The Kennett Collection is the private bonsai collection of bonsai connoisseur Doug Paul who has created the finest bonsai collection in the United States. His fine eye and love of bonsai (and kopi) can be seen in each of the over 1,000 specimens he keeps surrounding his beautiful gardens and home in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
Mr. Paul has traveled to Japan many times searching for fine quality bonsai to add to his collection. His love of Satsuki azaleas and Japanese five-needle pines is easily seen in the vast majority of the collection. He was the first American to display a bonsai in the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition in Tokyo as well as other exhibitions. Select specimens which he has purchased are kept in Japan and displayed before importing into the United States.
A small full time staff care for the bonsai collection while world-class bonsai professionals from the United States, Japan, England and Italy regularly travel to Kennett Square to shape and train the trees.
In order to make room for new specimens Mr. Paul needed to sell about 400 trees. Rather than selling them to professionals he chose to have a public auction on March 14-15-16, 2014 at a nearby garden center in Delaware where there was more room for the buyers as well as no sales tax. This way the public had a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to add quality Japanese bonsai to their personal collections. It was very generous of him to price the bonsai at very low prices, even cheaper than he purchased them in Japan. Mr. Paul likes American and European bonsai containers and many of the bonsai sold were in expensive, one-of-a-kind containers. The prices of the bonsai ranged from $25 to $19,000.
All of the bonsai for sale were photographed ahead of time and posted in his web site so buyers could study and prepare their purchasing lists. The sale drew people from as far as Texas, Canada as well as most states east of the Mississippi River. Many prominent bonsai professionals were present adding to their personal collections as well as purchasing trees for their clients.
People began to gather well before the 10 am sale on Friday morning when the temperature was about 30F. There were perhaps 200 people in attendance and it looked more like a national bonsai convention than a private bonsai sale. Upon arrival buyers reached into a black box to get their wrist bands of 13 different colors which indicated the entry order into the sales area.
Peter Warren from England organized and ran the sale and went over the rules before 10 am. People would be allowed in when their wrist band colors were announced for 10 minutes before the next group was allowed their turn for buying. A couple of minutes before 10am, the sign with the entry schedule was revealed. Peter reviewed the rules again and asked buyers to leave their trees until later in the morning to prevent confusion, which was an excellent idea.
Buyers had about 10 to 15 minutes to make their selection and only 3 trees could be purchased during their initial buying period. At 1pm the sale would be open to everyone and people could purchase additional trees. Also Peter announced that any cheating would not be tolerated and buyers would not be allowed to purchase any trees if caught. I did not see any cheating, but many disappointed buyers who were in the 13th group to enter. At the conclusion of his remarks Peter wished all buyers good luck.
All the bonsai were well prepared and organized by species and size. Of course there was a large section of Satsuki azaleas and pine bonsai. Each tree had two labels with the item number and price. The white label remained on the tree, while if one wanted to purchase a tree they removed the yellow label. Therefore, once it was your turn to enter the sales area trees without a yellow label were already purchased. Buyers would then take their yellow labels into the heated tent with hot coffee and doughnuts to get a receipt of their purchases. At the next table the receipts were taken, paid for and returned to the lucky buyers to retrieved their trees. Only the staff, all in yellow hats, were allowed to pick up the trees and move them into the loading area. They even helped people pack their cars and trucks.
Around noon all the buyers had entered and the sales area was nearly empty. It was unbelievable how fast the trees were sold. In some of the attached photos you will see empty tables with only a few trees remaining, however, if you look closely, very few were still for sale with the yellow labels. Only the white identification labels remained.
During the sales period, Peter Warren from England, Minoru Akiyama from Japan as well as Suthin were there to assist people with their purchases and answer questions.
Later on Friday afternoon it was announced that because of the lack of remaining bonsai the sale would close on Saturday at 1pm and would not open on Sunday as scheduled. You can’t sell trees if you don’t have them.
It was warming to me to see so many smiling happy people adding quality bonsai to their collection because of the generosity of Doug Paul. Hopefully the bonsai will be well cared for and shaped and perhaps displayed in a future US National Bonsai Exhibition.
Although my wife Diane and I were in the 8th entry group we were able to purchase 4 of my client’s top choices (3 yellow labels for me and 1 for Diane) for his personal bonsai collection. But, unfortunately none of the bonsai on our affordable list for resale purposes remained, except for one small Japanese five-needle pine nursery stock.
Bonsai we purchased for our client:
Mr. Paul needs to be thanked for making the trees available to the public for sale and also for the extremely well organized sales procedure and rules which were fair as well for everyone.