An Auction


Auctions have always fascinated me. It's nice to imagine auctions as they were – the main method of selling antiques before the days of the Internet and frantic eBay clicking. Usually the preserve of the unemployed and retired (in real time and on daytime television) it seemed right for me as a pseudo-freelancer to go to my first one, an auction of vintage textiles.

With their old-fashioned gavels and fast talking auctioneers, I had quite romantic hopes for auctions, but really it was quite terrifying. I sat as still as possible for fear of bidding £200 for a box of tablecloths, which is (amazingly) what they were selling for. You don't really have to be that careful though – the auctioneers are able to tell a bid from a nose scratch. Just at the £40 mark on a table runner, Benjamin (a serial gesticulator) held up four fingers to illustrate something he was saying – if you can get away with that, you can get away with anything.

Union Jack Bunting


Auction Lot II

Aside from the comedy of accidental bidding, these auctions are perfect for picking up pieces from the 1950s and 1960s (and even from the 1920s, 1930s and the preceding century if you are very lucky) at very fair prices. The general bidders here were bidding for the curtains and those tablecloths, and being of an age that suggested having lived through the 1960s, they were mostly uninterested in the vintage clothes, which was what I was there for.

Little countryside auctions are the best to go to, (this was in Powys, Wales) as fewer vintage dealers and shop owners venture that far out. If you are willing to make the effort, you can really reap the rewards. This auction was full of job lots of vintage patterns and clutches, Mappin & Webb handbags, and Jaeger headscarves, estimated at around £30–£70 and often selling for much less. Other boxes were crammed with wartime Union Jack bunting, christening gowns, 1930s wedding veils and sequined, feathered 1920s hats. All manner of things, all with the potential to sell at £20 – which is a price well worth the journey.

I picked up three beautifully made 1960s dresses, which will be making either an eBay or an Etsy appearance next week – you will have to wait until then to see them. For a taster, the collar of one of them is on the left in the first photograph.


  1. Ohh that looks like a wonderland!

  2. I'd love to be there!

  3. That sounds so cool. I've never been to a real live auction. Can't wait to see the items you bought.

    Lulu Letty

  4. That does sound like an entertaining day out! I would be terrified though, not just of accidentally bidding, but of bidding at all. I have so little self -control on ebay that I only let myself bid through an electronic proxy bidder so I'm nowhere near the computer in the final moments!

    (I agree with you about a swishy gingham skirt by the way. It hadn't crossed my mind before but now I feel I'll have to go stalking ebay for one. sigh.)

  5. I used to go to the occasional auction when I was younger, maybe it's time to go again. Looks like you found some lovely things. Looking forward to seeing the 60's dresses.

  6. I miss auctions! I always loved them and used to go to many as a kid (living in slightly rural Surrey they were particularly special, full of neat vintage farm machinery and old horse bridles that I had no use for but because they were horsey I wanted badly!) I think as an adult with the potential to actually bid they scare me a little. Where is your Etsy site? The link has disappeared...

  7. Emily: That is quite extreme! To be honest, I think real auctions are worse for that kind of thing because the auctioneer is always egging you on to bid one more...

    Maria, L, Premier Bonheur du jour: It was really amazing – already lining up my next one!

    Rebecca: Lucky! You should go again – there are probably a few good ones nearby.

    Jo: When I was younger I desperately wanted to buy a saddle for a horse I didn't have but really wanted... terribly tragic. Etsy link will reappear if I list anything else on it – there is nothing there at the moment.


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