I was excited to attend the historic Kennett Collection reduction sale. The Kennett Collection is one of the most impressive and exciting private bonsai collections outside of Japan. Doug Paul, the collection's founder and mastermind has built an amazing mix of trees from around the world with a heavy emphasis on hard to import mature Japanese specimen trees.
His decision to reduce the number of trees in his collection making room for more impressive trees isn't surprising. Doug's decision to offer them at incredibly low prices and to offer them fairly to the entire American bonsai community is. It would have been easy to consign trees to some of his partners that assist him in building and maintaining the collection. Maximizing the value returned would have been easier this way (and probably much simpler than pulling off a professional sale of this magnitude). So this sale that puts high-quality bonsai in the hands of the general community at affordable prices is a once-in-a-lifetime event.
I was hired by a New York City client to act as his agent with an impressive list of trees to buy. The rules of the sale had been posted online and Doug honored his equitable rules despite rumors of lucrative offers coming in right up until the sale began.
Over 100 buyers gathered in the hours before the opening. Cars lined the county roads around the nursery that hosted the event. Buyers chose a colored wristband from a closed box located in the gloriously warm registration tent (the day was cold until only the last buyers were leaving). People peered over the fence to try to locate the trees they were interested in buying.
A few minutes before the sale, the globe-trotting MC Peter Warren explained the rules and warned rule-benders of the consequences of not playing fair. He closed his remarks by wishing us all well and saluting "Bonsai Power."
Directly after this, the wristband order entry was unveiled and the first group of fifteen were let in.
My wonderfully supportive wife and partner Roslyn accompanied me and she had drawn an orange wristband. So I was able to get in with the first wave and secure three of the trees my client wanted. For the next couple of hours I watched the tags fly off the impressive selection of trees for sale. When asked, I offered my opinions on trees and waited for Roslyn's turn to enter. When she got in we were able to buy a fourth tree and complete the buying trip.
Just after Noon all thirteen waves had been let in and additional trees were allowed to be purchased. By 1:00 or so most people were paying for and taking their trees home. As expected, the team handling payment and checkout were efficient and professional.
Stay tuned for the rest of the story; "Little Trees in the Big City."