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Online future is bright for Cornish auction house

“We have to be seen to be offering that service,” the 22-year-old entrepreneur says. “We have to be seen to be moving with the century rather than holding onto this archaic auction system. A lot of auctioneers are stuck in a hole but unless we move with the times, we’ll get lost.”

For every sale Barnes Thomas County Auctioneers makes, Thomas says there will be ten to 20 people from around the world bidding via the internet. The auction house partners with Ebay to offer an online platform to customers. “Ebay provides the platform and also markets the high-value items, which is great,” Thomas says.

He believes in the future, 90 per cent of the bidders at an auction will be online.

Thomas started the company a year ago, focusing on paintings. He holds four auctions a year with 250 lots per auction. “It can be difficult to find 1,000 good things every year,” he admits. “It usually all comes in at the last minute.”

The average price of an item is £5,000 but Thomas holds the Cornish record for Sir Terry Frost’s work Sonnet to Black. It was sold for £90,000. He also achieved two world record prices during his first year in business, successfully selling a Charles Napier Henry for £37,000 in 2007, and achieving £10,100 for the sale of a Fred Yates.

Turnover is currently £500,000 but Thomas has added jewellery and silver departments to the firm. “We’re hoping to increase our turnover by 50 per cent with just the jewellery side,” he says.


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