As It Happens

For sale: Entire contents of Heathrow Airport's Terminal 1

On Saturday, the retro-cool contents of Heathrow Airport's old Terminal 1 will be sold off in auction piece by piece.

Thousands of people have already preregistered to place bids on items from London's historic airport terminal

Heathrow Airport officially opened in 1966. On Saturday, the historic airport will hold an auction to sell off all the contents from closed-down Terminal 1. (Jim Gray/Keystone/Getty Images)

Ever since it was opened by the Queen in 1969, millions upon millions of travelers have made their way through London Heathrow's Terminal 1.

But on Saturday, the contents of the closed-down terminal will be sold off piece-by-piece. The sale will include signs, furnishings, art — even the check-in counters.

Ivan Macquisten is helping organize the auction. He spoke with As It Happens guest host Susan Bonner about some of the unique items on sale.

Here is part of their conversation.

Can you give us a sample of some of the pieces from Terminal 1 that will be on the auction block tomorrow?

The top things that are coming through are for things like the airport clocks, which are quite retro-chic. They look quite ordinary but when you get up close they are illuminated. They're huge. I think the top one there has had about 160 to 170 bids so far.

Then you get all these sort of, quite again, retro-chic type, black and yellow signs. The most popular ones tend to be the departure signs, which are slightly more popular than the arrival signs.

Items are arranged during a preview of the auction at Heathrow Airport. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

I think we all get the significance of a departure sign.

Absolutely, yeah. Then anything with Terminal 1 itself on it. In fact, one of the lots is going to be the really huge sign that was on the outside of the building when you drive up, that said, "Terminal 1."

The illuminated sign for the gentlemen's toilet has three times as many bids as that for the ladies. So there you go.

There's a psychology experiment in all of this, isn't there?

There certainly is. And things like, for example, there's these huge coloured glass partitions, where the "Nothing to Declare" sign has slightly more bids than the "Something to Declare" sign.

What the entrance to Heathrow Airport looked like in 1978. (Evening Standard/Getty Images)

There's a Terminal 1 check-in desk. Who'd want that stuff?

It's amazing. Everything has a bid on it so far. Every lot in the sale has a bid.

We've got something in the region of 5,000 pre-registered bids already.

I can tell you that already the money pledged before the auction has even begun is now over 100,000 pounds ($179,000 Cdn).

The sorts of people bidding? You're going to have a mix of people.

You're going to have aviation enthusiasts.

You're going to have seasoned travellers who've just got a romantic notion about having something from an airport.

You're going to have collectors of retro-chic sort of stuff and they just want something to add to their collection.

You're going to have dealers in the markets who think, "Hey, you know what? I can one of these things and sell it at an interior design fair or decorative fair."

Alright, you've got the enthusiasm. You've got us all excited. I know it's your job to sell this stuff, but tell me the truth — are there any items that make you think, "There's no way we are going to be able tell sell that"?

One of the items is a fairly modern recycling waste bin and, last time I looked, it had 30 bids.

Now, this isn't something that is retro. It's not something that would have been in the terminal for very long. It's certainly not something very old.

It's a perfectly adequate metal recycling bin. It has 30 bids. Why?

Ivan Macquisten says some of the retro clocks on auction have received the most pre-registered bids. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

What is it about Terminal 1 that makes people want to own a piece of it?

I think you have to go back.

Whatever has happened in the world now and the way things have changed, Heathrow was the busiest airport in the world.

This was the terminal that first opened back 50 years ago. It was really when Britain became an international hub of flight.

It's when people, certainly from our country, started to go. When they went on their vacation, they started to go overseas. They started to fly.

Before that, most people never got on a plane. It was quite rare. So this was the place that people went to do that for the first time. So a lot of people have been through there. There are a lot of memories.

The Beatles at Heathrow Airport before flying to America for a tour. (Central Press/Getty Images)

What would you put a bid on, if you could?

I would love to have a "Nothing to Declare" sign. I think that would be terrific.

If I had to take one thing it would be one of the Stefan Knapp murals. They're amazing and he was an amazing guy.

I love those new up-cycled desks. I'm actually moving house soon and I need a new desk in my office. I think one of those would be terrific.

Where would that "Nothing to Declare" sign reside in your home?

I could see that being a sort of, almost like a sculptor, standing at one end of the room. That would be good. Next to the drinks cabinet, I think. What do you think?

Written by John McGill. Interview produced by Chris Harbord. This Q&A was edited for length and clarity.


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