Matt Coles

Auctioneer & Senior Valuer

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Having grown up in an 18th century rectory, Matt was almost destined to have an interest in all things with an historic past.

Early years of exploring his family home played a large part in deciding Matt’s career path, and certainly led to him having a fascination for objects with a history. Whilst he has a leaning towards furniture, Matt is a generalist with a wonderful knowledge of art, antiques and collectables.  

 

 

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Why are you working within the auction world?

I have always been interested in social history and found objects from the past a fascination to me.

I was brought up in a large 18th century rectory, which I would explore on rainy days. After finishing school, I did some work experience at a couple of local auction rooms and ended up getting hooked and working full-time in the industry.

 

Within your career to date, which item would you say is your favourite?

I’ve had a few memorable finds and it is difficult to limit myself to one. My earliest was an oak throne type chair I discovered in a barn. It was in a terrible state, but it had a couple of plaques explaining that the timber was taken from York Minster after the fire in 1840. The timbers were then used to create a Masonic throne for the Earl of Zetland, who was to become the most senior Freemason in England. I sold it originally to a collector, but after restoring the chair and enjoying it for a few years he found me to sell it again at auction. So, it’s a special item to me, I have re-discovered it and sold it twice. It now resides in the Berkshire Masonic Museum in Reading, so I get to see again.

Another memorable item was an Italian giltwood console table I saw on an insurance valuation. It was stored in a civic building, which had been rented out to an Italian restaurant chain! I brought it to the attention of a specialist, and I was to see it again years later at auction re-united with its 17th century stone mounted cabinet. The lot sold for over £1 million.

More recently, I was shown a tinplate model of an Alfa Romeo P2 tin plate racing car by the French manufacturer C.I.J. It was on a probate valuation and the client brought it out just as I was finishing, as a curiosity. These cars appear quite regularly, but this looked like it had been played with only occasionally, and still had the box, winding key and even the packing materials in the box. I sold it at auction for £14,000, which I think is still the record for this type of model.

 

What first attracted you to your speciality?

Even from when I was a child, I had been shown the family tree showing my descendance from William Ince, who set up as a cabinet maker with John Mayhew in 1758. Also, living in Yorkshire many of the stately homes I visited had Chippendale furniture, so I suppose it was inevitable I would have a leaning towards late 18th century furniture. But my interest in social history and my career has allowed me to broaden my horizons, so that now I am learning all the time about new fields and subjects.

 

"The variety of items that come into auction is so vast that you are always increasing your knowledge."

What aspect of your career do you find most satisfying?

No two days are ever the same. The variety of items that come into auction is so vast that you are always increasing your knowledge. There is also always the delight of telling someone they have an item of real interest - it makes my day knowing I have made my client’s day too.

If money were no object, which item would you most like to buy at auction?

That would have to be an inlaid commode by Ince & Mayhew of course! Ironically, no one in the extended family has a piece, so it would be lovely to rectify that with a piece comparable to those made by their rival Thomas Chippendale.

 

What should a potential collector/buyer look to purchase?

It’s always difficult to predict how markets will change in the future so collectors should always buy something they would love to display in the home and treasure. Keep within your budget but buy the best quality you can afford. The market is all about quality. But regardless of value, when buying an antique, you are buying part of our heritage, so treasure it and enjoy it. 

What in your opinion are the best items to sell via an auction house… focus on your area of expertise

Items from the 1930s through to the 1970s are very popular, especially designer items from Scandinavia and Italy. They fit so well into modern interior designs that there is plenty of demand.

 

A 17th-century Italian style carved wood and gilt gesso vitrine
A 17th-century Italian style carved wood and gilt gesso vitrine

Sold for £5,600

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What are your valuables worth?

Request a complimentary auction estimate from our team of specialists, or contact us to book an appointment. If your item is suitable for auction, we will provide you with a valuation and further details of how to sell with us.

 

 

 

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