CRAVING a coronet to add to your Royal Memorabilia collection?

Or an Essex art work to enliven your wall?

Or simply seeking a hedgetrimmer so you can get to grips with the garden this autumn?

You’ll find all this - plus everything from antique furniture to classic cars and vintage textiles - for sale at Reeman Dansie Auctioneers and Valuers, one of Colchester’s oldest businesses.

The company’s first auction took place in the Headgate premises which was purposebuilt by founder Charles Fuller, back in 1881, with the business acquiring its current name in 1929.

Gazette: History - Darwin family photographs will feature in Reeman Dansie’s November fine art saleHistory - Darwin family photographs will feature in Reeman Dansie’s November fine art sale (Image: Newsquest)

Then, Harry Reeman, who’d worked for the auction house for some time, took over and brought in his clerk Leonard Dansie as his partner.

Quite the dynamic duo, it was said that Mr Reeman could sell non-stop for six hours fuelled by nothing more than a dozen oysters, brown bread and a bottle of stout.

Mr Dansie, meanwhile, served as Colchester’s Mayor, Alderman and Justice of the Peace.

Leading the company firmly into the 21st century has been managing director James Grinter, who grew up in Colchester and began his career in the auctioneering world at 15, with a job in the school holidays at Sotheby’s.

He joined Reeman Dansie as an auctioneer 30 years ago and now runs the auction house in partnership with Chris Leeson.

James said: “What keeps my job so exciting is the theatre of it, the variety of people I meet, the objects I get to handle and the fascinating stories behind them.”

His own particular interest in militaria began in boyhood, when he began collecting bayonets (“all I could afford with my pocket money”), and his recent highlights have included the sale of a lock of Napoleon’s hair, and the tail hair of the charger ridden by the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo.

Gazette: Historic medals featured by Reeman Dansie Historic medals featured by Reeman Dansie (Image: Newsquest)

“It’s when you research something and the story behind it comes to life - the horse’s hair was found in an annotated envelope in an old writing box, tracing its provenance to the Duke’s groom,” said James.

“The sellers had no idea it was in there.”

The internet has made all the difference to the way in which Reeman Dansie conducts its sales.

It moved into larger premises in Severalls Business Park in Colchester back in 2002.

“Before, we’d have had room for around 250 lots; now, I can be on the rostrum looking around me at up to 2,000 and thousands of people from all over the world can now bid for what’s on offer.

“When I first started here, our turnover for the year was £70,000. Last year we did £5 million worth of business.”

Timed online sales are popular with a new breed of bidder - even if it can mean that as many as 6,000 photographs are taken to illustrate the pieces in any one auction.

“The younger generation have grown up using online bidding platforms - they want to be able to see what they’re going to get, place a maximum bid, then get on with their lives,” said James.

In the past, publicity generation for Reeman Dansie saw James talking at local groups about his work and appearing in the press at every opportunity.

Gazette: Flashback - the former Reeman Dansie auction house in HeadgateFlashback - the former Reeman Dansie auction house in Headgate (Image: Newsquest)

These days, online search engines and TV have taken over as key marketing tools, with James a regular expert on the BBC’s Antiques Road Trip and Flog It! programmes.

“People realise we’re more than a provincial auction house. We have an international reach, and an international reputation,” he said.

Particularly strong is the company’s reputation for selling royal memorabilia, sparked by a dedicated sale in 2008 of artefacts gifted by the Queen Mother to her butler William Tallon.

“Now, we hold two royal memorabilia sales a year, and, of course, there will be particular interest following the Queen’s death.

“We’ve got some wonderful lots coming up including her provisional driving licence from her ATS days during the war.”

The wide-ranging expertise of Reeman Dansie’s specialists, however, means almost any object can be assessed.

“The eclecticism is extraordinary and we never know what we’ll turn up.

“One of my colleagues, Daniel Wright, for instance, was recently asked to value a hugely important album featuring photographs of Charles Darwin and his family, taken by leading photographers of the day – it’s up for sale next month.

“We have specialists here who can cover pretty much everything from coins to modern art, and many of our specialists have been with with us for a long time, building on their knowledge.”

Newcomers, though, are equally welcome and essential to the business’s future.

“When we recruit young people, we’re always impressed by those with a demonstrable passion for collecting, as it shows they’ve handled and appreciated objects already - it’s far more relevant for us than, say, just a university degree.”

Gazette: Historic - the interior of saleroom of the original Headgate premisesHistoric - the interior of saleroom of the original Headgate premises (Image: Newsquest)

As Mr Grinter celebrates his 30 years with the business, what sales particularly stand out for him?

“There was the chap who came in ostensibly to buy a barometer but left with an Aston Martin - I never did find out how his wife took it,” he said.

“And then there’s the visit I made to see a man in a tumbledown cottage in the county, who happened the have an especially rare 18th-century Chinese punch bowl he wanted us to auction off for him.

“The £60,000 it fetched paid for a new roof for him. And he was so grateful he let me have one of his ginger kittens.

“He got a great price - and I got a great cat!”