Best known for guiding amateur antiques collectors to find the best bargains in BBC One’s Bargain Hunt, Derby-lad Charles Hanson has been an avid antiques collector since junior school. But as the son of an accountant and occupational therapist it’s often a mystery as to where his passion for the past came from.
“I first became interested in antiques when, as a child, I bought a Royal Worcester figurine from my mother’s Women’s Institute jumble sale and later sold it for much more than I’d paid,” he said.
“A spark was ignited in me that day. But what fired me even more than making a profit on my interesting finds were the stories behind them. I’d often wonder what tales the items could tell, if only they could speak. This aspect of ‘hands on’ history was so intriguing to me - and still is.
But jumble sales and fairs weren’t the only places Hanson would discover antiques and gems from history. As a young boy, Charles took to metal detecting, unearthing hidden treasures at his parents’ farm.
“I started detecting when I was about nine-years-old. It’s a great hobby for children, it encourages youngsters to learn about history, respect the earth beneath their feet and while it involves technology, they’re outside getting exercise and fresh air that being sat at a computer just doesn’t allow. Discovering treasures that have been lost to the world is hugely satisfying and although I found my fair share of bottle tops and ring pulls in the beginning, persistence paid off as pennies and other coins soon came my way.”
A passion for business
This passion for antiques has brought more than just pennies to Charles, who has been able to turn his hobby into a successful career. In 1999 Charles kick-started his career working in the glass and ceramic department at Christie’s. He then spent time with firms in Cheshire and Staffordshire to widen his experience, before returning home to Derbyshire in 2005 to set up Hansons Auctioneers from his spare bedroom.
Over the next decade Hansons auctioneers grew to a successful auctioneers and valuers, employing 20 members of staff and establishing a show room in Etwall, as well as opening valuation centres across the East and West Midlands. Despite a few personal setbacks due to ill health and family tragedy, Charles has always felt his family and passion for antiques has kept him going.
“It is an honour to be able to serve the public as we do – advising and educating on heirlooms, collectables, fine art pieces, and of course the contents of a box shoved in the corner of a cupboard never fails to surprise, who knows what treasures are to be uncovered? There is never a dull day at our auction house, in fact recently the hammer went down on our most expensive lot yet - a Chinese vase discovered in Leicestershire realised a fantastic £300,000. Almost double our previous record of a Chinese vase sale at £192,000, three years ago.”
Lights, camera, action!
Another significant moment in Charles’ career happened in 2002, when he made his debut on BBC One’s popular show Bargain Hunt - helping budding collectors search for treasure and – sometimes - make a profit at auction.
“I am so fortunate to be involved with such a wonderful show,” he said.
“I have been involved with Bargain Hunt for the same length of time I have been running Hansons – the crew and teams are always an absolute delight to work with. I’ve also learnt a huge amount from the presenter of the show Tim Wonnacott and I very much enjoy working with him. Tim has a wealth of knowledge and it has been a pleasure to learn from him.
“It’s great to see that the antiques market is growing at a pace. Interest in home décor pieces is soaring; from the antiques of the 17th century, through to 20th century retro and vintage items, and everything in between. Antiques are growing in popularity - there is something for everyone.”
Home is where the heart is
Born and bred in Derbyshire - or ‘Middle England’ as Charles prefers to call it, the antiques specialist is a sentimental family man at heart: “I have been Derby-based all of my life - it’s the heart of the country, why would I want to live anywhere else? And as a Derby man, I am a Derby fan and a life-long Derby County supporter.
“Derbyshire is also rich with history and there have been some notable antique finds in the county, from the incredible discovery of a lamp belonging to Florence Nightingale to a piece of toast Prince Charles left on his breakfast tray on the morning of his marriage to Princess Diana.
“I’ve seen, owned and sold a huge number of treasures throughout my career but my most prized possessions are sentimental. My family is at the forefront, our daughter Matilda brings so much joy to our lives.
“The beginnings of my career can be seen in the Roman coin I bought on holiday with my parents aged 11 and in a civil war silver shilling I found when I was 16 – and I still have the lapel rose I wore when I married my wife, Rebecca, in 2011.
“Despite my passion for history and looking back in time, I am also looking to the future. I hope to build Hansons Auctioneers, build the team and build upon our current success.
“In my personal life, I feel I am a very fortunate man, with a wonderful family around me. I’m honestly living the dream.”
An abridged version of this interview featured in summer's edition of Derwent Life. The magazine is published each quarter by the marketing team.