Edinburgh auctioneers to sue man over fake antique table

Lyon & Turnbull are based in Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL
Lyon & Turnbull are based in Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL
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AN AUCTION house is suing a man after an antique table it sold on his behalf was returned as a fake.

Lyon & Turnbull, of Edinburgh, says it understood Barry Sabine, 39, was an antiques dealer and that he presented the table as a genuine George IV mahogany extended dining table.

However, after the piece fetched £15,000 at auction, the buyer sent it back and complained it was not the real deal.

Mr Sabine had been paid his money and he refused to return the cash to Lyon & Turnbull, causing the damages action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

The court was told by Mr Sabine that he merely worked as a shop assistant in his father’s antiques business, and that if he got anything wrong about the table it was “an innocent misrepresentation.”

Lyon & Turnbull is suing Mr Sabine, of Honiton, Devon, for £13,666.37 - the £15,000 auction price less commission and charges which it had retained.

The sale was in 2008, and Lyon & Turnbull said Mr Sabine had represented the table as a genuine George IV piece. It had featured in the auction house’s Fine Antiques brochure and was given a value of £15,000 to £20,000, and fetched £15,000.

Later, the buyer indicated the table was not genuine, said Lyon & Turnbull, and the purchase price was returned. A report was obtained from the British Antique Dealers’ Association and it concluded that the table was worth about £1,500.

Mr Sabine has refused to take back the table, or refund the auction house.

“Lyon & Turnbull relied on the representations made by Mr Sabine in concluding the contract to provide auction services,” said lawyers for Lyon & Turnbull.

“He warranted that the table was genuine and, given the warranty was given in the course of his business, Lyon & Turnbull accepted it in good faith. In the course of its business, Lyon & Turnbull is accustomed to making its own representations as to authorship, genuineness, origin, date, age, provenance or estimated selling price, under explanation that it will not necessarily do so in respect of each item auctioned.”

According to Mr Sabine’s pleadings in the case, he worked as a shop assistant in his father’s antiques business, and described himself as only dabbling in the buying and selling of antique furniture from time to time.

He said he had testimonials from three antiques dealers who had previously viewed the table and who had believed that it was genuine.

“Even if he did make a misrepresentation to Lyon & Turnbull concerning the authenticity of the table, which is denied, such a misrepresenation could only amount to no more than an innocent misrepresentation and would not entitle Lyon & Turnbull to damages,” the pleadings stated.

Mr Sabine had contracted with Lyon & Turnbull to sell a number of items of furniture, including the table, and had been influenced in choosing it as an auction house by its reputation, holding itself out as “one of the leading specialist valuation companies in the UK.”

Mr Sabine said he had bought the table for about £3,500 through auctioneers in England and it had been described as a Regency piece.

Leonard Wallace, counsel for Mr Sabine, told Lord Drummond Young: “I think it is now accepted all round that it is not a table of the period that a lot of individuals thought it was.”

Stuart Holmes, solicitor advocate for Lyon & Turnbull, said an expert’s report had revealed the table was a piece “made to deceive.”

The judge will give his ruling later.