The Elephants Can Sleep a Little Easier

Earlier this week one of Australia’s pre-eminent auction houses, Leonard Joel, submitted its policy on the cessation of trade in ivory and rhino horn to the European Commission’s public consultation regarding European trade in these materials.

In their 22nd Report, released today, Leonard Joel announced the affect this cessation in ivory trade has made on their business over the past year.

At about this time one year ago ‘the penny dropped’ for me as an auctioneer and I could no longer deny that auctioneers who dealt in ivory were not significantly contributing to maintaining value in this material and consequently, the ongoing slaughter of endangered species.

In 2016, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, IFAW released a report titled Under the Hammer that amongst other things, identified the top 10 auction traders in ivory in Australia.

To my shame, Leonard Joel was measured as holding the number one position and that report prompted a profound change in our thinking on this issue. To my disappointment, we remain the only auction house in Australia to act on this report but I remain hopeful that my remaining top 9 cohorts will eventually join us in a more enlightened position.

Our detailed policy on the cessation of trade in both elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn is well documented now and publicly available for all to read, share and adopt. It has now even travelled to a Boston conference and the European Commission as an example of what’s possible.

But what no one could predict until now is the commercial impact such a cessation would have on an auction house that embraced this policy.

Now, one year on, I can report the exact commercial impact on Leonard Joel.

Our weekly Objects & Collectables department handles tens of thousands of decorative arts items every year and was, before this year, the platform for more trade in decorative ivory than any other auction house in Australia. Naturally, I was nervous about the commercial impact our cessation would have, a phase 1 cessation that overnight eliminated the trade at Leonard Joel of all but a handful of pieces that pre-dated 1921.

Here, we share with our collecting community the financial results that compare our final year of uninhibited ivory trade, calendar year 2016 and our first year of cessation in that trade, calendar year 2017.

The results speak for themselves and we hope that they will inspire change in other auction houses and antique dealers alike.

2016 Objects & Collectables Department Total: $2,011,675

2017 Objects & Collectables Department Total: $2,063,791

Yes, that’s correct, our sales have increased by $52,116 or almost 2.6%.

We are proud of our pioneering stance and our hope that, with this information, other auction houses and antique dealers will make it their new year’s resolution to no longer trade in this material, a material that finds its origin in slaughter.

John Albrecht
Managing Director, Leonard Joel

Jack Plane


About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
This entry was posted in Antiques, Distractions and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Elephants Can Sleep a Little Easier

  1. Keith Turner says:

    Every journey starts with a small step.
    Thanks for posting this article.


  2. Joe M says:

    Bravo to Leonard Joel!


  3. bcfnc says:

    I’ve known John since he was a teenager helping his father Kurt Albrecht , proprietor of Kozximsky’s , at antique dealers fairs and the like . He’s always been a man of integrity .


  4. Eric R says:

    Here, here.
    One house coming to their senses, nine more to go.
    Thanks Jack for posting this.


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