Irish Antiques And The Waterford City Auction

The Best Fun In Waterford Is Also A Business Opportunity

“Gilt and alabaster French clock under dome… 100 euro… who will give me 100 euro… do I hear 100 euro…”

Auctioneer Rody Keighery’s voice greeted me as I walked through the side door of his Waterford City Auction Rooms Monday morning.

Starting at 10:30 a.m. that morning, Rody took his position behind the sizable and solid wooden podium at the front of his auction room, heavy wooden gavel in hand, and began calling out the first of a total of 1,231 lots he would offer for bid that day. The room was full, every seat taken and standing bidders in the back and along the aisles.

Rody flies through 100 lots per hour, on average, meaning he and his staff would be at it for the next 12 hours, give or take. During those 12 hours, Rody wouldn’t leave his post or pause his banter.

A couple of hours in the audience of one of Rody’s auctions is first-rate fun and entertainment. It’s also a chance to buy antique furniture, jewelry, watches, silver, crystal, prints, oil paintings, carpets, collectibles, and, at this auction, vintage toys for absolutely bargain prices.

Rody hosts an auction every six weeks or so, turning over an enormous volume of inventory in a year. Where does it all come from? Houses around Ireland.

“We cleared a house in Limerick earlier this month,” he told me, “and came away with some beautiful French pieces. They’re not in this auction but will be in the next. Come on back into the shop and have a look,” he invited.

Ireland is Europe’s attic. Antiques from across the British Isles, France, and beyond have been finding their way into Irish homes for centuries. When circumstances change, these prize house contents re-emerge. In the auction this past Monday, Rody featured four matching six-arm Waterford crystal chandeliers. Where would you find four matching antique crystal chandeliers? Under the bed of a nice old Irish lady who finally decided it was time to clear her house and move in with her son.

In Waterford, Ireland, these items have value. However, they’re also in ready supply. In other parts of the world, New York or Boston, say, where Old World craftsmanship is appreciated, these items can have far greater value, because they’re much harder to come by. Dealers from those cities are sometimes seen in the audience at Rody’s auctions, buying low to fill containers they then ship back to their Stateside shops, where they’re able to sell much higher. At one of Rody’s auctions, you can find hunting prints, gilt-framed and beveled mirrors, hand-painted cabinetry, inlaid chests, and, occasionally, original oils on canvas by important Irish painters, all selling for one-half, one-quarter, or less than you’d pay for the same thing in an East Coast antiques shop… if you could find the same thing.

Living in Waterford years ago, Lief and I were regulars at Rody’s auctions. The garden urns always seemed a particular opportunity to me. You could (and still can today) buy a pair of painted iron garden urns on pedestals for as little as 150 or 200 euros. The same pair of urns would sell for US$1,000 in antique shops I know in Baltimore, Maryland… which is not a top-drawer town.

Starting up a small import-export operation isn’t easy (no business is). However, if you were up for figuring the logistics (shipping, customs, inventory, fulfillment, etc.), Rody’s auction house in Waterford could keep you supplied.

Now you can even shop Rody’s inventory online. His Old World business has entered the Internet age. Take a look.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Everywhere we’ve traveled across Waterford this past week we’ve been greeted like family returning home. The Irish are as welcoming and hospitable as you’ve heard. This is one of the many reasons this country truly would be an ideal place to retire. Specifically, we recommend County Waterford’s dramatically beautiful Copper Coast, which Lief and I toured with local friends last weekend.

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