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No two days are ever quite the same in the life of a valuer. One day you may be visiting a small city flat with a collection of contemporary art, the next you might be on your way to a country house to value contents untouched for generations. Each time the door opens, you never know exactly what you might find inside.
A good valuer has to have a lot of skills. They have to be the possessor of a good knowledge and a good eye, but they also have to be a good communicator; finding out the stories behind the collections that can make a real difference to their value. It also helps to be reasonably agile on occasions: leaning over staircases, crawling under tables and clambering into attics and cellars; like the time an American client posted me the keys to his country cottage, with instructions on how to get into the attic and how many beams along to find his hidden stash of silver!
One of the exciting things for me is that you are constantly learning, coming across items that both test and add to your knowledge and send you to the library or off to have a chat with experts in particular fields. There will always be the first time you see a Polynesian prow figure, or early medical cupping set, but the research required to value it properly will stand you in good stead for the next one you see.
And of course there is the thrill of discovering ‘buried treasure’! The exciting finds where the client is unaware of the current value, which a keen-eyed valuer is always on the lookout for: the Georgian marble fireplace in bits, piled up in a barn, which we reassembled and sold for £20,000, the Ming vase being used as a table lamp (thankfully not drilled!), now worth £250,000; the Zeigler carpet just saved from the skip, that went on to sell for £120,000. Although it may not happen every time, I still get to see a lot of wonderful and unusual things along the way!
Gavin Strang, Managing Director of Lyon & Turnbull, heads up the Valuations department in Scotland. He is also a specialist in tapestries, rugs and carpets. After graduating with an M. Phil. in Decorative Arts from Glasgow University in 1996, followed by an internship with the Victoria & Albert Museum, Gavin started his auction career in Christie’s Furniture & Works of Art Department. He later became both a carpet specialist and a general valuer with the firm. Gavin joined the Lyon & Turnbull team as a general valuer in 2002, looking after valuations for sale, inheritance tax (probate), tax & estate planning and insurance purposes. Now Managing Director and senior auctioneer with an all-round knowledge of art and antiques, Gavin has been responsible for the orchestration and smooth running of a great number of Lyon & Turnbull’s very successful single owner collection sales. Gavin is on the committee of the Society of Fine Art Auctioneers and Valuers, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and regularly sits on the HMRC Chattels Fiscal Forum. Gavin is also Lyon & Turnbull’s tapestries, rugs & carpets specialist, with over seventeen years’ experience in the field and a wealth of international contacts.