Robert Stones - Biography Robert Stones - Biography

Biography

Fine art auctioneer and TV personality Robert Stones inherited his entrepreneurial spirit from his grandfather, a Derby cutler and gunsmith. His passion for antiques he gained from his mother, who dragged him around countless auction sales as a child. Little did he know that one day he would own his own saleroom.

Rob Stones - away from the auction room

Rob Stones – away from the auction room

Robert was born in Derby but grew up and went to school in Wolverhampton. He was a bright, sporty boy with a love of art. He attended Tettenhall College as a day boarder and loved it, winning his school colours for both rugby and swimming and gaining his A-level art in his O-level year. He reckons he still has a good eye.

His first taste of auctioneering was as an 18-year-old, taking his maiden sale at estate agents Skelding & Boucher who had a saleroom around the back of their offices to handles the inevitable sale of house clearance chattels. However, the £5 a week wage was barely enough to feed a church mouse and keep his Austin Mini van on the road, so he left to enrol on a junior management course with the Wolverhampton retail store of James Beattie.

It was valuable experience with the business expanding rapidly and before long, the 21-year-old was managing the menswear department, to the dismay of the much older sales staff. It was not for him, so he left to become an antiques dealer “with no money and no knowledge”. It didn’t last long.

In 1978, he joined the staff of Edwards, Bigwood & Bewley, the biggest estate agents in Birmingham, and shortly after, he was drafted in to the Stratford-upon-Avon branch to establish a fine art and antiques saleroom in Tiddington,

At around this time, the Cheshire estate agents and auctioneers Peter Wilson were expanding rapidly and in 1982, Robert secured a job as their Nantwich saleroom manager. David Morgan Wynne was a senior partner and auctioneer and between them, they built arguably the busiest saleroom business in the county. “It was astonishing,” Robert says “we were doing a house clearance a day and we were all working our socks off.”

Then, in a shock move, the Peter Wilson business was sold to the Halifax estate agency. Three years later, it was announced the saleroom was to be closed with the loss of 25 staff. However, after prolonged negotiations, David Morgan Wynne and Robert Stones joined forces to buy the saleroom business back.

“It was a difficult time,” Robert says. “I sold my house to help fund the purchase, but we were determined to take the business back to its heydays.” Goodwill that had previously been lost was won back and specialist sales were introduced, bringing a higher public profile and much needed higher income.

David Morgan Wynne retired in 2001, leaving Robert as Managing Partner, a sole trader with a staff of 13.  “We were at a crossroads,” he says. “Do we continue in the same vein as before or redesign the business and move forward? I decided to redesign. After purchasing the freehold of the premises, I spent £100,000 on a makeover of the building, a former Victorian school, upgrading facilities accordingly. I drew a line on house clearances and became much more selective in what we offer, more in line with other auctioneers. Turnover has doubled in the last seven years, so we must be doing something right, although there is still room for improvement.”

Looking to the future, Robert sees the Internet becoming increasingly important. “The market is changing rapidly,” he says. “The Internet has assisted hugely in the spread of knowledge, and in making collecting far easier than it was. Live auctions on-line are the future and we are trying to move with the times, which is why all our fine sales are broadcast on the-saleroom.com and why we have become a founder member of the Association of Accredited Auctioneers.”

Triple-A is a new venture among auctioneers to facilitate buyers in China in particular and the East in general to participate more easily in auctions in the West. In an agreement with epaiLive, a unique Chinese auction platform, Peter Wilson’s sale catalogues will be translated into Chinese and circulated on-line to 100,000 registered wealthy dealers and collectors.

Registered bidders on the site are required to lodge a deposit in escrow prior to bidding and their bidding limit is linked automatically to the level of that deposit, ensuring that payment by Chinese buyers is guaranteed.

Dickinsons Real Deal

Robert Stones was always a reluctant TV personality. “I vowed never to do it as I thought it was intrusive in the saleroom and not in anyone’s best interest,” he says.

“Then, about two years ago, I was approached by the makers of a brand new Scottish TV programme called Antiques Road Trip who wanted to film with us. I admit I was terrified by the experience, although I confess I did find it enjoyable.

“Soon afterwards BBC Bargain Hunt paid us a visit with Tim Wonnacott and the late David Barbie, a lovely man who gave me some sound advice. He said ‘Robert, you’ve simply got to do this, because if you don’t, someone else will.’ He was right. It has made a great difference to the way I think and we’ve done about 20 programmes, including David Dickinson’s Real Deal. The camera crews tell me they enjoy coming to the saleroom because we have such good sandwiches.”

Running a busy and successful auction house leaves little time for hobbies; Robert is a competing member of the Morgan Sports Car Club, driving a black Ex-Works Morgan 4/4.

Victorian HouseHe is also a member of the Cheshire Pitt Club (more to do with politics and William Pitt the Younger than racing cars); the Athenaeum in Liverpool and Lancashire Cricket Club (but don’t tell his Yorkshire-born grandfather).

He has recently restored a Victorian house in Nantwich and still describes himself as an amateur artist.

Visit my showroom
Bargain Hunt

Bargain Hunt

Antiques Roadtrip

Antiques Roadtrip

David Dickinson's Real Deal

David Dickinson's Real Deal