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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 September, 2003, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
Sir Elton's car boot auction
By Jonathan Duffy
BBC News Online

Auction room
An audience of about 250 - some buyers, some just onlookers
Paintings, tablecloths, gold discs and Versace pillows all went under the hammer at Sir Elton John's "life laundry" auction in London.

If, for whatever reason, you are one day invited to Sir Elton John's house, a word of warning: tread gingerly.

Sir Elton likes expensive things. One clumsy move and you're probably talking several grand's worth of damage.

Those were the sort of sums being shelled out at the auction of Sir Elton's home contents, in London on Tuesday.

And despite the hefty price tags, there was no shortage of interest. The auction hall at Sotheby's was brimming with collectors, fans and anyone who wanted to own a bit of a rock star.

The Reverend Richard Mottershead fell into the middle category. A life-long admirer of the flamboyant performer, the minister travelled from Stockport in Cheshire for the event, and brought his chequebook just in case.

Painting and sculpture
Sold for 7,000, a painting from Sir Elton's drawing room hall
"I like it very much - the formality of the artworks alongside the looser feel of the furniture," he said.

But with picture frames shifting for the sort of sums you might expect to pay for the artworks they were meant to display, Mr Mottershead had to admit he had been priced out of the market.

His brightest hope was an ebony and sycamore waste paper bin (of square tapering form, on flattened bun feet) that was expected to fetch 20-30.

But at the last minute the lot was withdrawn, and with it went Mr Mottershead's wistful hope of taking a small slice of Sir Elton home with him.

The auction, which included Versace cushions and a collection of ceramic farm animals, among more refined antiques, marked another of Sir Elton's mammoth clearouts.

Five years ago, he held a three-day sale of nearly 2,000 lots of memorabilia, jewellery and art works.

While some unburden themselves of surplus stuff by hauling it to local charity shop, others prefer to see what their belongings will fetch at a car boot sale.

This was Sir Elton's car boot auction.

Crowd of people

The 481 lots on sale marked his so-called Queensdale Years - the period that began in 1991, immediately after he kicked his drug habit.

Sir Elton moved into Queensdale Place in London's Holland Park and set about redecorating the house and "acquiring many beautiful pieces and works of art".

Then, in true Changing Rooms style, he got tired of it and signed up a top auction house to help him get rid of it. The collection eventualy fetched 1.4m.

The sale began promptly at 1030, with Sotheby's chairman Henry Wyndham taking the gavel.

Business was brisk right from the off, with Lot One, a circular birchwood grandfather clock, fetching 12,000 - three times the upper limit of its predicted value.

The timepiece once occupied the entrance hall of Queensdale Place, alongside a 17th Century oil painting of a French knight, which sold for 5,500.

Antiques dealer William Cundall wanted something for his home, in particular a marble garden table and a pistachio green dresser.

TV dresser

"I'm not a fan of his, but I fancy a couple of modern pieces. They're quite reasonably priced, but that's because they won't appreciate in value.

Phone bidding
Bidding by phone - the auction drew an international clientele
"The dresser is good fun because it's got a hidden compartment that hides a television. I'd like it for my dining room, and the table maybe for the conservatory."

A veteran of auctions because of his trade, Mr Cundall found the auction itself slow, because of all the sheer number of people.

But the antiques themselves were overpriced, according to Nigel Hugill, who had come for the Biedermeier - a style of furniture from the 1830s which relies heavily on light woods such as birchwood.

"The prices seem to be considerably over the estimates, so I'm not optimistic about taking anything away with me today. It seems this stuff is attracting an Elton John premium."

For the Rev Richard Mottershead however, it was fun enough just to see all the lots on display, in the adjoining showrooms.

"A member of my congregation got a signed photo of Elton John sent to me for my 40th birthday last year. This year I actually got a birthday card from him [Sir Elton].

"So I'm not downhearted," he said, casting an eye over the pickings. "I've got some far more original than most of this."


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