Flog-It BBC 2 Monday-Friday 3:45pm
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can you do better than the experts?

Paul Martin and the 'Flog-it' team (http://www.bbc.co.uk/antiques/tv_and_radio/flogit_index.shtml) came to Cambridge's Regent Hotel on 20th February 2006.

The Flog It valuation days invite people to get advice from the antique experts and possibly make some money from their collectables. Everyone is promised a valuation and if the experts particularly like it and you wish to sell it they may take it to auction a couple of weeks after the valuation day.

People where invited to bring along up to three items. When the doors where opened the queue extended around the Hotel. The seats were arranged around the room in a spiral, which allowed those queuing to see the proceedings from different angles, to chat with friends and find out what others had brought along.

Paul Martin went around the room and spoke to many people, signed autographs and had a brief look at what they had brought along.

The centre of the room was set up with several tables where the items could be set up and then one of the experts would come over and have a look at what was brought. If there was something of particular interest they would ask you to wait and they would film it. From the end of the queue to being seen took about 6 hours. That also meant that the experts where engaged and active all that time and must be a tiring day for them. 

The experts present included staff from Reeman Dansie Auctions of Colchester, Marc Winter (below) and Michael Bowles.

Anyone who has seen the programme or the others like it ("Antiques Roadshow", "Bargain Hunt", and "Cash in the attic") will realise that the experts seldom agree upon the value. At auction so much depends upon who is there to bid and whether the auction had attracted enough bidders for the type of item being auctioned.

I brought along part of a collection of metal die cast "Corgi" toys including the "Avengers"

and "James Bond Goldfinger Aston Martin DB5"

and a dinner set. The 1970s dinner set, which I had always assumed was Japanese I was told is a Chinese copy and unfortunately there is little interest in bone china or dinner sets.

Michael Bowles was very interested in the cars and suggested that the Avengers set might reach £250 and the James Bond Aston Martin £120. Paul Martin came over and also had a look. He recalled that they had auctioned "The Avenger" set which was complete with all three of Steed's umbrellas for over £400 (it was in fact for £420 and Steedís Bentley was red).  They decided that the auction would be too general to get the best value for the toys but advised me of a special "collectables" auction in Colchester on March 13th.

I photographed the "toys", posted them on a web page and e-mailed Michael Bowles Reeman Dansie on the closing day of submissions for the "Collectables" auction. Michael phoned me and I arranged to take the collection over for a more detailed evaluation.

I had already spent some time on the internet looking for similar toys and tracking the prices being asked and what items where sold for. I had a good idea what some of the toys and other items would sell for on eBay but for others had no clue. Given time most items would turn up for auction, but this could take years and still not give a clue as to the value.

Michael Bowles went thought each box and explained the process of the auction, how they group items together to make a lot and also suggested what sells best and what they where not likely to get sufficient interest in. Besides the toy cars I bought plastic soldiers and animals, and soft toys and dolls, coins, autographed theatre programmes and military cap badges from the 1940s.

Michael valued the boxed Corgi cars at higher than I had been seeing on Ebay, but the unique display box set of Britain's Zoo animals at only £50-80. I had seen these being sold individually for £1.99-4.99 so the boxed set of over 60 pieces I felt had to be worth more.

The signed theatre programmes would be sold together and may not get more than £20, even with the autographs of Morecambe and Wise, Mike and Bernie Winters, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Leslie Phillips, Sidney James and Wendy Craig. 

The Military badges and Air Cadet Corp belt perhaps £20-30. The knife - no value.

I separated out those being left for a written quote and those I would auction on eBay.

A few days later I got an estimate of the collection and these where then listed on their web pages (http://www.reeman-dansie-auctions.co.uk/auction.php?auction=6688 ). After the auction these where updated with the hammer price.

Ebay had a special offer on the listings and so I quickly listed the other items I had readied with what I thought were realistic opening bid based upon advice from Michael Bowles and from weeks of tracking auctions on eBay myself.

Over the next 10 days I checked on auctions for similar items and let all the bidders know about what I was selling and also about the Reeman Dansie auction.

The James Bond Aston Martin sold on eBay in the same week for £124, £254, £281 and £390 the Colchester auction saw my sample (without the secret instructions) sell for £180. The Avenger's set sold for £350; well above estimate.

On Ebay the collection of Britain's Zoo animals went to Australia for ten times the lower estimate and over three times what I had expected. The military cap badges sold for £2 to £6 and the Air Cadet Corp belt for £77. The 1948 knife sold for £22 to America.

The theatre programmes had interest but few sold. Morecambe and Wise (£15), Mike and Bernie Winters (no bids), Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (£24), Leslie Phillips (£4.99), Sidney James (£26) and Wendy Craig (no bids). A neighbour told me last week that he was given a framed photograph of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore with a scrap of paper with their autographs on it. It had cost £350. Perhaps if I cut out the two signed photographs from the theatre programme and mounted them in a frame I might have done better than £24.

Only 50% of the eBay items got a bid. All those auctioned at Reeman Dansie sold.

Ebay charges fees, in a complex structure and sliding scale. For example the Peter Cook and Dudley Moore theatre programme cost 5.4% of the closing value to list. The Britain's Zoo animals worked out at 2.9% but cost me in bank transfer fees (making 4.5% costs) and some hours in attempting to package it careful to go half way around the world.

Reeman Dansie charge a commission of 12.5% and then VAT on top (effectively 14.7% of the hammer price) and also a storage charge prior to and after the auction if unsold items are not collected. Some auction houses charge 25% commission and similar percentages to the buyer.

A Seller's Guide - A few tips

Do your homework. Thanks to the internet and auction sites like eBay and search engines like www.search.com you can usually track down what ever it is that you want to valuate. Finding someone selling a vinyl record for $129 does not mean that it will be sold ever, but does indicate what someone is expecting for it.

What you may consider junk may not be. What you think of as old and of collectable value may not be. Just because there is great interest in something does not mean that bidding will be high, even if the item is 'rare'. 

Ebay auctions are wild (high and low) and there may be last minute panics that raise the bidding to dizzy heights. Listing in the wrong category or without an adequate description and good photographs may mean that interested bidder will not see the listing or not be able to determine the value of what you are auctioning.

  • Check closed prices for similar items for several weeks to determine the minimum price you can expect (the reserve or opening bid)
  • If the item has no value to you and you are more interest in it going to a good home than in getting a few pence more for it then list for enough to cover the advertising cost.
  • Watch for condition - near mint in box always fetches more than well used articles. Compare with items of similar condition. Missing papers can devalue an item by huge amounts.
  • Check what categories to list in. You can list in two categories (double the listing fee)
  • Check prices in dollars and Euros as you may find interest in USA, Germany, France or elsewhere higher than in the UK. You can list in US$ or EURO and in a language other than English on Ebay.de (Germany) Ebay.fr (France) etc it that is likely to receive more interest and a higher selling price.
  • Look for special offer listings days, such as 10p listing and 5p buy it now - this make a big saving and allow you to list items that have a low expected value (e.g. 99p)
  • Check possible postage costs carefully - don't loose money on inaccurate posting by not checking the weigh boxed and quoting insurance. Check weight, noting that your kitchen scales may not be accurate to those at the Post Office, and look at http://www.royalmail.com/ to check options and prices.
  • If using bank transfer or PayPal check the charges first. PayPal can take another 3.9%+20p from the transaction which means you are funding the postage costs as well.
  • Do not post until funds have cleared and remember that cheques cashed may still be bounced weeks later and that PayPal do refund payments if there is a complaint or the credit card used for the transaction turns out to be stolen six months after you have posted off the item.
  • Always get a certificate of posting and if sensible post by recorded or special delivery to get a signature of arrival.

If you can't find a similar item being sold ask expert advice from an auction house. A shop selling collectables and antiques may quote you an insurance value and what it is worth to them. The insurance value is what you might have to pay if you needed to replace immediately. The  value to them is such that they can earn an income, not have it on the shelf too long, and could be a third or even a quarter of what you might sell it for direct to a collector. An expert from an auction house can only give a guide and no guarantee that the article will sell at auction.

Thanks to Flog-It and Michael Bowles of Reeman Dansie I sold off a large part of my childhood collection in a less painful way than I thought it was going to be.

If you would like to know more about the auction process and how to achieve the best return on eBay you can contact me at

Last updated 26th March 2007