I became involved in antiques when I graduated from university. I was working towards a career as a museum curator, but I couldn’t work in a world where everything had to be handled wearing kid gloves. I applied for a job at Sotheby’s and started at the bottom. I worked there for 10 years and became a head of department.
I set up Catherine Southon Auctioneers & Valuers in 2012. Until that point I had been working as an antiques consultant and presenting programmes for the BBC. Doing talks in the local area, I was often asked, ‘Where’s the nearest auction room?’. As there wasn’t anything nearby, I decided to set up on my own!
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No two days are alike in the auction world. Our open valuation days in Kent and Surrey are always my favourite. You never know what’s going to grace your table and some of the best things I have ever seen have come out of shabby supermarket carrier bags! There’s nothing better than lotting up a sale on a Monday evening. When the cabinets are gleaming and ready to view the next morning, I can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
My favourite items sold to date have been a beautiful diamond ring that went for £27,140, and a real Suffragette hunger strike medal that sold for £48,640 [both pictured below]. There was such a buzz in the room and I didn’t know when the bidding was going to stop. I’m not a collector, I buy things I like. At home I have everything from an 18th-century microscope to a nest of vintage Ercol tables.
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