Auction House Interviews: AJ Odudu
This brand new eight-part series hosted by AJ Odudu takes place in a made-for-television auction house, where aspiring millionaires, passionate private collectors, and seasoned dealers compete to purchase the extraordinary array of items up for sale at The Greatest Auction. It’s an emotional moment for the sellers, but they get to find out how much their treasures are worth.
Here AJ tells us more about the series.
Why did you want to take part in this series?
I’ve always loved a car boot sale and an auction house. I actually bought my first car from an auction in Blackburn. I’ve always found the thrill of being in auction houses really exciting, so this show seemed like the perfect opportunity for me, and I can’t wait for everyone to see it. And it’s voiced by Hugh Bonneville – what an absolute treat and honour to have him too!
Describe the series and what kind of appealed to you most about hosting it?
Well, it’s an eight-part series hosted by little old me and it’s essentially a show that’s in a specially created Auction House. It brings ambitious millionaires together, passionate private collectors, and seasoned dealers, face to face, in order for them to compete to buy the most extraordinary collectible items that are on sale, of course on The Greatest Auction. I get to meet the sellers before they hit the auction room and they have the most incredible stories to tell. Plus, they have the kookiest items to sell, from celebrity hair to taxidermy unicorns, to Louis Vuitton skateboards, and pickled fetuses. People sell cars, artwork, and a pinball machine owned by Elton John.
What appealed to me essentially, was the people. I wanted to know who these people were and why on earth they would A, spend money on celebrity hair and B, come on to the Greatest Auction and buy and sell these items.
These people have the most incredible stories and so many of them are fascinating characters. Throughout the series, you really get behind why people come to grow these attachments to possessions, and it makes you think about your own attachment style, and what you would sell and what you would part with – it’s really amazing.
What was the celebrity hair being sold?
I mean, we’re talking Marilyn Monroe. It’s bonkers. It’s so interesting, we had the most varied people who you wouldn’t expect to own such a thing. I discovered that people will literally find the most incredible things whilst doing a renovation, often under the floorboards! And then they find out these items are worth a lot of money. I just think “what on earth?”, I wish I could find something like that down the back of my settee.
The whole experience is just brilliant. There’s so much laughter, so much joy and sometimes there are so many tears. I’ve sat with people who are parting with collectible items for the first time in their lives, so you go on a real journey with them on this show.
Were there any lots of items that you would have been tempted to bid on, if you hadn’t been presenting the series?
Absolutely. I loved the unicorn. I don’t know where I would have put this unicorn, but I felt I needed it in my life. I was obsessed.
Also, if I could afford it, there was this Hermes bag, which when I was in the room chatting to the seller, she didn’t even let me touch without putting on gloves. I thought it was fab. There were all sorts of amazing items that I thought would look so cool in my house. I don’t know where I would have put them, but I loved them. There was also a piece of artwork that was attributed to Banksy, which I thought would be amazing to own. I just imagined my mates popping round and seeing a cheeky little Banksy on the wall!
And Elton John’s pinball machine. How cool would it have been to own a piece of history like?
There are loads of items as a viewer you think you’d love, but then you wonder what these people are actually going do with these items? What are they going to do with a piece of car that they spent so much money on and where are they going to put it? It’s really, really interesting.
But just the thrill of watching how much these things would go for, live in the auction room, was honestly just so fun.
Is there anything that you collect yourself?
No, but since the show, I definitely look after the things that I’ve got more because another beautiful thing about these collectors or the sellers, for example, is that they clearly take pride in the things that they bought, owned and sold. I’ve got a couple of nice handbags but since working on this show, I really do treat them with the love and care they respect instead of just tossing them on the floor as soon as I walk in the house and letting them get all scratched up.
I guess I do collect plants as well. There’s a lot of them in my house.
Did you find filming emotional at any point? Tell us about the emotional bits during filming and any people you met who were really wrangling with their feelings about parting with some of their precious belongings.
There was a man with a Buzzcocks collection who was just amazing. The more I chatted to him about this collection of album memorabilia, posters, badges, tickets, the more I wondered why he was selling them. I kept wanting to tell him he didn’t need do it and I’d give him the money, but I think for him, he just really wanted to let go of it. He wanted to see it in the hands of someone else who appreciated that collection. He said that if he left it to his kids, they’d end up selling it for a fiver at the car boot sale, so he had to let go of it before that day comes. He was so emotional about it. And I remember thinking, “Oh, my gosh, I’m sat with this man crying”, and now we’re both crying, over Buzzcocks memorabilia. Wow, this was a day I didn’t think I would ever see.
I also met this amazing guy called Isaac, who brought in human bones, like a human skeleton. I couldn’t help wondering why he had this, where he found it, and why he was selling it? I’m sure everyone at home will be asking all these same questions, but when I discovered his parents were medical professionals and they had these bones to help educate them on the human body, it started to make sense. He’s grown up with what he calls Mr Bones and when I saw it lying on this table in front of us ready to be sold, I was sure it wouldn’t sell. It was amazing to see how emotional he was about parting with something that to most people would seem like quite a strange object to form an attachment to. But for him there are so many beautiful stories that he shared with his late mother, his children and why of course he was he was coming to sell it. I found one minute I was laughing with him about why he’s got a human skeleton, and the next minute I was crying as there’s so much attachment to these items and so many stories within.
Have you picked up lots of auctioning tips now about how to bid etc?
I found that everyone’s got very different bidding styles. Years ago, when I bid for my car, I remember thinking, right, I’m going to go last minute and wait for everyone to just absolutely be done and then boom, stick my hand up. That is a successful auction style as I found out on the show. But also, some people like to pitch really quick because it puts the other person on the spot who you’re bidding against. It puts them on the spot, and then they have to make an immediate decision. They can’t get flustered, or it gets out of control. Some people bid really fast. Some people bid really slow. Some people bid really discreetly, and they don’t whack up their hands. Some people are really loud and flamboyant with it and they love the theatre. There are a lot of different types of people.
One thing I learned is to never judge a book by its cover. You never know who’s going to stick their hands up to bid for a load of pickled foetuses. It just isn’t obvious.
Having been part of this series, do you think that you would have quite a good eye for antiquing and finding some hidden treasures?
I think the show would naturally make me a little bit of a hoarder. I do feel like I’m seeing the possibility in everything now. You know that old newspaper, which has a really old date on it – I now think I’m going to keep that, just in case. Or, you know that squiffy pair of shoes that I should probably throw away, I now think they might be exclusive. Recently, I’ve kept a champagne bottle that has the Queen’s Jubilee date on it. I’m sure there are loads of them, but I kept that because someone brought a piece of cake from the Queen’s pageant to the auction. Everyone else from the pageant ate their little piece of cake but he kept his and that sold for lots of money, so now I’ve got this champagne bottle that I’m going to keep, just in case.
I don’t know whether I’ve got a good eye for it or have now just become a hoarder!
Would you ever fancy becoming an auctioneer?
Absolutely not. Our auctioneers were all incredible. Again, they all have different styles. I’d just lose count of the bids! I think I’d get my numbers jumbled up. I wouldn’t be good at that bit. They go so fast.
Did you also get chatting to some of the verifiers there, during filming? Was that side, proving that items are actually authentic, also interesting?
That’s a key part of it. I look at these items and I may see a little scrap of paper and wonder if that’s going to go for much money and then we get a real valuer who comes into the room and gives their opinion, and it’s so fascinating. There was Banksy artwork that someone brought in that was attributed to Banksy but because Banksy is obviously anonymous and can’t verify that he or she did it, the verifier had to. It’s really intriguing to go through the whole process and getting behind the psyche of the buyers and whether they are really going to gamble on this item that may or may not be authentic.
What other examples are there of items that generated so much excitement that the bids kept going up and up?
There was Elton John’s pinball machine – that was really amazing. There was lots of artwork, a Hermes bag. I was amazed at how much people spend on handbags. I was just opened to a whole new world of things. Even Mr Bones, the skeleton, I just thought no-one’s going to buy it, but even that went for a lot of money. And because I’m on this journey with the seller when they come in, I experience their nerves, feel their attachment – there are all sorts of emotions going on. I sit with them, hold their hand through that process, being supportive but at the same time, wondering what’s going to happen. I’m really with them through the whole process and want everyone to do well and be happy. They are the most incredible characters.
But what’s also amazing is the atmosphere in the room. It’s really tense at times, with people cheering, but also gasping. I really hope the viewers feel those emotions when they watch the programmes.
What’s the most money we see change hands?
Hundreds of thousands for sure, but some items don’t sell at all. I can be sitting next to a person who is in love with an item, but in that room, on that day, no one loves it enough to part with that much money. But even the items that don’t sell, or don’t sell for as much, it’s still so exciting to watch it go through the bidding. There’s always a tension, there’s always a curiosity, and there’s always something that you take away from following that person, or that item. It’s really heart-warming to watch but it’s also exciting and can also be so funny. There’s a lot of banter and a lot of fun within the show.
What do you think sets this apart from other auction shows on TV and why do you think auction shows are so popular? What do you think the appeal of these shows is?
What sets this show apart is the truly unique items on sale and the incredible stories that these items carry with them – it’s just really cool! It also gives you a 360-perspective of how a real Auction House is run. You’ve got the porters who carry everything and make sure everything is transported safely. Then you’ve got the auctioneers and the valuers and then there are sometimes people in the auction room who just enjoy coming as it’s a fun day out. It’s the theatre of being in an auction room that is really exciting for some people. I think that’s what sets it apart from all the rest – it’s got something for everyone. It’s really very interesting.
Did you learn anything in particular during filming?
I learnt loads about taxidermy and how there are good ways to do taxidermy, and bad ways to do it.
I loved learning about all these items and collectables. I also learnt that you just never know what’s going to happen in that room. All you need is that one other person who’s really into that item and it flies but also, sometimes there are things that I thought everyone would bid on, but nobody goes for it. It’s so interesting. It turns out taxidermy unicorns aren’t for everyone!!
Out of all the shows you’ve presented, which of them would you most love to do as a contestant taking part?
The Greatest Auction, because there’s money involved. You know, you come in with your item, have a lovely chat about it, tell everyone how you love it and why it’s so interesting. And then, Bob’s your uncle, you go away with a lot of cash. You can leave rich. It’s just good, clean fun.
What was it about being part of the series that really appealed you?
What stood out about the role was the opportunity to find out about a lot of different people from different walks of life, selling different, sometimes quirky items. And I’ve always been very naturally inquisitive, so this opportunity just jumped out to me as something that I could really, really get behind. I love the 360-approach of learning about how an auction house even runs. You get to know the receptionists, the porter, the auctioneer, the value of the seller, the buyers, every single person involved in that process. It’s very joyous, warm and uplifting. There is a whole plethora of reasons why I wanted to get involved in this show.
What surprised you?
What’s so brilliant about this show is that it’s so real. You get a sincere approach with real auctioneers, real valuers and I didn’t expect that. I was shocked with the result of the unicorn because I really wanted that. I was shocked that someone would want to buy old celebrity hair, especially since it was so microscopic. There are items that go for more than you think they will and other items that go for less that you expect and that is the thrill of the auction room. It’s just so exciting.
What would you say is the most shocking item that you came across on the show?
A bunch of pickled pigs is quite shocking. And, of course, a human skeleton and celebrity hair. They’re all shocking in their own beautiful ways. There was a woman who found an old football programme in her loft when she was doing a loft conversion and let’s just say it pretty much paid for the loft conversion, and she’d just found a bit of paper! What I find so fun about this show is that it makes everything seem cool. I think there’s this misconception that to have an item of value, it needs to be from years gone by, but, there’s quite a lot of modern art and modern collectible items, from shoes, to handbags, to cars, that can sell for good money.
Tell us about the time you personally took part in an auction?
I bought my first two cars from an auction house in Blackburn, and I found it so exciting. It was such a gamble though because if you buy something like a car, you’re not allowed to test drive it. You’re not allowed to get in, so you must make educated guesses all the way. The first time I bought my Vauxhall Corsa, my dad was getting bid happy with my money, getting excited on my behalf, so we ended up having a little tiff. The second time I bought a car was amazing. I found that so exciting, as a last-minute bidder. I don’t like to get involved in the bidding wars, so I just let everyone do their thing, stuck my hand up and waited to see if my bid was successful.
What is one of your favourite items which you own, and would you ever consider putting it up for auction?
I don’t really get attached to possessions all that much but there is a Persian rug in my living room, which is beautiful. It’s made of silk and it’s so cool and very artsy. I roll it up anytime anyone comes around as I don’t want anyone standing on or spilling anything on it. So, I guess that’s kind of like my prized possession. But maybe one day, I’ll have to let go of that because it’s not been seen and enjoyed by anyone. It’s only been seen and enjoyed by me.
I also have a sculpture of Joe Lycett’s head that is authenticated by Joe Lycett, given to me live on screen during The Big Breakfast show, and I would hope and pray that it would go for loads of money.
What do you hope viewers will get out of this?
There’s this misconception with auction shows on TV that they’re stuffy with old items and things of value from years gone by being sold, but in this series, there are a lot of cool items – something for everyone – so it has a vast appeal, with a diverse cast within the show. I think this captivates people from all walks of life and that makes it really special. Plus, it makes me want to root through my own bin to see what I can find to sell!!
There are huge wins, massive losses but it’s hugely entertaining and dramatic!
Auction House is airing Tuesday nights at 8.00pm on Channel 4.
Image Credit: Channel 4
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