Auction aces celebrate valuable haul for hospice
“Going once, going twice, sold!”
That’s a phrase St Catherine’s Hospice volunteers Derek and Ann Francis are used to hearing during their weekly visits to an auction house, where they sell off quirky and valuable charity donations.
From war medals to comic books, and jewellery to crockery – anything which passes through the hospice’s onsite donation centre in Lostock Hall which the couple thinks could make a fair amount, is taken to Warren and Wignall Auctioneers in Leyland.
They’ve been volunteering at St Catherine’s and offering their keen sense of what sells for 14 years, and are celebrating this week after making more than £1,000 in just one session.
“It’s all good fun and keeps us out of mischief,” Derek, a retired policeman, said. “We’ve developed quite a knack for it. We watch TV shows to pick up tips – but Ann’s a better valuer than I am!”
The couple, from Hutton, began collecting items for auction when Ann was the manageress of the hospice’s charity shop in Ashton, and noticed all of the varied and unusual items people donated to the cause.
“It started with some diving gear and underwater photography equipment,” Derek explained. “We didn’t think it would sell in the shop, so I sold it to a diving centre for £50.
“There was also a box of plates which were unsellable and were going to be thrown out, so we sold those to the diving centre too – they used them in Preston Delph for divers practicing; items for them to find in the water during training.
“It got me thinking that everything is worth something to someone, so we started taking things which weren’t selling in the shops to the auction house. Even if we only get a pound or so, it’s better than nothing.”
Derek and Ann’s sterling efforts help raise around £15,000 each year for St Catherine’s, and more recently, they’ve been achieving even greater sales as they strived to beat their personal target of £1,000 in a week.
An art deco table lamp, a 1792 violin, and a Trafalgar commemorative sauce boat were among the items which finally resulted in an impressive £1,200 haul this month.
Grandfather-of-three Derek said: “We’re constantly on the lookout for things now. We have a nose for it. The St Catherine’s charity shop managers ring us when they have something of interest, so we’ll go to pick it up.
“We’re here, there and everywhere, but we really enjoy it. It’s great fun.
“We spend our nights going through items, especially jewellery – we run a magnet over them and anything which sticks obviously isn’t gold or silver.
“On Thursdays, we come to the hospice’s donation centre to see what else has been put aside for us, and we sort through it all and load the car to take it all to auction. It certainly keeps us busy, and it’s so different from what we did for work, so it’s a fun hobby for us.”
Ann, a retired nurse, says the most unusual item they’ve sold was a kitchen sink which they found in a skip, which brought in £12 at auction.
Derek added: “The one single item which generated the most money was an opal ring, which sold for £800.”
Samantha Jones, the charity’s donation centre manager, said: “Derek and Ann are just incredible – they’re so committed to helping us in this way, and I don’t know what we’d do without them!
“You can tell they get a real buzz out of it, and they were so pleased when they reached the £1,000 mark – we’re so proud to call them St Catherine’s volunteers.”
She added: “We get all sorts of weird and wonderful contributions at the donation centre and in our shops; we love rummaging through the stock to find the hidden gems which can go to auction.
“We also have a dedicated eBay site for things like vintage magazines, memorabilia and old board games. At the moment we even have a selection of ‘Rene of Paris’ ladies wigs, so there’s something for everyone!
“Old typewriters, vintage golf clubs, miners lamps, Victorian bed boxes, and old-fashioned clocks also tend to do well for us, so I’d really encourage people to keep an eye out for any items in their homes which are gathering dust. They may just be worth donating to a much-loved local charity, to help St Catherine’s continue its valuable work in caring for people with life-shortening illnesses here at the hospice, and out in the community.”
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