It began with a Tweet.
— Robert Clay (@RobertClay62) May 29, 2013
It certainly was an interesting lot, after viewing the item it looked like just the kind of thing the museum needs. A new unique personal item once belonging to Stan himself, his shoes. After deciding that I would be bidding for lot 269, I also quickly decided to keep this little piece of info to myself, apologies for that, but some of you are collectors and I really didn’t need to get involved in a bidding war with friends. I set a reminder on my phone and forgot all about it until a couple of days before the auction.
Unable to make it to the Radisson Edwardian at Heathrow, I set about finding out how to bid. It seemed there were three ways to bid remotely, a limited number of phone lines are available, a website where you can view and bid online or a commission bid. A commission bid is submitted before the auction with your maximum bid and the auction progresses until you have reached your maximum, basically like eBay. As I was at work I submitted my commission bid in plenty of time, just in case there were other things to do when the lot came around. The shoes were estimated at £400-£600 and after careful consideration I decided that £800 was to be my maximum bid, but that if the bidding was slow I would possibly go more. How much more? Who knows. I was slightly nervous that I may get carried away when it came to the crunch.
The auction began, lot 1 came and went without much fanfare and the lot sold for slightly less than its higher estimate. This was great news, I certainly hoped it would continue like this! It did. The next few lots came and went quickly and mostly for slightly lower than their estimate. I could be the owner of a pair of shoes once worn by Stan Laurel for less than £600.
Lot 9 came around. A signature of Reginald Doherty, English tennis player, four time Wimbledon winner (1897, 1898, 1899 & 1900). Estimate:- £100-£120. The bidding opened at double the high estimate and didn’t stop until the auctioneer gave warning that he’s about to sell for £1,400. The gavel went down and so did my hopes, I’d never heard of Mr Doherty but obviously somebody had. If a small autograph went for that much money, how much would the shoes go for??
The auction carried on in the same vein, most lots selling low but the occasional one went far higher than estimated, as lot 269 got closer I began to fell that weird excitement and dread when choosing a present for a loved one’s special birthday. They (in this case my lovely visitors) will love it, but can I really spend all that money?
In total there were three Laurel and Hardy autographs in the auction, two of them the usual types you have probably seen before, which were immediately before the shoes. I wish I could tell you how much they went for but I didn’t pay any attention to them, focusing only on the shoes.
Lot 269 comes around, the bidding starts at £800. That’s me! That’s my bid! No action in the room. Nothing on the phone. No bids coming in at all. Going once… Twice… Sold for £800. Did I win? That was my bid so I won the shoes, didn’t I? They’ll probably email me now to confirm that soon I’ll be dancing around the Laurel and Hardy Museum in Stan Laurel’s shoes. I wonder if they’ll come in time for Stan’s birthday? No email arrives, I check the website to confirm that, yes, they sold and yes, the winning bid was £800. On further inspection it seems that it’s impossible to confirm until Monday morning. Hmm.
On Monday morning I make the call:-
“Hello, I think I was the winning bidder on lot 269 at your auction on Saturday”
“I’m sorry sir but the lot went to somebody else”
Oh, what? Why? I bid £800 and they went for £800. The lady on the phone explained to me that there was another commission bid of £800, and because that bid was received earlier, it has precedence over mine. The lady agreed that it was a shame that I was unable to bid any higher due to me thinking I was bidding against myself ,but that it is just one of the downfalls of bidding on the internet. Oh, thanks.
So that was it, my tale of excitement and disappointment. It’s a genuine shame that Stan won’t be putting his feet up in Ulverston but we do have some other great items which once belonged to him.
And for those who recoiled in horror at the thought of it, no. I wouldn’t have worn the shoes.