Last night (May 24) Britain's Channel 4 presented the first in its new series Four Rooms, which presents dealing in collectibles to the public as never before.
Previously the best-known show for collectibles was the Antiques Roadshow, in which the rather sedate format sees items of decorative art and porcelain presented to an expert of some description along with a chat about how they came to have it. A valuation is presented, and the owner pretends to be surprised.
Four Rooms cuts to the chase, with a format taken more from Dragon's Den. The owners of a great variety of collectibles came and offered their cherished items. The dealers then made their best offer for the wares, following assessments of them which ranged from charming to insultingly blunt.
The owner decides which dealer to speak to in order, and if they pass over the highest offer they can extract, they have to turn it down permanently - they cannot return to a dealer after going on to the next one.
The items in the opening show included a collection of Christmas cards from Princess Diana to her personal chef, an original 1960s Dalek from TV show Dr Who, a cigar owned by Winston Churchill, Elvis's golf buggy and a Francis Bacon portrait which had been deliberately mutilated by the artist.
Cigars belonging to Churchill have done well at auction in the past, notably a half-smoked example with excellent provenance bringing £4,500 at auction early last year. It's likely that the owner on Four Rooms had this in mind when asking for "at least £4,000".
He was understandly given short shrift at this price as the unsmoked cigar had neither the provenance nor direct contact with Churchill that the above example does. Emma Hawkins offered £300 whilst two of the others refused to made serious bids.
However Andrew Lamberty made an over generous offer of £1,000 as we have an unsmoked Churchill cigar available at just £695.
The owner of the Diana Christmas card set did worse still. His set of cards illustrates a poignant sequence running from Charles and Diana's early marriage, through the births of her sons (Wills and Harry appearing on the front of the cards) and past her divorce (Charles's signature disappears).
He bought them for £15,000. Last night, in an intriguing move, he sold them for £10,000.
Given the opportunity to gamble by dealer Jeff Salmon on the roll of a die ("odds I pay you £10,000; evens you get £25,000") he rolled a '5' - bad luck compounding a dubious decision. Salmon, who wears a slightly Dr Who-style scarf admitted that he'd have been more than happy to have paid £25,000 straight. We have Princess Diana cards currently available with prices around £2,750.
But, we're hooked, and will be eagerly tuning in to see if some owners can deal a little better than the above. Clearly some can. The shredded Francis Bacon painting which was bought for £4,000 passed on to leather-trousered Emma Hawkins for a stunning £48,000.
We still think she'll make a profit on an investment like that.
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