When a chipped bluebowl goes for £96,000 in Harborough

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Reporter Alex Dawson went along to a local auction to find out what happens when the bidding get going.

At just 27cms (11 inches) across, with a simple blue-and white pattern and a chip, it didn’t look like a bowl that would break the bank.

A Northamptonshire imperial yeomanry blue dragoons uniform valued �200 - �800.

A Northamptonshire imperial yeomanry blue dragoons uniform valued �200 - �800.

Even experienced Market Harborough auction house Gildings weren’t convinced it was a winner - they’d put a guide price on it of £300 - £500. In fact Lot 228 at Tuesday’s Gilding’s Auction, a Chinese blue and white bowl, went for £96,000.

“There were three bidders who all went to the bitter end - two on the phone and one on the internet” said managing director Will Gilding.

“It’s a perfect illustration of the complete unpredictability of the Chinese market.”

But a day at Gildings seems to confirm that the entire 
antiques market is bewilderingly unpredictable.

Longines gentleman's british air ministry military navigators watch �600 - �800.

Longines gentleman's british air ministry military navigators watch �600 - �800.

Take that lovely 1940s British Air Ministry military navigators watch, for example. Guide price £600-£800; sold to a phone bidder for £1,900.

Or that Opal and Diamond Bracelet, only a little above guide price at £540, and elsewhere there were jewellery bargains to be had.

Or that early 20th century Northamptonshire Imperial Yeomanry uniform, more than doubling its guide price when it sold for £800.

It sounds thrilling, but bidders strive to be inconspicuous in the wooded-beamed auction room or anonymous on the internet or - occasionally over the phone.

An opal and diamond bracelet �300 - �500.

An opal and diamond bracelet �300 - �500.

And the Lots themselves whizz by at about six or seven hundred a day.

Nevertheless as auctions get popularised by TV and made more accessible by the internet, this is a good time to be an in the auction business.

Company founder John Gilding said: “I started in the business in 1961, and started this business in 1989, and it’s a sheer delight to pass it on to another generation.”

As for Tuesday’s sale, it seemed to be a big success.

Auctioneer Denise Cowling in full flow with Sam Heeley at Gildings.

Auctioneer Denise Cowling in full flow with Sam Heeley at Gildings.

Around £280,00 was paid for almost 700 lots in one day, with bargains to be had - especially in jewellery - as well as fortunes to be spent.

A bidder during the auction at Gildings.

A bidder during the auction at Gildings.

A bidder during the auction at Gildings.

A bidder during the auction at Gildings.

Busy scenes at Gildings auctioneers.

Busy scenes at Gildings auctioneers.

Visitors study some of the fine art and antiques during the preview evening at Gildings auctioneers.

Visitors study some of the fine art and antiques during the preview evening at Gildings auctioneers.