The gavel has fallen for the final time at Worthing’s last auction house.
Paul Campbell launched Campbells auctioneers in High Street, Worthing on March 1, 2008, and sold more than 51,000 items from furniture to autographs.
Friday the 13th proved unlucky for the business, however, when he closed it for good on this day last month.
Mr Campbell, from Charlecote Road, Worthing, cited falling demand for antique furniture – the ‘mainstay of any town auction business’ – and rising charity shop donations for decision.
He hoped to continue working in Worthing as a valuation consultant.
He started the auction house when Gorringes, for which he previously worked at the site, decided to pull out of Worthing. He said: “I was desperate to provide a service that I thought was valuable to a town of this size and it has given me immeasurable satisfaction to do that.
“I knew it was needed and it has been a pleasure and a privilege to supply it.”
His top sale was an oil painting by Sri Lankan artist George Keyt, of elephants and people dancing, found in Worthing. At the auction in 2011, it sold for £31,000 – far exceeding the £7,000 to £10,000 estimate – to elephant conservationist Mark Shand, the brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
Whopper sales were like buses – they all came at once. A 1780 commode found in Clifton Road, Worthing, was valued at £3,000 to £5,000. But the wooden item ended up selling for £30,000 at the next auction on April 27, 2011. Mr Campbell, 53, said: “That is the best feeling an auctioneer can have.
“It’s like being a striker on the football pitch and scoring a goal. That is what you train your whole life for.”
On January 24 last year, a collection of over 500 autographs, including Pablo Picasso’s and Winston Churchill’s, sold for more than £42,000. The top sellers, for £2,585 each, were a letter from Lady Emma Hamilton, the mistress of Admiral Lord Nelson, and a photo of the moon signed by Neil Armstrong, which went to a retired maths teacher from Littlehampton.
Mr Campell, who began his career with the Wilson antique dealing dynasty at 16, paid tribute to all his former employers and his ‘wonderfully loyal’ office manager Melanie Taylor, who worked at the High Street auction house in its various guises for 40 years.