Reaping the rewards with Diggory Hadoke

With the first auctions of the year looming, Diggory Hadoke reflects on the frustrations, tribulations and ultimate rewards of the auction circuit.

£26,000 in total, from a low estimate of £3,000. This 16-bore Dickson was one of the winners at Holt’s in June

As I write this in February is beginning to fade into memory, the weather is feeling pretty wintery and, yet, here we are, just a stone’s throw from the first auction of the year.

The most immediately relevant news is that Holt’s have abandoned their foray into Blackheath, in favour of Kensington. A more central venue is probably sensible. Footfall appears to have dropped, though sales have carried on without too much of a noticeable blip.

Online bidding goes from strength to strength, which is probably no surprise. Computers and internet based activity are becoming the norm for all kinds of activities.

The 20-year-old without any cash when Holt’s began internet bidding services in 2003 is now probably a successful city boy of 35, to whom the concept of online life is the norm rather than the novelty it was to his age equivalent back then.

Holt’s sold £150,000 worth of kit online in December, with the single biggest figure being £28,000, proving a great deal of confidence in the system and showing how much of this business is getting done by online viewing, decision-making and bidding.

The Blackheath venue Holt’s used for a year, as with all choices, was a compromise. In its favour was great parking, plenty of space, good catering facilities and, for some, it was closer. To its detriment we have to account for the tricky crosstown journey, negotiating London’s increasingly horrible traffic.

While it was less than 10 miles from the old Hammersmith venue, the journey, for me, increased from three hours to five. The new venue will have no parking, which is a problem for people wanting to bring, or leave with, firearms – but Kensington should attract more viewers and help generate that all-important atmosphere of excitement and momentum that was, for so long, a feature of Holt’s rise to prominence.

The new venue is; The Army Reserve Centre, Adam & Eve Mews, Kensington, W8 6TN. The next auction is on 19 March. Viewing and selling days have moved, so those used to a routine of Thursday auctions and early midweek viewing will need to put the current dates in their diary.

Auctions are now to be held on Tuesdays, with viewing on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. It will be interesting to see how many people use the weekend viewing as a day out; it could prove to be a good move, opening the venue up when most people have a day off work. Please note that ID will be required to attend and registration in advance can be arranged with Holt’s via their website.

Holt’s have announced their dates for later in the year as: 18 June, 19 September and 12 December. In December, there was a departure from the norm in that the Sealed Bids sale items were not taken to London for viewing. This was disappointing for those like me, who made the trip to London to look through everything, but does not seem to have hurt sales, as the final tally showed that £250,000 went through the till.

Overall sales figures for the period topped a million pounds. As Brexit uncertainty looms, it is comforting to note that Holt’s sold 56 per cent of lots to UK buyers, obviating the worry over exports and taxes. The 21 per cent of buyers LGS have brought Beesley to King’s Road, Chelsea.

Their new guns are built by Perugini & Visini but the increased profile and plans to invest in the brand, may see interest rise in the old guns too. There is a cased pair of 12-bore, Beesley sidelocks and a cartridge magazine by Beesley in the catalogue so, if you want to be early to the party, get involved.

Bonhams have announced 23 May as their first sale of 2019 and another on 28 November wraps up the year. Their December sale last year was really quite impressive and targeting two dates per annum and striving to put on a real show is a good move, making each event more memorable and exciting.

I picked up a nice 20-bore Watson Bros sidelock, last time, for a client, which is now based in Europe will need some clarity as to what will happen regarding sales by the time we get to the next one, in June. Right now, it is anyone’s guess. Another development that has been progressing quietly behind the scenes is the collaboration between Holt’s and gunmaker J-P Daeschler.

Jean-Pierre is based in Kent and has, in recent sales, been attendant at Holt’s viewing days and on-hand to advise buyers about the guns and any work required to bring them up to speed. Sharp-eyed readers will have noticed that Holt’s are holding a valuation day at the premises of Jon Dickson & Son, in Scotland this month.

Well, the two observations are not unrelated. J-P Daeschler is the proud new owner of John Dickson & Son, has retained the Scottish workshops and intends to continue production from there, with the famous ‘round action’ leading the way but other models from the firm, as well as the MacNaughton and Daniel Fraser names, which are part of Dickson’s, following in due course.

J-P Daeschler has provided gunmaking expertise at auctions houses and trade shows in recent years

A change of ownership often gives a boost to the brand value of a company. We have seen this with Rigby over recent years (note the .470 NE that sold at Holt’s last time for £28,000). Dickson is already a hugely collectable name and has a keen following.

Will we now see its stock rise higher still? J-P is a real enthusiast for the brand and it is in good hands. I’m expecting to see interesting developments trickle out steadily from now on. I wonder if there will be a growth in interest in the guns of Frederick Beesley, now that the name has a London address once more.

LGS have brought Beesley to King’s Road, Chelsea. Their new guns are built by Perugini & Visini but the increased profile and plans to invest in the brand, may see interest rise in the old guns too. There is a cased pair of 12-bore, Beesley sidelocks and a cartridge magazine by Beesley in the catalogue so, if you want to be early to the party, get involved.

Bonhams have announced 23 May as their first sale of 2019 and another on 28 November wraps up the year. Their December sale last year was really quite impressive and targeting two dates per annum and striving to put on a real show is a good move, making each event more memorable and exciting.

I picked up a nice 20-bore Watson Bros sidelock, last time, for a client, which is now undergoing a bit of restoration. The Max Gau Winchester collection they sold was a good performer, with one Model 1866 going under the hammer for £27,000. Overall, the auction achieved 88 per cent sold by lot, which is an impressive total.

Gavin Gardiner is opening 2019 with a sale on 1 May, in London and Southam’s have 14 March listed for their spring sale. Keep an eye on the provincial auctions too, with their occasional hidden gems – though it can be expensive travelling up and down the country after one or two guns only to be unsuccessful four times out of five.

Auctions, by their very nature, can be frustrating but the occasional rewards are what keep us coming back for more.

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