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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Dusty old sofa's $310,800 surprise

The Mercury: Dusty old sofa's $310,800 surprise [20nov05]

A RECORD price of $310,800 was paid at auction in Hobart yesterday for an early colonial sofa stored for many years in a suburban garage.

It was bought by art dealer Nevin Hurst on behalf of a group formed to try to keep Tasmania's heritage within the state.

Mr Hurst paid a hammer price of $280,000, with a buyer's premium of 11 per cent taking the total to $310,800.

Made of cedar and eucalypt, the sofa dates from 1815 to 1820 and has been owned by the one family for generations.

It was sold by Essie Miley, of Mornington, who hoped to get enough money from the sofa for a new fence.

A stunned Ms Miley said after the Gowans Auctions sale: "It's absolutely terrific, beyond my wildest dreams."

The sofa belonged to Ms Miley's great grandfather William Sonners, who owned the Hamilton Inn in the 1830s.

He gave it to his son Walter, who gave it to his daughter Doreen, who gave it to her daughter Essie.

The sofa was in a poor state and Ms Miley's father, a carpenter, planned to do it up for her but died last year without having done so.

As it turned out, it was fortunate he didn't touch it, because the sofa is in original condition -- which makes it so highly prized.

"It was in the garage for years and years with lots of junk," Ms Miley said.

"I wanted a new fence and I said to Pete ]her partner] that I would clear out the garage and see if I could sell it.

"Philip [Gowans] came over and he said it looked valuable to him and he had a colonial auction coming up.

"I said sell it and if you can get two bob for it, I'll be happy."

Mr Gowans expected the sofa to sell for about $100,000 and was stunned by the hammer price.

"It was a staggering amount," he said.

"I was watching the vendor and when it reached $40,000 she put her head in her hands."

Ms Miley, 56, is a custodial officer at the Hobart Reception Prison and went to the auction after working a night shift.

She couldn't believe it as the bidding soared to dizzy heights.

"I was hanging on to a four-poster bed, thinking I'm going to have a heart attack," she said.

"I thought, come on Dad, help me."

The auction attracted bidders from around Australia and the 600 lots sold for a hammer price of $625,000.

A Huon pine work table, bought in London at a Christie's auction two months ago for �6000 ($A14,067) and sent to Hobart for resale, fetched a hammer price of $47,000.


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