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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Christies Pull Out Of Collectibles

While I was away the following arrived on 3rd August in my inbox from Laurence Fisher, former Mechanical Music and Technical Apparatus Specialist at Christie's:

Good afternoon!

This is just a quick line to say hello and to inform those who are interested what has happened at Christie's. They have closed all the collectables departments, leaving only a couple of 'headed' departments which deal with selected high-value only pieces, not including vintage slots etc. I was made redundant from Christie's on the 22 June.

Upon going to work for the last sale set-up on the 23rd May, I suffered a heart attack. I am feeling much better, but I still have to keep a close eye on my health. The last-ever sale of Mechanical Music and Technical Apparatus was held at 2.00pm on the 31 May 2007. The November date, as stated on the MBSGB webpage, will of course not be going ahead.

After a good few weeks to build up my strength, I have been appointed Specialist of Mechanical Music and Technical Apparatus at Bonham's. Based in Relay Road in White City in London, I shall be consigning into sales for Knowle and Knightsbridge. Please be assured that I believe Knowle to be one of the many assets of Bonham's, not only being in the centre of the country, but also great parking, great selection if a collection comes in and in addition I now have the privilege of working once more with many good people who I had the pleasure of working with when I was at Philips 12 years ago.

I shall let you know when and where slots come up and in the meantime if you have any pieces you would like to consign at Bonham's, please call me on 07977 368 288. Remember - competitive rates and excellent mail-shot lists are with me.

many thanks and best wishes.

Laurence Fisher
Specialist, Mechanical Music

Bonhams 1793

Relay Road
White City
London W12 7JS

I was very sorry to hear about Laurence's illness but glad to know he's feeling better. Laurence "joined" the slot collector community when he handled the Nic Costa sale. He was courteous, enthusiastic and helpful beyond the norm. One is bound to wonder at the stresses imposed by these cut-throat operations and the lack of any job security received in return. I wish Laurence a longer and brighter future with Bonham's.

I'm not sure whether Christie's drastic decision to close all its collectibles departments reflects a crisis in the whole field or is a case of one top auction house pricing itself out of a market. I do think the combination of a downturn in realized prices for collectibles and inflated auction premiums (plus other costs associated with London salesrooms) has made them increasingly unattractive to buyers and sellers alike. Ebay must have taken its toll as well I guess.

The good news is that the Old School House at Knowle which has a continuous history of mechanical music, technical and coin-operated collectibles sales dating back to the 1980s (originally as Philips) has acquired a specialist with a genuine interest in our field, and one of the most charming, intimate and accessible professional auction venues in the country can only benefit from Christie's withdrawal from the fray.