Auction Fever

There is a long way to go on this house. The thing is, I’m getting tired of saying that and it’s spring, time to get out, do something different.

For someone with a big house to furnish, that could mean weekend sales. The true franconut soon learns the verb “chiner,” to go antiquing. Garage sales are illegal in France; no, I have no idea why. Instead they have vide greniers and brocantes, which are more convenient for shoppers, anyway. These are flea markets. The vide greniers are all about fleas. The brocantes range from not much better than that to fairly nice, midrange antique fairs. There is a big middle and upper range, all the usual varieties of dealers with more or less permanent locations.

When it comes to antiquing, sorry to say, the Vendee is all about fleas. I have started to meet the local guys who do “relooking.” Bless them, they buy the better bits of stuff, then fix it up. I’ll have to show you a few of the things I have gotten from them. Then there is my buddy Roger, who makes the most amazing photographs. Nothing gives me that “I’m not worthy” feeling like looking at Roger’s work. But those things are essentially new. If I want nice old pieces in their original condition, so far I have had to leave the area.

Auctions are my favorite source and Drouot is my favorite auction house. In recent years they have cleaned it up. Literally, they renovated and reorganized, so it looks and works better. Perhaps as a result, you no longer see Granny’s broken dining chairs, that kind of thing. The auctioneers bring decent to high quality, whatever didn’t make the Sotheby’s/Christie’s cut.

I like the auction ethos. Negotiating with a dealer always leaves me feeling like I may have paid too much. Maybe I didn’t but I always feel that way. Auctions, on the other hand, are clean. Whatever the owner paid is irrelevant. There is always a catalogue and it always includes an estimated value. I’m not a collector, so I don’t know fair values; for me the estimates are hugely important. Then the only question is, what’s it worth to me?

Fortunately for my bank balance, I’m usually outbid. Today, though, I won and paid below the low estimate. My post-purchase research — I’m such a slacker! — tells me the price was at the low end of fair. Sweet.

This is a dowry box, made in Kerala during the 19th century. I love the shape, the color and those heavy brass fittings. Wherever it winds up, it’s going to look great.

11 thoughts on “Auction Fever

  1. Looks like you will need to find a wonderful table on which to put this lovely box! Happy chinering!



    1. Thanks. The spirit of some long-gone Kerala bride may strike me down for this but I think it’s going to wind up holding the TV remotes. No question it will make it easy to find them.


  2. Stunning box and sounds as if it was a good buy too! When we lived in the UK and we’re doing up a big old farmhouse we used to visit the local auction house once a month, they were usually estate sales and we got to know who were the dealers, when they stopped bidding, we knew one or two more bids and then we had reached a fair market price, anything over that was way over the top! Here in the Charente Maritime the Brocantes tend to me on the flea side of antqiques too, occasionally one can find something special, last year I picked up a fabulous old chandelier for our summer kitchen for the princely sum of 15 euros! But I’m sad to say it’s somewhat rare. Still they are fun to visit and the children love “bargain hunting!”

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    1. It’s the fun of shopping that is so great, isn’t it? With clothes, having something not fit is kind of depressing. With the house, having it not fit is no problem at all. After all, bonus, you get to keep shopping.


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