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Photo: Tyler Anderson/National Post

Photo: Tyler Anderson/National Post


from The National Post

Hidden drawers and big rewards

There’s never been a better time to buy antique furniture, as Francis Satto, owner of  The Auction House, explains 

Q You used to operate traditional antique shops, but now you run an auction every Thursday at 7 p.m. Why the switch?
A I have been an antique dealer for 25 years; I started on Beverley Street north of Queen. I was there for about five years, and in the meantime, I opened another store on Front Street. After 1994, I moved to this present location and opened Anthemion Gallery — it’s a Greek word that means a honeysuckle design traditionally used in antiques. But, in Toronto, there’s a shortage of auction houses. Ritchie’s collapsed last year and Waddington’s is more of a specialty house. The antique market has changed; people are checking into eBay or Kijiji or Craigslist, and Baby Boomers are retiring and downsizing.

It’s a good time to buy fine pieces of Victorian, Edwardian and even Georgian furniture. It is a buyer’s market, although small collectible items, like jewellery, ceramics, lamps, sculpture and silver still go high; I do collect fine pieces and hold auctions featuring specialized items like militaria or Oriental pieces.

Q I’ve seen beautiful pieces of Art Deco and Arts and Crafts furniture sell at your auctions for less than $50. Have you ever regretted selling a piece too low?
A Several years ago, I made a mistake by selling a European oil painting. I had the painting for a long time, and I paid very little, and I was hanging it on the wall for decoration; I didn’t intend to sell it. But a customer wanted it. He was a good client, and I just sold it to him for not much, and then it turned out to be a known artist. It was a $20,000 or $30,000 painting.

Q On the other hand, as a buyer yourself, have you made any amazing, Antiques Roadshow-style discoveries?
A I never had luck like going into someone’s basement and buying a picture that turned out to be from the Group of Seven, but once I bought a sideboard that was not that expensive, and the door was locked. I have a set of keys, and when I opened it, I found a Birks 12-inch sterling silver bowl.

And when I used to have the shop on Front Street, once I bought a cabinet — it was an old record player that had been converted into a liquor cabinet. I put it outside the shop and later I noticed someone had been playing with it and I saw some bags; I looked inside and there was a secret compartment. In it there were bags containing gold coins.

The Auction House is located at 197 King St. E., 416-368-6628, theauctionhouse.ca.