Auction Houses discussion, split from the St Ives thread

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Post by Neil62 April 20th 2022, 9:42 pm

Well Philpot it’s not the worse piece I bought at auction that goes to a Richard Batterham piece which was properly cracked at the back in several places. It is worthless - when I queried it with the auction house thinking that it had been damaged in transit I was informed that they knew it was damaged and had been stuck back together by Richard Batterham himself. Though they didn’t explain the chips and gaps in the supposed gluing.
I think had I seen the pot before buying it I wouldn’t have bought it now looking at my other Bill Marshall pieces - it is out of proportion in comparison but I’ll live to fight another day and it’s all part of the rich tapestry of learning and as I have always thought you pay to learn which is why I very much appreciate the interactions I have here on this forum. I wish I could do something back in return!
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Post by philpot April 21st 2022, 7:17 am

We all have done it in our collecting I am afraid. Its an expensive learning curve! If one is buying at an ordinary auctioneers, one does have to be very, very careful. They operate under a completely different set of historical laws as ordinary retailers. You actually have very restricted rights. You might want to read the threads on here about individual autions!
The particular piece we are taking about were at a previous auction in the same auctioneers a few months before. It failed to attract a bid. The 'provenance' sounded a bit suspect. It was not signed in any way, and when one held it just felt slightly awkward. Equally, NEVER buy an unsigned pot!
If you want to see a lot of studio pottery go to Adam Partridge's in Macclesfield next Thursday and a have a long look. They have huge studio pottery sales twice a year and have a good reputation.
The best place to look for Leach style pieces are at David Lay and Barbara Tribe auctioneers in Penzance. Which you would expect, as they are a stone's throw away from St Ives!
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Post by Neil62 April 21st 2022, 7:48 am

Good advice Philpot,
I have bought both from David Lay and Barbara Kirk (I think that’s who you are referring to) auctions in the 6 months I’ve been collecting.
Funnily enough I had planned to go to The Adam Partridge in Macclesfield auction as well.
Whilst I am now convinced that the octagonal vase is not by Bill Marshall, the Yunomi sold by the same vendor at the same auction, with the same provenance definitely is. It’s got both his individual mark and the St Ives mark.
The thing for me, certainly for the moment, is I’m not interested in selling any of my collection other than the pieces superfluous to what I want, (I have sold a couple of standard Leach pieces) but the octagonal vase will stay with me for my lifetime, if for no other reason than as a cautionary reminder.
The issue you raise about different auctions is also a valid one but the auction I described as my worst experience is not a small auctioneer but a very large one.
I do understand the restricted rights, ‘caveat emptor’ etc and also the terms and conditions associated with purchasing at auction. The caselaw on it though is far too antiquated to be properly applied in todays marketplace where buyers purchase goods unseen, as I usually do, from different parts of the world. I am going to challenge what I view as deception regarding the Richard Batterham broken vase through the civil court. That is the one issue which annoys me because it was not my fault. The issue with the octagonal vase is my fault and I accept that. I took a letter from the vendor as being provenance and perhaps I shouldn’t have. I suppose with hindsight I am a bit of a gambler in life and that was one which didn’t pay off.
Thank you for the advice which I will take heed of.
Kind regards
Neil62
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Post by philpot April 21st 2022, 8:04 am

Have you actually read the Small Print in the auctioneers Conditions of Sale? They are invariably full of caveats, get out clauses, legal jargon and protective clauses. Equally, most condition reports are couched in such language as to make it very difficult to get any comeback.
Auctioneers are now operating like Art Galleries. A lot of public has started buying from Auctioneer over the past 20 years, and the process has become much easier.
BUT...aye there's the rub- auctioneers operate under different laws. Its an anomaly, but very real.
I will be very interested in if you do get any redress by going to court. But I would not get your hopes up. The law is not on your side.

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Post by Neil62 April 21st 2022, 8:46 am

Morning Philpot,
Yes I have read the small print on the terms and conditions and you are absolutely correct it will be difficult but that doesn’t put me off. Their position is that I didn’t ask for a condition report (which is true) and had I asked for one they would have divulged to me that the pot had been broken in two and repaired by Richard Batterham, and that they were very aware of that prior to the auction.
Their case is also that I did ask for a condition report on another piece……by William Marshall!!! That was the only lot I was interested in following an alert from the Saleroom.
I only asked for that report because there was no photograph of his mark in the catalogue / photograph on the saleroom. Amazingly they came back to me full of apologies stating they had made a mistake and that the slab bottle wasn’t by William but by his son Andrew. I didn’t bid on it but I only asked for the condition report not regarding the condition but for the mark!!!!
The auction had 32 pieces by Richard Batterham 8 of them had minor damage detailed in the catalogue.
The small “shattered / repaired” vase I bought as part of a lot had no mention of any damage and the photograph from the auction showed the only view of the vase where the damage could not be seen and there was only one photograph. There was also another lot which was broken in half, not by Richard Batterham which was openly photographed and declared.
I am not an expert in pottery, nor will I ever be, but I am a collector of evidence and I intend to put those facts before a court and ask it to adjudicate on whether or not I have been deceived. If I large auction house wishes to defend the case by saying that it is my fault because I didn’t ask them the appropriate question and that they were within their terms and conditions which allowed them to hide the damage….which ostensibly is their position then if I lose then so be it.
At the start of that auction though I didn’t really have a proper intention to buy a Richard Batterham lot and it seems to me that what they are advocating is wholesale condition reports on every lot by every prospective buyer - just in case they have hidden something.
I am not confident of winning but I do believe I have a case and the proper venue for that argument is in a court of law.
I have not totally committed myself to that course of action just yet. Whilst I have scanned the caselaw I have not properly researched it and prepared a case. The auction house have refused to answer some very pertinent questions which they are required to do as part of the pre-action protocols which is also interesting.
I confess it will be interesting to find out what their defence is. For me it is no different to someone photographing a vehicle and selling it without an engine in it.
We’ll see but as always each case is determined on its own merits and whilst I would be surprised if there hasn’t been similar cases I wouldn’t be shocked.
I hope you can see why I am quite sublime regarding the William Marshall vase but incandescent regarding the small vase. I know you think that the provenance (in the form of the letter) was dubious but it could even have been the daughter was told that information by her mum (I think) and believed her. The issue with the vase is significantly different.
Can I apologise in advance to whomever splits the threads up - I realise that whilst it does involve a William Marshall piece and a piece by Richard Batterham (both previously potters at the Leach) it is more about a legal argument regarding auction processes and I confess I am still learning.
I will look for the thread regarding these issues as mentioned by Philpot but I will only prepare my case based on stated caselaw.
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Post by croker April 21st 2022, 10:30 am

Hi Neil62,Welcome to the world of collector  V auction rooms, i think the first thing to remember is that auction houses work only for the vendor they have no obligation to the buyer apart from fakes or misattributions, providing the auction house has given viewing days to inspect items you have no comeback, most will give some sort of condition report on the lot but with no guarantees , on lots with multiples only a vague  report will usually  be given, many collectors buy on EBAY because the item can be returned if not as described. Many of us whether dealers or collectors will have have had bad experiences with auctions over the years .My advice is don't trust vague provenance and get familiar with the auctioneers terminology.
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Post by Neil62 April 21st 2022, 11:54 am

Hi Croker,
Thanks for your input, I have accepted the issue with the William Marshall piece, as part of the learning curve. The other is a little bit more to swallow. Have you ever taken legal action on a similar issue before?
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Post by studio-pots April 21st 2022, 5:10 pm

Neil62 wrote:Good advice Philpot,
I have bought both from David Lay and Barbara Kirk (I think that’s who you are referring to) auctions in the 6 months I’ve been collecting.
Funnily enough I had planned to go to The Adam Partridge in Macclesfield auction as well.  
Whilst I am now convinced that the octagonal vase is not by Bill Marshall, the Yunomi sold by the same vendor at the same auction, with the same provenance definitely is. It’s got both his individual mark and the St Ives mark.
The thing for me, certainly for the moment, is  I’m not interested in selling any of my collection other than the pieces superfluous to what I want, (I have sold a couple of standard Leach pieces) but the octagonal vase will stay with me for my lifetime, if for no other reason than as a cautionary reminder.
The issue you raise about different auctions is also a valid one but the auction I described as my worst experience is not a small auctioneer but a very large one.
I do understand the restricted rights, ‘caveat emptor’ etc and also the terms and conditions associated with purchasing at auction. The caselaw on it though is far too antiquated to be properly applied in todays marketplace where buyers purchase goods unseen, as I usually do, from different parts of the world. I am going to challenge what I view as deception regarding the Richard Batterham broken vase through the civil court. That is the one issue which annoys me because it was not my fault. The issue with the octagonal vase is my fault and I accept that. I took a letter from the vendor as being provenance and perhaps I shouldn’t have. I suppose with hindsight I am a bit of a gambler in life and that was one which didn’t pay off.  
Thank you for the advice which I will take heed of.
Kind regards
Neil62

Having begun buying at auction houses in the 1990s, although I did stop five or six years ago, the advice that I would give anyone is don't believe anything that any of them say. Some might be telling the truth but it's really not worth taking the risk, if you are paying serious money.

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Post by studio-pots April 21st 2022, 5:31 pm

Neil62 wrote:Hi Croker,
Thanks for your input, I have accepted the issue with the William Marshall piece, as part of the learning curve. The other is a little bit more to swallow. Have you ever taken legal action on a similar issue before?

Not Croker but I have not taken legal action against an auction house and know of no-one that has. My view is that it would be throwing money away on a lost cause. I tend to moan and name the auction houses whenever the occasion arises. Maybe there should be somewhere to leave "reviews" of auction houses like happens on Tripadvisor for hotels and restaurants?

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Post by croker April 21st 2022, 5:35 pm

Hi Neil62, Personally  i would forget it and put it down to experience, you will probably make more mistakes but occasionally  you will buy well which will make up for your losses. It is so easy to bid for a lot when it seems to be going cheaply only to find out why afterwards. Some  auction houses especially the smaller ones do not have any expert knowledge in most items they sell and the condition reports are often left to anyone who happens to be working that day. I have never sought  legal advice on this matter nor have i known anyone who has in my 50 years of attending auctions , as studio pots says it would be complete waste of time.
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Post by NaomiM April 21st 2022, 5:48 pm

studio-pots wrote:
Neil62 wrote:Hi Croker,
Thanks for your input, I have accepted the issue with the William Marshall piece, as part of the learning curve. The other is a little bit more to swallow. Have you ever taken legal action on a similar issue before?

Not Croker but I have not taken legal action against an auction house and know of no-one that has. My view is that it would be throwing money away on a lost cause. I tend to moan and name the auction houses whenever the occasion arises. Maybe there should be somewhere to leave "reviews" of auction houses like happens on Tripadvisor for hotels and restaurants?

Maybe try Google Review; I've left reviews for many and varied companies

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Post by NaomiM April 21st 2022, 5:50 pm

If it's in the hundreds or thousands then I'd try the Small Claims Court. The auction house may decide it's not worth the hassle of defending it. But it depends on whether they've already passed the money on to the owner. A lot harder to get the money back if they have.

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Post by philpot April 22nd 2022, 6:16 am

I would agree with Croker and Studio Pots on this one. We have all had similar experiences, and its all part of the learning curve of collecting. Moreover, we have all been collecting for decades. You are just not understanding the legal status that auctioneers have. My advice would be do not buy anything from an auctioneer unless you have inspected it yourself.
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Post by Neil62 April 22nd 2022, 10:49 am

Hi to those who have contributed to the thread, whilst I am grateful for your thoughts and advice there is possibly some misapprehension in the basis of my case. It is not worth a lot of money and all I am seeking is the return of my money and I would return the lot (all four pieces). The auction house has offered to resell the lot free of charge to me but the piece (one of four in the lot), I am referring to is worthless so there is only ever going to be a 3/4 return. My case is that the auction house, knowing the pot was damaged which they have admitted, photographed the item in the only way they could to hide that damage.
They did not disclose the damage in the catalogue but did on numerous other items (there were many more lots that the Richard Batterham lots). It was not disclosed at the auction either.
That in my view is deception. I have taken several cases both to the small claims court and to the high court and they went to trial. I am unconcerned by the thought of preparing evidence to be used in that arena. The piece had a 1 mm crack throughout its surface except in the position it was photographed. That was not done by accident and my belief is that a judge will not accept that as a defence. The conclusion being that they have tried to sell a worthless object by disguising it as having value.
My time costs nothing - if they wish to hire a solicitor to defend the case at £300 per hour that’s a matter for them. Cost to me to issue proceedings £50.
The work is already done, as I explained in my ‘letter before claim’ to them that will form the main part of my witness statement it will only mean cutting and pasting it onto another piece of paper.

I appreciate other peoples opinions and views but I haven’t got the time to go to auctions, particularly not in Penzance, to view, handle and collect the pots I wish to collect. I can only reiterate that I will make a decision following research into the caselaw, but going to small claims court is not an arduous task or a bad experience and all I require is an objective informed view of the law regarding what has happened and an adjudication.
What I do know is that the pre-action protocol will mean a court will instruct them to answer my questions regarding the damage which frankly will be very interesting and which they have refused to answer.
I respect all of your positions and realise you have far more experience of auctions / buying & selling / expertise in pottery and other antiques than I have.
I have over forty years experience of gathering and presenting evidence in courts, both criminal and civil and for £50 as is often said I’d like my day in court but I repeat again that will only occur after studying the caselaw.
Kind regards and thanks again for the input and NaomiM has it about right except that the owner wasn’t responsible for the photograph of the piece. I have identified that person already.
I also asked a question of Rueben Batterham about the piece but he didn’t respond.
He did respond regarding his father’s marks though and if anyone is interested I will post it - it may be useful but I suspect you may already know.
I’m not sure which thread it would go into?
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Post by 22 Crawford St. April 22nd 2022, 2:58 pm

I chucked my 10p worth into the hat five years ago in 2017 with this post. Note item 4. I don't think anything has changed for the better

https://www.20thcenturyforum.com/t20503-ebay-v-auction-houses?highlight=ebay
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Post by ppcollectables April 22nd 2022, 3:28 pm

An auction house will always say that you are able to view the lots in person - which is always the best /only way - and if you don't, nor ask for a condition report, then there is no redress for the buyer.
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Post by 22 Crawford St. April 22nd 2022, 4:44 pm

Why do I have to ask for a condition report? Or let me rephrase that. Why should I have to ask for a condition report. Imagine an ebay item listed, and they only tell you it has serious damage if you ask them. It's a joke. If most items have interest and most have condition repots requested then why the hell don't they just publish them for all to see.
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Post by Neil62 April 22nd 2022, 4:51 pm

Hi 22 Crawford Street,
That’s exactly my point, in my case I read all the catalogue and there were lots of items with minor damage identified. My piece was literally split in two and a chip that was probably 1/4 of the rim of the small vase. Obviously turned around on the one photo so that it couldn’t be seen. The auction house’s position basically is if we hide it and you don’t see it then tough!
If it was a case judged by a jury I would be very confident irrespective of the terms and conditions/ caveats etc.
Reason because any normal member of the public would think - that’s not right!
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Post by philpot April 22nd 2022, 6:31 pm

So the 'Batterham' piece was only one part of a bigger Lot. Have I got that right? How many pieces were in the Total Lot? Is this Wooley and Wallis we are talking about by the way? They are fond of multi lots.
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Post by ppcollectables April 22nd 2022, 6:41 pm

A condition report will never cover everything each individual buyer would want to know, how do you define the quality of decoration ? how well has a pot been thrown ? Its only ever an opinion. Some buyers want more detail than another, everyone has differing stds of what is good, what is very good and what is poor. No auction house is going to take responsibilty for the needs of every potential buyer. Catalogues and online listings usually state that the absence of any mention of faults doesn't mean an item is perfect. Also a low estimate is usually a giveaway and always needs to be investigated.
I am not trying to be an auction house spokesperson but if you have 500 lots with many lots having multiple items in each plus the caveatts mentioned above it would double their costs. I often wonder why obvious damage sn't sometimes mentioned, even why they offer damaged items but I think you are expecting too much.
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Post by Neil62 April 22nd 2022, 7:14 pm

philpot wrote:So the 'Batterham' piece was only one part of a bigger Lot. Have I got that right? How many pieces were in the Total Lot? Is this Wooley and Wallis we are talking about by the way? They are fond of multi lots.

Correct - there were 4 pieces in the lot all purporting to be by Richard Batterham from his Durweston estate.Auction Houses discussion, split from the St Ives thread 914a6210
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Post by philpot April 22nd 2022, 7:30 pm

The Batterham Lots in this sale were actually consigned to Wooley and Wallis for sale before Richard Batterham died.They actually advertised them as such. Obviously they had to change the description after his demise.
Below I have copied verbatim the part of their Conditions of Sale that applies here. When bidding at an auction you invariably have to fill in a little box somewhere that you 'agree' to the Conditions of Sale. The Legal Devil is always in the small print. Herewith the Conditions,
'Intending buyers have ample opportunity for inspection of goods and, therefore, accept responsibility for inspecting and investigating lots in which they may be interested. Please note carefully the exclusion of liability for the condition of lots contained in the Conditions of Sale. Neither the seller nor we, as the auctioneers, accept any responsibility for their condition. In particular, mechanical objects of any age are not guaranteed to be in working order. However, in so far as we have examined the goods and make a representation about their condition, we shall be liable for any defectwhich that examination ought to have revealed to the auctioneer but which would not have been revealed to the buyer had the buyer examined the goods. Additionally, in specified circumstances lots misdescribed because they are 'deliberate forgeries' may be returned and repayment made. There is a 3 week time limit. (The expression 'deliberate forgery' is defined in our Conditions of Sale).'
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Post by studio-pots April 22nd 2022, 8:51 pm

I knew that the item you were referring to was in the Woolley & Wallis sale but wasn't aware that it was this lot.

What I know about all these lots is that they were items that Richard used at home and, in reality, they were "house clearance" lots.

Whenever they were assigned to the auction house, there appears to have been no verification done by the auction house as to whether the items consigned were what the vendor said these items were.

That is the usual modus operandi of almost all auction houses.

My understanding is that all of these items were consigned by the executors of Richard's Estate either before or after his death (I had heard both accounts).

For serious long term collectors of Richard Batterham's work, items used by Richard, either damaged or not, have special meaning and ought to have a premium. Far more than the items sold elsewhere just before.

I suggested that serious long term collectors of Richard's work would have looked at these 4 pots and, like me thought that the mug was probably made by him but the other 3 bits almost certainly were not. If they wanted to own pots that Richard owned then they might bid but if they wanted to buy 4 pots that they were certain that Richard had made and had used then they would have ignored, damage or not.

This is the reality of all auction houses and like I said my best advice is that you never believe anything any auction house says without using your own knowledge or asking someone, who has more knowledge than yourself.

Having said all of that you would be wasting money taking it any further, it is and always has been "buyer beware".

If in future you wish to ask my advice about any specific lot then feel free to message me. There is no charge and if you ignore my advice then that's fine.

The unfortunate thing for you is that you have started collecting when there has been much hype of Richard's work.

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Post by Neil62 April 22nd 2022, 9:30 pm

philpot wrote:The Batterham Lots in this sale were actually consigned to Wooley and Wallis for sale before Richard Batterham died.They actually advertised them as such. Obviously they had to change the description after his demise.
          Below I have copied verbatim the part of their Conditions of Sale that applies here. When bidding at an auction you invariably have to fill in a little box somewhere that you 'agree' to the Conditions of Sale. The Legal  Devil is always in the small print. Herewith the Conditions,
                 'Intending buyers have ample opportunity for inspection of goods and, therefore, accept responsibility for inspecting and investigating lots in which they may be interested. Please note carefully the exclusion of liability for the condition of lots contained in the Conditions of Sale. Neither the seller nor we, as the auctioneers, accept any responsibility for their condition. In particular, mechanical objects of any age are not guaranteed to be in working order. However, in so far as we have examined the goods and make a representation about their condition, we shall be liable for any defectwhich that examination ought to have revealed to the auctioneer but which would not have been revealed to the buyer had the buyer examined the goods. Additionally, in specified circumstances lots misdescribed because they are 'deliberate forgeries' may be returned and repayment made. There is a 3 week time limit. (The expression 'deliberate forgery' is defined in our Conditions of Sale).'

As I have continually expressed there is a difference between deliberately hiding the damage and as you have pointed out “we shall be liable for any defect which that examination ought to have revealed to the auctioneer but which would not have been revealed to the buyer had the buyer examined the goods.”
They have admitted they knew of the extensive damage beforehand.
Frankly let’s leave it to a court, I’m not certain who thinks it’s right to do that or not but I’m more than happy to put my case before the court and ultimately we are all just interpreters of what we believe is the law and I won’t subscribe to any of it until I’ve read studied the caselaw but thank you for the advice/ opinion.
Neil62
Neil62

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Auction Houses discussion, split from the St Ives thread Empty Re: Auction Houses discussion, split from the St Ives thread

Post by philpot April 23rd 2022, 8:39 am

The kernel of this argument of course is that many Auction houses have become Retailers in all but name. But they operate under antiquated laws that are different from those that Retailers have to abide by. This is clearly a total contradiction. But nothing has been -and probably will not be- done about it.
It will be very interesting to see how you get on Neil. Please keep us posted!
philpot
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