Harry Potter helps auctioneer achieve record sales

Edinburgh-headquartered auction house Lyon & Turnbull has seen its online revenues almost double due to lockdown – boosted by the sale of a Harry Potter first edition.

Friday, 25th September 2020, 12:30 pm
The signed first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone that sold for £125,000. Picture: Alex Robson.
The signed first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone that sold for £125,000. Picture: Alex Robson.

It said that while other major auction houses were cancelling and postponing sales, it quickly moved everything online to its own free bidding platform L&T Live. Using in-house video technology and multiple live bidding consoles across four international platforms, the auction house saw "record-breaking” results for both prices and numbers of people participating.

Pre-lockdown, a third of its sales were online, but that has grown to around 60 per cent. The auction house also said online activity is attracting younger buyers, with 40 per cent of sales now coming mainly from 25 to 44-year-olds. Lyon & Turnbull also noted that the number of registrations per auction were up by the same percentage from the beginning of the year compared with 2019.

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Bonnie Prince Charlie's steel and gold walking stick sold for £16,250. Picture: contributed.

In June of this year, its rare books auction saw a house record for an online bid when the first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone sold for £125,000 to an international buyer using L&T Live.

Its specialist sale of Scottish painting and sculptures in July attracted nearly 500 international bidders competing remotely. The selling rate was 97 per cent, with 100 out of 103 lots sold. Sales included a seascape by Victorian painter William McTaggart, which went under the hammer for £45,000.

In August, at its Scottish works of art and whisky auction, Bonnie Prince Charlie's steel and gold walking stick sold for £16,250, while a rare 17th century spoon made by Edinburgh craftsman Gilbert Kirkwood sold for £26,250.


Lyon & Turnbull's managing director, Gavin Strang, said: "We are all very proud of being able to adapt so quickly and stay active throughout the lockdown and for getting the results we did for our clients, especially when so many other auctions across the UK were cancelled or postponed.

"The UK art market tends to be dominated by London and in recent years, we have witnessed competitors pull out of Scotland. Even more so since the start of the Covid pandemic, so this is a real success story for Scotland. We know that our achievements have inspired other salerooms across the UK to look at changing established ways of selling.”

High-profile items in forthcoming sales include a rare cover design from 1903 for Das Eigenkleid der Frau ((Women’s Own Dress) by Frances Macdonald McNair.

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