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Avid antique collectors gathered at the River City Bangkok on April 7 for its highly-anticipated Grand Auction. With the largest collection of antiques in Southeast Asia, the River City Bangkok is the place to go for guaranteed quality of rare collectibles. Thailand Tatler met up with faces in the antique collection scene—from auction manager Domechai Buddawong and other antique gurus to newbies in the field—to gain insight on the world of  antique auctions, particularly in Thailand and at the River City Bangkok.

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20th century Chinese enameled vase and 19th century Thai Lai Nam Thong porcelain spoons

If after you've read this article you find yourself interested having a go at antique auctioning, the River City Bangkok will be holding its second Grand Auction of the year on August 4, with a preview from July 23 until August 3. Highlights include items such as Chinese enameled vases from the 20th century and a matching pair of Thai Lai Nam Thong porcelain spoons from the 19th century. Don't miss out! 


Domechai Buddawong, Auction Manager

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What is the Grand Auction and the purpose of this event? 
From the very beginning, our main purpose and goal was to provide a place where buyers, sellers and antique lovers could meet, here  at River City Bangkok. We wanted to hold an event that brings them together, a platform for people with this shared interest. 

From a buyer's perspective,  what is the difference between attending an auction and buying antiques in a store?
Our auction is like a school for collectors who are just starting out. Visitors can pick up and touch the antiques we have here during our preview period—if you go anywhere else, picking up or even touching an antique is a bit inappropriate. Here, you can take note of the piece that really draws your eye or the ones that you are really interested in, and come back on the day of the auction. It allows you to have a firsthand experience of the item you’re thinking of buying.
We also have a team of specialists who guarantee the authenticity and quality of our items. Before the auction, professional inspectors come into inspect each product and guarantee its quality. We have very detailed information on all of our items—where the piece is from, from which period of time, how old is it and an estimation of its value. We even tell you the flaws. Condition is very important when dealing with antiques because the price between something flawed and something unflawed can be astoundingly different.

What types of items are most popular among auctioneers?
Thai items are the most popular, especially Benjarong procelain. The word Benjarong means five colours. It was originally ordered from China to be used in the Thai Royal Court—in other words by people of  high social status. The patterns found on Benjarong porcelain in each Royal Palace was different, serving as a form of identity. Palaces would compete to see who had the best patterns as a trendy activity back in the day. Sometimes you see antiques from old photos that weren’t designed to be used but to be put on display as a statement of status.
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Chakri Tea Set

What has been the highlight so far of this year's Grand Auctions?  
The highlight item is this tea set called the "Chakri Tea Set". It was ordered from France during the time of King Rama V, to be used in receiving esteemed guests during the funeral of the king's son. This set has been around for roughly 120 years and is considered a top collectible amongst collectors. The set right now is incomplete, but if it was completed the value could double or even triple what it is at currently.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in antique collecting?
We really encourage new collectors to come in and preview the items first. We have a team of friendly and specialised staff who are here to provide information on all of the items we have. It really helps to have professional guidance. Collecting antiques requires a lot of studying, especially to verify that items are authentic and a worthy investment for future reselling.

How would you compare investing in antiques to other types of investments?
Antiques are a form of art, so there’s a charm, an aesthetic. If you really love it and know how to appreciate it, you could spend hours here just staring at the antiques without getting bored. With other investments, you might not be able to really see or feel what you are investing in, but here you can see that you’ve invested in something with meaning and beauty. Each piece has its story, some of them really interesting. Antique collection is also like a game, in a way. If you have a piece of a set, it becomes a challenge to hunt down the rest towards completion, an accomplishment. This emotional aspect doesn't really exist in other kinds of investments.  


Pitpun Srichaichaiyant, Collector  

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Why did you start attending the RCB Auctions?
Antiques collection is a personal interest of mine, and I trust the way antiques have been selected and screened here. I know all the items here are guaranteed to be good quality because the items are inspected by beforehand by nation-level specialist and come with details information. 

What antiques are you most interested in?
I really like porcelain. In particular, Benjarong porcelain.

For people who are unfamiliar with antiques collecting and auctions, what tip or insight can you offer?
I recommend to really do your research. There are a lot of fakes out there in the market. Before you make any purchases, know about the product you’re trying to buy. Know where the flaws are and what era it's from. Make sure, before you buy, that it is something of good quality.

What do you think of antiques collecting compared to other forms of investment?
For me personally, when I make general investments, I don't really get a clear sense of profit as I do with antiques collecting because with antiques, I’m investing in something I truly love. I’ve loved antiques since I was very young. I come from an old family, so we have a lot of antiques around the house that belonged to our ancestors back from the era of Rama V. I grew up around them, and that love has stayed till today.


Sermkhun Kunawong, Collector

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Is this your first time here?
I’m an avid collector and lover of art. This is my first time attending an RCB auction, but I have attended auctions in the past.

What antiques are you most interested in?
I'm most drawn to Thai antiques, such as porcelain items from Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, as well as traditional Thai pieces with Chinese influences.

Why did you choose to attend the RCB Auctions?
I am actually very interested in contemporary art, but now that I am in the process of rebuilding my home and I’ve become very interested in traditional Thai antiques as I want my décor to reflect my Thai roots. In terms of good quality antiques, RCB auctions are the best in Southeast Asia. I attend these auctions out of personal passion—I am very interested in intems that are symbolic of our history and the spirit of being Thai.

What do you think of antiques collecting compared to other forms of investment?
For me, antique collecting is really more of a passion instead of a business investment. However, what makes this passion different from others is that it’s an example of how sometimes your passions and interests can also generate income. Once I invest in it, not only do I gain happiness but I can also profit from it financially if I want to in the future.


Richard & Joy Lim, Father-Daughter Collectors

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What brings you to the RCB Auctions?
Richard:
I’m from Penang in Malaysia, but I come to attend antique auctions here once every two months, sometimes even once a month. It’s been like this since 1994, and I haven’t missed an auction. I just love it that much.
Joy: This is my first time attending an auction in Thailand. My dad loves porcelain antiques and has over 30 years of experience collecting antiques in Malaysia. I’m trying to follow in his footsteps and that’s how I ended up here. I have another job in Penang, but I’m trying to explore antique collecting, so this is all quite new for me.

Do you attend these auctions as a form of investment or out of personal interest? 
R:
It’s a form of investment, but also something I have loved for a long time—30 years to be exact. I have my own antiques shop back home in Penang, which I’ve been running for 30 years. From auctions, sometimes I bring back items to resell in my own store, but I'll keep the ones I really love for myself. 

Which type of antiques do you prefer?
R: Porcelain, I really love porcelain. 
J: I also like porcelain. Jade is also something quite interesting to me.

What advice do you have for someone who is new to antiques collecting and auctions?
R:
Last month, I brought my young son with me. This month, I brought my daughter. I bring them to many different antique shops and let them go observe and study. You need to put in the effort to understand the antiques market. All the techniques behind my decision making comes from over 30 years of experience in the industry. Antiques collection can’t be learned only from books or watching TV. You have to go out there and experience it firsthand.
J: I’m starting out by following my father. We’ve been walking around a lot of different antique shops for the past few days. It takes a lot of time to learn actually. It's not something you can be an expert in overnight. You have to explore and observe a lot. 

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The Grand Auction will be held at the 4th floor of River City Bangkok on the 4th August 2018. For more information, visit rivercitybangkok.com.

Tags: River City Bangkok, Auction, Antiques, Grand Auction