Bid on it

Auctioneer Allan Baitcher solicits bids for a suit of armor during an auction at King Galleries in Roswell.

Auctioneer Allan Baitcher solicits bids for a suit of armor during an auction at King Galleries in Roswell.

Living Northside
November 2016

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There’s a rhythm to everything at an antique auction. Bidders, auctioneers and staff all have a hurried tempo. On a recent Saturday morning at King Galleries in Roswell, a crowd filed into a warehouse-like room with chandeliers of gold, iron and crystal hanging above, clinking in the wind that blows from the open door. Wool rugs, early 20th century armchairs, antique bookcases and other furnishings occupy almost every space.

“Is everybody ready,” the auctioneer asks, as he readies for the bidding.

As he shouts out items, bidders raise their pink numbered signs. A blue and white Delftware plate goes for $75, a still-life painting of fruit for $25. There’s a Persian rug, and green and gold Bohemian goblets straight out of a fairytale.

King Galleries and other antique auctions nearby provide an immersive shopping experience and the occasional bargain.

“It’s a very interesting setting as far as commerce goes,” says owner Susan Brown. “You got all these items, all these different types of pieces that come on the block that day, and you really don’t know what they’re going to bring until that second that they sell.”

Susan has worked in the antique business since childhood. Her father, Bob Brown, owns the famed Red Baron Antiques in Sandy Springs.

“Since I was born, this is what I have grown up with and what I have done, so I’m very comfortable with it,” Susan says. “I know how to tell the difference between a reproduction and an antique.”

After developing a sense of what people respond to, Brown opened King Galleries in 1998 as a joint venture with Red Baron.

The store is now independent and specializes in European, particularly French, antiques.

About 150 people filter in and out during an auction day, another several thousand bidders register online, and a group of people bid by phone. (The first 30 minutes of the auction is offline.)

To find bigger antiques, Susan travels to Europe about six times a year. Red Baron has five buyers — three in Europe and two in the U.S. — who purchase items every day.

“It’s a fascinating, exciting business,” Bob Brown says. “Every day for me is a treasure hunt. I never know what it’s going to be. The antique business is a lot like the recycling business.”

During the Saturday auction, Lyle Akens of Jasper, who has attended King Galleries auctions for 10 years, bought a crystal bowl and display case.

“They’re fun,” he says. “The prices are pretty reasonable.”

Among another group of bidders, Susie and Walter Altman of Hahira, purchased a Limoges porcelain espresso set. The couple is expanding Walter’s architecture firm by opening a café and gift shop with interior design services, and decorating the place with antiques.

“Instead of tacky white plates, for almost the same price, we can serve our clients off Limoges china,” Susie says.