What wonderful find will we have for our next Antique & Collectible Auction?

The hospice’s increasingly popular annual auction has now run for 15 years and it’s all down to  valuer Tom Philipson and his well-honed sixth sense.

Tom pops into the main warehouse on Borrell Ave most days to cast his eagle eye over what Taranaki’s generous community have brought in for re-sale to put towards the all-essential financial top-up required to run the region’s free vital palliative care services.

He also has all the staff and volunteers keeping their eye out for what might be suitable to go to auction rather than to the HospiceShops or trademe. And its retail group manager Jessica Sinclair’s role to ensure the potential gems are well advertised prior to the auction. 

This year the pair are still buzzing after striking gold. One of the volunteers was first to spot a beautiful Swiss mechanical music box donated through an estate.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” was Tom’s delighted reaction when he first saw it. “It got identified and put aside. A volunteer brought it in. She left it on the shelf here and I saw it. It was a pretty special thing in beautiful condition. You don’t often see them. Normally they would stay in the family. We were delighted when we got $3500 for it at this year’s auction.” It was a record. The most money ever received at the hospice auction.

“Jessica did a wonderful video and promoted it through the Westown HospiceShop and the Te Kahu Pairuri Hospice Taranaki facebook which helped in a quite substantial way. Jessica is a magnificent merchandiser.” She takes very professional photographs and catalogues the items in order for people to preview what is on offer, he says. “I can’t do it without Tom and his knowledge,” Jessica responds.

Over the years they have had some great finds, Tom says. Rare Crown Lynn pottery and an early Peter Lambert painting, which sold between $700-800, were two standouts that spring to mind. Another was a 1950s floor lamp which went for $700. “It was still working. Someone had looked after it.”

There is no longer an auction house in New Plymouth so collectors and those keen on interesting, unusual and unique items line up to attend, hungry to see what tantalising objects Tom and his team have uncovered.

“I think it’s quite a major event now. People look out for it.”

Each year they have refined the way they do things and are much more streamlined and professional as a result. There are now fewer items of higher value and the hospice benefits from a lot more money.

Over the years there’s been a major shift in what whets the buyers’ appetites. “The market now is so different. Once you could sell as much Royal Albert pieces as you could get. Now you can’t give them away. It’s now more decorative pieces people are interested in. Jewellery is always popular. What we try to do is attempt to find things that will appeal to everyone.”

As the auction valuer, Tom says he is self-taught. Thirty-odd years ago he started out as a collector of books gradually expanding his interest and field of knowledge. “It’s less about the thing, more about the social history around it. It can be quite intuitive. Some things you just have a sixth sense about,” he says.

Mid-century modern is what people are keen on these days, Tom says. “That’s what people want, what they see in magazines and want to decorate their homes with. New Zealand brown furniture is out of fashion.”

Jessica adds that a perennial fixture at the auction is always a box of shells and minerals.

“Natural history is always going to appeal to someone,” says Tom.

Preparation for next year’s auction, probably around mid-year, is already under way. It is held at The Devon Hotel, the venue generously subsidised by hospice stalwarts, Peter and Rosemary Tennent.

People enjoy the auction day and it doubles as an all-important promotion of the hospice and its core service of specialist palliative care, Government funding for which falls millions of dollars short of what is needed.

Jessica points out the current annual amount that is sought from the community is $6 million. And people donate their property in the belief it will fetch the best price, not to give it away for a low amount. “It’s a fine balance. We have got a responsibility to people.”

The pair have even shared their expertise, fronting an Antique Roadshow type show to service groups such as Rotary.

Anyone keen to support by donating property can ring any of the shops, at New Plymouth, Stratford or Hawera, or the Borrell Ave hub where the efficient staff backed by about 100 volunteers will head it in the right direction.

“The whole thing runs like a Swiss precision music box,” Tom says with a grin.


By Lyn Humphreys

September 2023


Antique Show - if you are interested in our event on Sunday 3rd December, please email: events@hospicetaranaki.org.nz

11 Sep 2023