Ifound my calling at 14, when I did work experience at a local auction house in the school holidays and at weekends. When I was 16, they took me on as a trainee porter and salesroom assistant and I worked my way up the ladder. ‘At college, I studied Art History, Fine Art, English Language and Literature, and did a third year of Classics and Anthropology. There’s not really a linear route into this business. I was incredibly lucky to meet a few mentors early on who were willing to share their knowledge with me. If you don’t have that advantage, it can be a very di !cult industry to break into. ‘ When I was 18, I was working as a valuer and it was a bit of a challenge sometimes to have to convince people that I knew what I was doing. Nowadays, I think I look a bit older – and have a slightly fuller beard – so it’s not as much of an issue.
‘ The sheer diversity of the role is amazing. One day, you meet some real characters and "nd surprising things in people’s houses, then the next you sit in the o!ce researching. The hours can be a bit long at times – sometimes you have to stay until the early hours to get the cataloguing done.
‘ My "rst sale was terrifying. I was so nervous, I forgot to bang the gavel a #er the "rst item had been bought. I sold 20 or 30 lots, le# the room, went outside and was sick. But sale day is the highlight of the job for me now. Ge$ing up on the rostrum is the most exciting thing. Nobody is looking at you – they’re just looking at ‘the auctioneer’. It’s a mask you can put on. Time % ies when you’re selling. It feels as if you’ve been up there for 10 minutes, but a #erwards you realise you’ve been up there for four hours. ‘I’ve been to manor houses and found there’s nothing of interest there. I’ve also pulled out £100,000 paintings from unassuming council houses. Once, I went into a modest property and found a huge collection of gold and silver hammered coinage from Henry VIII’s reign through to the present day, just laid out on a bed. I put them in my car carefully – and they made £160,000 at auction!
‘ I didn’t enjoy the boom days, but I’m not tied down by their legacy. I know what’s buoyant now – 20thcentury design, Indian art, gold and silver jewellery. As much as we might appreciate Georgian oak and cranberry glass – it ain’t selling.’
‘My !rst sale was terrifying. I was so nervous I forgot to bang the gavel a"er the !rst item was sold.’
Joseph Trinder is an Auctioneer and Valuer at Dawson’s. 020 7431 9445; dawsonsauctions.co.uk