Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

My Guilty Secret ...

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1988-22 Blockbusters p11.jpg


Thrill of the Auction

It's not easy to admit to anyone that you were once a hopeless addict, with a mind focused on nothing else but the next fix. But a few years ago I was one such case. In the hope that it may help others, here is a condensed diary of my guilty secret...

It started with Doctor Who: The Auction in May 1991. With 173 lots of various costumes and props up for sale I was determined to acquire something from the programme I had always liked so much. The night before the auction I calculated how much credit I bad available and flicked through the lavish catalogue trying to guess how much each lot would raise.

The auction was held downstairs at Bonhams auction house with an overspill area upstairs, whkh Is where I was. This wasn't the best place to bid from as you could only see what was going on in the main auction room by closed circuit TV. I must admit I was a bit annoyed that many of the 700 or so people there seemed to have come along for a day out with no intention of actually bidding. This 'taking it too seriously' attitude was possibly the first sign that I was on a downwards spiral

It started with Lot 7, a bunting mask and spear from the fifth Doctor's first tale, Castrovalva. This lot caught my eye but it went up to £150 a bit too high. With Lot 8 however, another mask and spear, I entered into the bidding process, successfully netting it for £110. Having deluded myself into thinking I'd picked up a bargain, I looked out for the next item to bid for.

Pig in a Poke

I remember bidding, unsuccessfully for loads of items. I bid until I thought the item being sold wasn't worth the price being asked—which is a tricky decision to make in the fast and furious bidding process. Anyhow, the costume worn by Lesley Dunlop (as Nona) in Peter Davison's epic Frontios was up for auction. The bidding went up to £40) which I thought was a bargain (although the costume was nothing special) so I bid £45. The next thing I knew it was up to £75 and the auctioneer was pointing at me saying "sold"! I then realised that I'd bought something I didn't really want purely due to the thrill of bidding! This may sound ridiculous but you most definitely get a buzz out of trying to out-bid people. At this point I realised I'd bare to contain myself and wait until! saw something I really wanted

I bad only £110 left to spend and it was nearing the end of the auction. Then up came three lots of Lakertyan costumes from Sylvester McCoy's debut set of episodes, Time and the Rani. I remembered how much these bad impressed me on TV so I bid for them. More importantly, I couldn't let the auction end without the buzz of a successful bid! Wanda Ventham's and Mark Greenstreet's both went slightly too high for me but I successfully got the third lot, described in the catalogue as Approximately four Lakertyan costumes, including bead-dress smock, tunic/skirt, robes, sash, armlets and boots", I paid exactly £110 for this. We then waited for the end of the auction and went to collect the goods.

Real life

This is where the real world bit me with a bang. The first problem came when we collected the helmet and spear. Bonhams had run out of so they'd have to be carried on their own—awkward and embarrassing. After picking up Norna's costume I was horrified to discover that the four costumes from Time and the Rani turned out to be the 8 or 9 very large bags full of stuff! At this point I realised I'd bare to get a taxi home (I was planning to go by underground). The small problem with this was I'd spent literally my last penny on the auction. With some assistance, I had to struggle to get this bizarre collection of things through the middle of London in the rush hour. The strange thing is that no-one questioned us about them. The London Underground staff didn't even say anything about the potentially dangerous spear (in reality a broom with a few feathers stuck on top!)

The next fix

The following January the BBC held another auction, this time in their actual costume warehouse. I couldn't make this auction but, intent on amassing more stuff and getting a fix by remote control, 1 arranged for someone to attend on my behalf The first thing be picked up was a red backpack and matching helmet from the 1993 space opera Enlightenment Then he bid £100 for a 'Heironymus mask' from the Masque of Mandragora. Unfortunately my 'proxy bidder' is not a great Doctor Who fan and what he thought was a Heironymus mask from Tom Baker's classic MASQUE OF MANDRAGORA was actually just a plastic mask sprayed gold that didn't bear any resemblance to Heironymus at all. £100 down the drain but never mind, he redeemed himself with the final purchase—a box of "science fiction costume accessories". This consisted of about 200 items that bare presumably been used in BBC productions over the years. The lot seemed to mainly consist of belts, harnesses, gloves, bags and other strange bits. I didn't recognise the origins of many of them and none of them were well made or particularly outstanding but overall they're fascinating even though I still can't work out what some of them are meant to be.

More and more

This should bare been enough to satisfy anybody, but I couldn't let an auction pass without some sort of participation. My final fling with auctions came in August 1992 when Bonhams held an Entertainment Auction which included items from Blakes 7, Red Dwarf, STAR COPS and DOCTOR WHO. This time, however, there were many lots for sale from individuals as well as the BBC leading to claims that some of the props for sale were not authentic. Judging by the immaculate condition of the Blakes 7 Liberator gun for sale I'd have to agree—I can't imagine it being that well preserved in the BBC warehouse for 10 years. I remember this auction for the silly prices that items fetched, for example the Star Cops and Red Dwarf costumes (most of which were very bland) fetched an average of £200-£300 whilst items such as Blakes 7 props and Avon's jacket fetched over £1000. I felt lucky to get a Vanir helmet (frum Peter Davison's Terminus)for £220 (£80 less than the estimate). This time managed to stop at one item.

A further auction took place some months later and, as it was impossible for me to attend, I seriously considered putting reserve bids in, or even bidding by phone, such was my addiction to this strange world of Doctor Who auctions However, I fought it and I won! Bonhams subsequently sent me a catalogue for their next auction but I binned it without so much as glancing through the pages

Addiction defeated.

The moral

At the end of day it is quite nice to be able to use tattily-made BBC props to decorate the house, alongside the more usual stuff but that's all they are—leftovers from the BBC's trash Department. The Beeb made a fortune while I made a fool of myself.

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  • APA 6th ed.: (summer 1988). My Guilty Secret .... Blockbusters p. 11.
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  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=My Guilty Secret ... | url= | work=Blockbusters | pages=11 | date=summer 1988 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=13 June 2024 }}</ref>
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