Speaking with people is such a great way to learn.
• Handle things. Again, wherever you may find things, if you’re interested in something, don’t be afraid to pick it up and really get to grips with what you’re thinking of buying. It’s how you’ll learn what things are and how to tell next time you spot something!