February Edition 2020
THE PEOPLE MAKE THE PRICE
Meet Duncan Wills & Trevor Jones
Directors, Castle Auctions
The definition of an auction is a public sale where goods are sold to the highest bidder. As Duncan Wills, Director at Castle Auctions, says, “Public auctions are a fast and fair way to sell goods because participants bid openly against each other and the item is sold to the bidder who offers to pay the most. Effectively, the people make the price”. This way of selling is exactly what Castle Auctions do from their facility, just off the highway in Limassol. They hold fortnightly sales which consist of a diverse range of movable objects, including furniture, rugs, motor vehicles, machinery, art, watches, jewellery and anything else the people of Cyprus no longer need, sometimes referred to as ‘pre-loved’. They also hold specialist sales and on-site dispersal sales for businesses. From individual items to the contents of whole villas, shops and warehouses, the auctions offer a fascinating range of products at excellent prices.
Duncan Wills grew up in the South West of England and enjoyed a career in the banking sector before his relocation to Cyprus. At a young age, he sang in a Cathedral choir, so performing in front of people has never fazed him. Duncan has a keen interest in public speaking and was a member of Toastmaster International. He has been an active member of the Lions which organises charity fundraising events, and with them, he has raised thousands for many local charities. At Castle Auctions, he is a Director and the Principal Auctioneer. He lives in Pachna with his family and three Cyprus rescue dogs.
Trevor Jones also relocated to Cyprus from the South West of England. After his career in estate agency, he continued with property marketing in Cyprus for several years, together with a holiday lettings company, web development and SEO consultancy. After Trevor sold his company, he went into partnership with Duncan to start Castle Auctions, as they saw the opportunity and potential demand on the Island. He is also a Director at Castle Auctions and lives in Emba in Paphos.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND.
Duncan: I started coming to Cyprus in 2003 and loved it right from the start. Initially, I came to visit family here, but I soon realised that I wanted to stay. In the UK, I was a Regional Manager of one of the leading banks in the South West of England. I always had an interest in antiques throughout my life and I was directly involved in both property auctions and general sales through my work at the bank, where we owned both estate agents and auction salerooms. It was in the UK that I had my first experience of being an auctioneer. We established Castle Auctions in 2011 from our original premises, which were just across the road from Kolossi Castle – hence the name. When we started, we just did general sales and discovered a huge demand for this method of selling chattels in Cyprus. As demand grew, we realised that we needed larger premises and relocated to our current site, which gives us the facility to hold multiple auctions at the same time.
Trevor: We both actually met in the UK and I have known Duncan for about twenty-five years. Back then, I was working in an estate agency in the UK which I did for several years in Cornwall. I was a Branch Manager for an independent chain. In 2004, like Duncan, I started going back and forth between the UK and Cyprus with the main aim being to live here permanently. Initially, I continued with property marketing but then decided to partner with Duncan and start the auction house, as we could both see the massive demand for this service. The auction house is an extension of both of our skills as we were both very familiar with the auction process and could see the benefits of introducing it on a professional level to Cyprus.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST ADVICE TO SOMEONE WHO HAS NEVER BID AT AN AUCTION BEFORE?
Trevor: The auction process is straightforward and effortless. You have the option to attend the auction and bid in person, or listen, watch and bid online from home, your mobile or workplace.
A few days before the auction, we publish a full picture catalogue of every lot, including a description, photographs and starting guide price. This is followed by two full “viewing days” where people can come and have a closer look at the lots for auction. Sometimes customers cannot make it to the auction day or bid online, so they have the option to leave an absentee bid which authorises us to bid on their behalf.
Successful bids are legally binding, and once payment is made, lots can be collected and removed immediately or we can arrange island wide or international delivery.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE ITEMS TO SELL?
Duncan: You never know week on week what will be for sale and it is always fascinating to me what people bring in, however, I love to see the saleroom full of antiques. Even if the items are not things you necessarily want to own or have space for, it is so interesting to see items created for lives in a bygone age. I enjoy the craftsmanship, beauty and imagining their uses, which we may not need in our lives today but were an essential part of everyday life back then. I love Victoriana, an amazing period of invention, industrialisation and expansion, and like many people, I admire the quality of antique pieces of furniture.
Earlier this year we sold the most beautiful Walnut Court Cabinet. It had the most amazing carvings in the wood and was full of symbolisms and allegorical figures. There was so much detail you couldn’t take it all in at once. I could sit and stare at it for hours discovering new features. A Court Cabinet comes from Elizabethan and Jacobean times when there weren’t any banks and people displayed their wealth through certain key items of furniture in their home, like a Tester Bed, a Great Chair and a Court Cabinet, the sideboard of the period, where they displayed their silver and gold. It was a statement piece of furniture designed to demonstrate the owner’s prosperity and status and designed to be impressive, so they were always beautifully decorated. I am passionate about antique furniture because of the skill involved in making pieces which you just do not see in mass-produced machine-made furniture today.
It is also fun to sell the luxury pieces; we recently sold a magnificent 3-carat diamond ring to the loveliest couple who have been married for many years, and we have also sold some fantastic cars, such as a Bentley and a Rolls Royce.
We also have our own classic car at the auction house, which is a part of our team. ‘Stanley’ is our much loved 1957 Austin A35 Countryman Van. Many of our customers learnt to drive in A35’s but if you are of a younger generation, you might have seen one starring alongside Wallace and Gromit in the popular films. He is very small and sweet and makes you happy to drive him or just to see him out on the road where he gets lots of friendly waves and smiles from other motorists. However, after enjoying his company for the last 5 years, we have decided it is time for someone else to enjoy Stanley and we currently have him for sale.
Trevor: As for me, I do enjoy cars as well, but I also like clocks and watches. We get quite a range of timepieces through the saleroom, which always attract collectors on the Island and worldwide attention through our website and online bidding platform. Watches, jewellery and other small collectable items are easy to pack for shipping anywhere. Myself, I have a small collection of interesting timepieces including Cuckoo clocks which I have restored myself, and a particular liking for Omega watches.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR COMMERCIAL SALES.
Trevor: Over the years we have often had the contents of closed down restaurants, shops and offices come through the auction. However, Cyprus’s first formal liquidation sale on behalf of the Bank of Cyprus was an exciting challenge. We were appointed by their receiver managers to responsibly dispose of all the assets and clear the premises of Pierides Lighting and Electrical. By advertising the sale and holding a public auction, we sold absolutely everything for the best price we could achieve on behalf of the client. There is an EU directive which states that public auctions are a fair, transparent and responsible way to sell assets.
They were the biggest electrical distributors in Cyprus with a large and impressive lighting showroom and vast warehousing. Everything had to be sold, and the building had to be delivered back to the bank within a fixed timeframe.
Duncan: There was a 3.4-million-euro balance sheet of stock which ranged from Trucks and Forklifts to lightbulbs, power tools and luxury lighting such as Swarovski crystal chandeliers with a retail price of 34,000 euros. It took us approximately one month just to complete the inventory and prepare the catalogues. In the end, we had four on-site auctions over a period of 2 weeks. Every single item was sold and the entire building was completely cleared. We had excellent attendance at the auction and many online bidders. We were delighted with the volume of bidding on all the lots.
Due to the success of the numerous commercial sales we have carried out so far, we hope to continue to receive more instructions in the future. The process of selling is fast and removes the trouble of storing goods, buyer negotiations, viewing appointments and turns unwanted assets into cash.
IN THE EVENT OF A DEATH, YOU OFTEN SELL THE CONTENTS OF A HOME ON BEHALF OF A FAMILY. HOW DOES THAT WORK?
Duncan: Cyprus is a very international Island with a large population of expats who we regularly sell items for when they move. Additionally, sadly, people pass away and we are instructed to assist with home clearances on behalf of their estate. One of the tasks of an estate executor is to responsibly dispose of the household goods left behind by a deceased homeowner. Often the beneficiaries do not live on the Island and do not realistically have the time to deal with disposing of the large inventory of furniture and other goods usually involved. This can often be accomplished most efficiently through an auction. Additionally, most people do not normally appreciate the value of second hand items and collectables, especially with regard to the different markets internationally. We can help to ensure that items of significant value that may be overlooked by non-experts aren’t missed. Any items we consider unsuitable for auction will be appropriately disposed of. We can, if required, clear the whole property on their behalf, making the process as stress-free as possible.
Auctions are such a good way of getting a fair price for an object. If there is a family who has to dispose of a relative’s estate, this is the most honest way to establish the value, and the money can be shared. The people who attend the auction set the price and market value. It is a fair, transparent, honest and open way to sell items.
WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF YOUR JOB?
Duncan: For me, it is the excitement. You never know what you are going to get through the door. In Cyprus, we have such a varied population with leading business people, forces personnel and even diplomats amongst our clients. Very often, customers have built up lifetime collections which they want to realise and get the best price for. We have the responsibility to do our best and get our clients the highest price. We have an excellent general knowledge of many things, but for more specialist areas, we can bring in the expertise. We have the tools to research and to ascertain a market value that the public otherwise would not have access to.
Recently we had a collection of models from a customer whose husband had passed away. The customer had been offered 1000 euros for them but we achieved over 17,000 euros with models being sent all over the world.
Trevor: Most things these days are portable throughout the world. It can be gratifying to see items going off to their buyers across the globe. We have exported items to Russia, America, Australia and across Europe. We once filled a 40ft container with crystal light fittings and sent them to China.
IS BEING ONLINE A BIG PART OF YOUR BUSINESS?
Duncan: We are the only auction house in Cyprus that has the facility to bid live and watch the auction online. This opens us up to a whole new market who can buy our goods. You don’t even need to come to the auction house. Our online auction gives us access to over 200,000 collectors worldwide. This means that registered buyers will receive an alert if we list an item of interest to them. We introduced our online auction service 18 months ago and it now accounts for 50% of all our sales.
Trevor: Yes this has opened us up to a much bigger audience of buyers. We have seen, since going online, that our catalogue views have increased dramatically and we are regularly shipping all over the world. It gives people the ability to sit on the beach and participate in the auction online.
WHAT DO YOU BOTH DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
Duncan: Since I arrived on Cyprus, I have enjoyed all sorts of activities and joined a number of clubs including Dragon Boating, Island Blend Harmony Choir, Toastmasters, and Lions International. I have walked 500kms of the Camino de Santiago (Way of St James) in Spain, drive Stanley, our classic car and a touring motorcycle. I also enjoy cooking and winning a bitterly fought family baking contest for Lemon Drizzle Cake! I am regularly asked to help write wedding and best man speeches, funeral eulogies and am currently taking this to the next level by taking diploma courses to be a civil celebrant.
Trevor: I like most outdoor activities and am very happy to live so close to the Akamas and Troodos where I enjoy walking. I have recently returned from a trekking holiday to the Himalayas in Nepal, which was an amazing experience. Our destination was Everest Base Camp, and we made it. It was the most beautiful and stunning scenery. I do enjoy travelling as often as possible, together with watersports during the summer months and snowboarding in the winter.
YOU DO A LOT FOR CHARITY – WHY IS THIS?
Duncan: We both firmly believe in giving back to our community. Whether it is an animal or people’s charity, we all have the ability to support. We are lucky that Castle Auctions is a very friendly and social place, and our customers are brilliant at joining forces with us to raise money for a good cause. We hold many charity auctions where our staff give up their time and we provide our services, for free.
Trevor: We always try to get the highest market price for our clients and sell their assets in the timeliest fashion. This extends through to charity. We work with many charities and have raised thousands over the years. Since we started, we have sold more than 180,000 lots, so it is only right that we give back to the community. Last month we sold some paintings with all the money going directly to the cancer charity, Pasykaf.
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS AT CASTLE AUCTIONS?
Duncan: There have been huge changes to the Cyprus economy in recent years and to the government, businesses and bank’s commitment to get things moving. A large part of that is the growing dedication and interest to clear dead stock and liquidate business assets to realise capital which can be invested for growth and employment. We are focused on expanding our offer to businesses whilst maintaining our general sales. For us, we can take our mobile unit which provides for plasma TVs, auction equipment and our trained staff to locations across Cyprus to sell their items and work for any client either in the commercial or private sector. We have a growing database of thousands of customers, and we look forward to continuing to develop relationships with them in the future.
Trevor: We are also very excited about a specialist auction we have planned for this year. Unfortunately, we are not able to reveal the details yet, but it will be world-class and a first of its kind in Cyprus. We expect buyers to be flying in from all over the world. We will let you know as soon as we announce it!
By Sarah Coyne