Operating since 1949, RJ Keighery’s well-known auction house on the banks of the River Suir in Waterford is now in the hands of the third generation of the Keighery family.
Established by the late Patrick Keighery, the business is now run by father and son team Rody and Thomas, from their 5,000sq ft, custom-built premises adjacent to the Viking Triangle in the historic city.
Thomas, who returned from London almost two years ago, where he worked in digital marketing, has applied this skill set to bring the family business into the world of online marketing. His weekly Thursday Night Live shows on IGTV – a standalone video application from Instagram – are watched each week by about 2,000 viewers. In addition, his Irish Design podcasts on the music streaming site Spotify, where he chats to a range of interior designers, craftsmen and enthusiasts, have also garnered a loyal following.
So how did his father Rody react to the new world of online marketing from a business that was firmly entrenched in live sales at the rostrum, catering to the hinterlands of Waterford?
“At first he was a bit reticent about videos and podcasts with ‘ah yes that’s grand’ but now he has seen it all come together. It has really opened our doors to younger people, not just all over Ireland, but also abroad,” recalls Keighery.
Shift in demographics
This shift in demographics, from what Keighery refers to as the “housewife market”, to younger buyers who are finding sales through social media platforms, has greatly increased since lockdowns.
“Our younger customers just love a piece with an interesting yarn, and Rody is great at that. Also, people are quite amazed that he stands on the rostrum for about eight hours at a time, telling the history, importance and meanings of different lots.”
He recalls the story of a new buyer, based in Zurich, who was due to have an operation but persuaded the anaesthetist to delay it by 20 minutes so she could bid on a table she was intent on buying.
“The anaesthetist, along with two nurses and the patient duly followed the live online auction, and the woman was the successful bidder on the table.”
The father and son team now work together in their online videos.
“People seem to really like the balance between Dad and myself. He shares his wisdom and knowledge on quality and provenance, and I give another take – showing how pieces can have different uses within current trends.”
Their current online auction, which will end tomorrow Sunday, February 14th has 140 lots including a private collection of Waterford Crystal – all of which is boxed and unused. Dating from the 1990's, there is good value to be had in the six red wine, and six white wine John Rocha goblets (both sets carry estimates of €100-140).
Also in there is lot 42, a Waterford Crystal 12-inch Museum vase. These were produced to celebrate Waterford's artistic heritage and are reinterpretations of some pieces that reside in the National Museum of Ireland. From a limited edition, this piece bears the original manufacturer suggested retail price tag of $2,000 on the box, and comes with a €300-€500 estimate.
Art includes works by Arthur Maderson, Annie Robinson, Marie Carroll, John Schwatschke and Lorna Millar.