Blog: Why Auction Houses are the original green machine

Auction houses date so far back in history, that no one really knows when they started. Or indeed who started them. There is reference in ancient Greek scribes from 500bc documenting auctions selling woman for wives. Interestingly the buyer could get a refund if he and his new spouse didn’t get on. In respect of equality, I hope it applied both ways.

In Rome, around the time of Christ, auctions were popular for family estates and for Roman soldiers to sell items they had plundered during battles. Roman Emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius reputedly sold his family’s furniture off at auctions, for many months, to pay off his debts.

Nowadays auctions are more popular than ever before. In part because people are looking for unique items for their homes and know that there is no better place to uncover gorgeous gems than in auctions houses.

People’s knowledge and interest has been piqued by tv programmes such as The Repair Shop, The Bidding Room, and of course The Antiques Roadshow. Programmes which all positively present the message that salvaging, respecting and loving items from the past is a good idea. Along with showing the joy in the unexpected. Either in understanding more on the providence of an item or in their value. Who doesn’t love seeing the pure surprise on a person’s face when an item is estimated beyond their wildest expectations or brought back to life by careful restoration.

The beauty of auctions is they attract an extraordinarily eclectic mix of items, and with the current popular trend of reusing items for completely different purposes than they were intended, auctions have been wholeheartedly adopted by the ‘green savvy’ generations of today. For instance, luggage trunks are turned into beautiful coffee tables, fishing baskets become pub ornaments and bathtubs are transformed into flower pots.

There was a view for a long time that antiques were old fashioned and only suitable for older houses, but this is not the reality. Auctions nowadays ‘are the places to go’ to find everything you are looking for, even things you weren’t, to make homes and businesses unique, on trend and as crucially sustainable.

Antiques, vintage, and modern second-hand items that are sold through auctions are often not only affordable but are bang on trend and offer buyers and sellers the green credentials to reduce their personal environmental impact.

If we are to save our planet, we simply cannot continue to manufacture household furnishings at the volume we do, many made using cheap toxic materials that emit dangerous chemicals. We know that loving and respecting the beautiful craftmanship and longevity of antique furniture is the only sustainable way forward.

Plus, it’s not just antiques that can be found through our auctions. We see a plethora of interesting and original items from modern designers, such as Gplan and Ercol be snapped up in our salesrooms. As well as lots from Danish designers renowned for the industrial type of furniture that is so on trend at the moment.

But despite their new found popularity, auctions represent one of the oldest recycling and sustainable operations. Much like bringing your own bags to shops, shopping locally and making things by hand is seen as current now, these are in fact not new responses to our sustainable needs.

As my mother regularly reminds me; these were the normal behaviours of her generation.

The same goes for auction rooms. Since their very origination, auctions have diverted huge volumes of beautiful and valuable resources from being wasted. As well as feeding downstream suppliers who sell on the items, thus eliminating some of the world’s need to manufacture more new things, and for consumers to buy more new things.

At Bishop Miller, anything we don’t sell is donated proudly to St Elizabeth Hospice in Ipswich, who in turn resells them to make valuable income for their work.

Regardless of how and when auctions become green, in our time of global responsibility, where climate care is not a luxury but a necessity, they have never been more relevant than today.

Not to mention offering a much more interesting experience than a trip to a large Swedish furniture warehouse.

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