Auctions are already very much ingrained into the UK way of life, reinforced by a seemingly endless stream of daytime TV shows.

Whether it’s Bargain Hunt, Cash In The Attic or Antiques Road Trip, there’s usually something on the telly which encourages Brits to believe they either have an old heirloom worth a fortune somewhere in the house. If not, maybe it’s not impossible to snap one up down at the local salesroom or car boot sale.

Catching on

But, in Turkey, it’s still a relatively new thing – at least for the average man in the street. It’s been seen as something only the well-heeled could afford to do as the lots offered were valuable and therefore expensive.

But, with the economy struggling a little more recently and with other cultures finding their way into the fabric of such a cosmopolitan city, İstanbul is beginning to catch on.

Over the past few years, public spaces which used to be cafes or tearooms are finding a new lease of life as auction rooms.

According to a focus feature in the Daily Sabah this week, the Balat district of the city is leading the way. Here, more and more people seem to be finding their way from the trendy bars to bid on second-hand goods, often purely on impulse or to be part of the fun.

Balat auctioneer Ali Tuna, whose hat and banter are already part of the new scene among bargain hunters in Istanbul. Picture by AFP

Good clean fun

The lots are not beyond the means of most – even with inflation currently running at 20% and the Turkish lira exchanging for seven to the pound.

Turks are finding that an auction can be either be a cost-effective way of buying collectibles, quirky or useful items for the home or a relatively cheap afternoon of entertainment.

And, just like the UK, some colourful characters are emerging too, gaining a little local celebrity with their sales patter and jaunty dress.

Others who have had time to learn are also beginning to play the market from both ends, snapping up lots in the hope of making a profit when they’re offered for sale again.

“It is like a spontaneous theatre,” said one. “When you stay five minutes, you enjoy the ambiance.”

An auction in action. Picture by AFP

More information about the Balat district is available from the Istanbul guide here:

The full feature on the growing auction scene from the Daily Sabah can be found here: