Catherine Southon is a well known Antiques dealer and auctioneer with over 20 years in the industry. Having gone into the business straight from university, she worked with Southebys for eight years before setting out on her own and subsequently setting up Catherine Southon Auctioneers and Valuers. Catherine is a regular on BBC antiques programmes, including ‘Bargain Hunt’, ‘Flog it!’, ‘Antiques Road Trip’. Find out all about her in our interview here...
What got you interested in antiques and collectables?
My father is an antiquarian book dealer, so I have grown up with industry, my family too has always had a keen interest in collecting so I have been fully immersed my whole life. My grandfather used to go to auctions all the time, so I suppose it’s in my blood! However, I started working in the auction world as soon as I left University.
How long have you lived in the area?
Apart from University and a short spell in Warlingham, I have lived in Kent all my life! I was bought up in Farnborough on a farm that has been in my family for many generations. I have always regularly visited Westerham and Brasted for the antiques shops and great restaurants.
What do you love about this part of the country?
I love how varied the landscape is in Kent and how even so close to London there are still little pockets that feel remote and untouched. I love the fact that you can be in the centre of London in 30 minutes and yet the countryside is on your doorstep. We also have some excellent fairs nearby, including Ardingly, Dettling and Lingfield.
Do you have a speciality in terms of the items you value?
I have always had a love of good silver, porcelain and glass. My speciality is 17/18/19th century scientific instruments, including globes, microscopes and telescopes, but this is a very niche market, so I have had to broaden my horizons to also deal with ceramics, silver and jewellery, which is what I have concentrated on over the past 15 years.
What are the up and coming antiques of the future?
I think contemporary studio pottery is really exciting area. There are some really talented young potters prodding some really interesting pieces and I’d love to offer some the best pieces at auction.
What’s the most unusual item you’ve ever been asked to value?
I would need a week to think about this - I think I have been asked to value just about everything, including some pretty weird and wonderful things. A shrunken human head will definitely be something I will never forget!
What things in people’s homes are most likely to be valuable?
In my experience the thing in anyone’s home which is worth the most will always be the thing you least expect! It’s impossible to say what it would most likely be! Generally speaking, silver, jewellery and decorative works of art - items of great design and quality are most likely.
Are there any items that surprise you in terms of how well they sell at auction?
There are always surprises and auctions would be very dull without them. I always like to see how quirky and unique pieces sell at auction - items that are often very hard to value. Recently we sold a wood-wormed broken Chinese carving for £11,000 - it was 18th century, but it was incomplete and in a horrendous condition - it nearly went to the skip!
What makes something valuable?
Quality, rarity and provenance - and if you have all three you have a winner. And remember age doesn’t necessary equal value! Value is never about the object - it is about why that object appeals to collectors and that's something that changes all the time. Markets rise and fall, but quality and provenance will always be the most important.
Catherine and her team will be valuing visitors' items every month at the Westerham Brocante, from 10am-12pm.
To find out more about Catherine Southon Auctions, go to her website, http://www.catherinesouthon.co.uk.