BBR Auctions: Stuck between a rock and an antiques place

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With Alan Blakeman of BBR Auctions

For those that don’t know me, my lifelong hobby and passion in life, apart from collecting, is rock climbing.

Aside from the thrill of it and the welcome respite from the hurly burly lifestyle of running an auction house down at Elsecar Heritage Centre, it takes me to some incredible places worldwide, primarily to seek dry weather.

Yet inquisitive folk forever ask that eternal question – why climb?

There is the obvious attraction of a challenge but, having just returned from a trek in the Himalaya – no rock climbing, just trekking – a week before our major two day auction, people enquired what pleasure we found in enduring such hardships during the trip.

The logic or reasons for collecting are in many ways a similar, difficult question to answer as why climb – well to non-collectors that is. Visitors to BBR’s saleroom often walk in out of slight curiousity asking ‘do people actually collect this stuff?’

So, the same question – why climb, why collect?

In the last Aroundtown I covered the immense ‘Bacco Collection’ with a little background history explaining the breadth of items on offer.

Many visitors viewed the nostalgic shop-like spread, with several asking why a level headed intelligent gentle from North Wales spent the best part of 30 years scouring the UK, amassing such a huge range of tobacco related material, requiring a very large removal van to transport all the way to sunny Elsecar for BBR to begin photographing and listing for a full colour grandoise catalogue, then proceed to sell it all over a busy two days? And breathe…

My first response was along the lines of the climbing retort – ‘because it’s there!’ But that doesn’t really explain anything.

There’s definitely the lure of the chase if you are a collector of anything, very much part and parcel of the attraction – trying to find the elusive missing ‘gem’, delving into history behind what you collect.

I can compare certain aspects to rock climbing where you have to plan a trip, work out the logistics of getting there, which climbing routes to attempt, where to stay. And on return there are the fantastic memories and photographs to treasure for a lifetime.

In collecting you must work out just how to source pieces: attend Antiques Fairs, scour antique shops, go online and attend auctions. The catalogue itself becomes a reminder of just where you got that particular treasured lot from.

In ‘the chase’, when you actually find the goods you must decide which lots to secure, at what top price, does it enhance your collection, is it a good example of its type, and so on – a bit like choosing which rock to climb.

Bacco (aka Mike Collins) was absolutely fascinated by the items he gathered. He was intrigued by the history, the variety and variations found, along with displaying the goods in original shop cabinets and shelving with all the related advertising material surrounding.

Over the Bacco sale weekend, collectors came from far and wide, with those unable to make sale day visiting prior to view. Most left commission bids, others tuned in on the day through the wonders of the internet to bid live, some just clicked on the BBR website to watch the sale transmitted live on camera.

Afterwards it was a huge in-house packing operation, parcels to Australasia, North America, Europe and corners of the UK.

Bacco retains a wonderful full colour catalogue reminder of his past treasured tobacco wonders. But he’s already set off again – the collector is in him, in the same way I’m planning my next rock climbing trip.

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