Thomaston Place Auction: 'Other than being a spy, nothing more interesting than this business'

Posted:  Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 12:15pm

THOMASTON —  “There’s really no way you can place a dollar amount on sentiment.” So began my conversation with John Bottero, vice president of Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, on Route 1 just south of Thomaston. “Our job is to appreciate things for what they are and be honest with people about it.”

Kaja Veilleux, owner and president of Thomaston Place, put it a different way:

“Other than being a spy, there’s nothing more interesting than this business," he said. "I look forward to coming to work every single day. In 20 years at this location we’ve made some wonderful discoveries.”

Veilleux is originally from Waterville and now resides in Spruce Head. He’s been in this business for 43 years and spent the last 20 in Thomaston.

“I started as a picture framer," he said. "I started collecting things when I was eight years old. I went to an auction when I was 10 and I was hooked."

Through Friday, Feb. 1, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thomaston Gallery is inviting the public to preview items to be sold in their “Winter Fine Art, Antiques and Asian Treasures Auction” to be held Feb. 2 and 3 at the gallery.

The sale will include 1,000 lots, with important collections of artwork including several lithographs from Russian artist Marc Chagall, modern and antique home furnishings, silver, estate jewelry and watches, Asian artifacts, antiquities, and carpets.

Every Tuesday, the gallery invites anyone to take in items for appraisal.

“We see a broad spectrum of artwork,” said Bottero. “People want us to authenticate. If it’s too big we’ll go out to the truck to look at it.”

“And we want to help them to know what they have,” said Carol Acherhof, head of marketing for the gallery. “We make no assumptions of what we appraise; we’ll do whatever the client wants us to do. Family antiques, collections of stamps, coins and jewelry.”

“We would rather sell it at auction and get a fair price and take a commission,” added Bottero. “That format has served us well for many years. We want them to know what they have.”

What sells well?

“A unique, one-of-a-kind item in good condition,” answered Bottero. "Art tends to bring a higher price because it’s one of a kind.”

“Our whole business is built on trust,” said Veilleux. ”We hold several world records for items we’ve auctioned off here. Items that originally people didn’t have a clue what they had. We provide an opportunity for people to be connected to the outside world. We have the marketing and the research to promote their items. Just as well as if you would have gone to New York.”

Veilleux said it’s not a buyer-beware concept at the gallery.

“We stand behind what we sell," he said. "You can return it if it wasn’t represented to you correctly. That’s why we have customers all over the world, because of our reputation.”

Villeux said that something from the age of craftsmanship before the Industrial Revolution is what makes it a true antique.

“No two days are alike in this business,” said Bottero. “No two auctions are alike and no two items are alike.  Our upcoming auction will probably bring in about $2.5 million. There will be live bidders, absentee bidders, people will call in bids from all over the world and you can bid via the Internet, as well as, follow the auction in real time.”

You have to be bonded and licensed to be an auctioneer in the state of Maine.

“There are schools and I recommend them,” said Bottero. ”But there’s a big difference between an art auction and, say, a cattle auction. It’s not about how fast you can talk. It’s about how you can connect with the person sitting in front of you.”