It was the swashbuckling Perth tycoon Kerry Stokes who underpinned the often-enthusiastic prices achieved at the weekend's most high-profile auction: the house contents of the property developer Warren Anderson and his former wife Cheryl.
The Regency antiques, Old Master paintings, French Empire clocks and many other whimsical pieces had once filled the rooms of the couple's many homes, including the Elizabeth Bay harbourfront mansion Boomerang, Tipperary in the Northern Territory and Grantchester at Peppermint Grove in Perth.
All but one of the 1300 items on offer - under court orders - sold, mostly without reserve.
The sale, following the collapse of the couple's 42-year marriage, brought in $12 million, including the 20 per cent buyers' premium imposed by the auctioneer Bonhams.
By comparison, Rene Rivkin's collection fetched $6.7 million when sold in 2001. The Harold Mertz sale in 2000 holds the record at $16 million.
More than 1400 people registered to bid last week, and Australian buyers secured 80 per cent of the so-called Owston collection.
Anderson was a no-show, but his former wife attended the entire 12-hour first day and the 10-hour Saturday session.
Using curators, Stokes bought the prized set of 12 Australian red cedar cabinets that once housed the Australian flora and fauna collection of the botanist Sir Joseph Banks.
The cabinets, which fetched $250,000 before buyer's premium, were commissioned in the late 18th century for Banks's home at 32 Soho Square, London. It had been estimated they would sell for between $250,000 and $350,000.
The cabinets, which are not in their original state, had been sold in 1984 by the British Museum to the former Sydney antiques dealer John Hawkins, who sold them to Anderson.
A tall mid-19th century clock, bought in 1985 from Bill Bradshaw, the late Woollahra antiques dealer, sold to Stokes for $32,000.
The native life images of the convict artist Richard Browne that hailed originally from Tim McCormick Rare Books were bought for $40,000 each. Stokes also bought 250 boomerangs costing $34,500. Others were bought by Bill Evans, Mossgreen Gallery's tribal art specialist.
The highest price was paid for an English painting by Philip Reinagle of Colonel Thornton, the Marquess Dupont, hunting. It fetched $290,000 after strong underbidding from Hawkins, who dropped out at $285,000. The estimated sale price had been $200,000.
Antique auctions can be slaves to fashion cycles, but overall it was a triumph for the much-maligned ''brown furniture'' market.
Even the collection's largest item, a repolished George IV double-breakfront library bookcase, fetched $160,000 when sold to a client of Hawkins. It is 5.66 metres long, 3.55 metres high and 74 centimetres deep.
''You can move into it and live it's that big,'' said the auctioneer James Hendy.
Eclectic pieces were popular, and taxidermy was a highlight - especially anything extinct. A pair of huia, extinct New Zealand wattle birds, sold for $30,000. A 1920s Australian silver inkwell with ringtail possum fetched $20,000 and a deer antler umbrella stand sold for $6200.
An 18th-century Italian commode - ownership of which was claimed before the auction by Sandra Johnston, wife of the Firepower entrepreneur Tim Johnston - fetched $50,000, having old in London at £35,850 in 2002.
It was bought by a client of Martyn Cook, the Queen Street, Woollahra, dealer who carried about eight bidders' paddles for various buyers.
Two items have been sent to London for sale, including a Dutch Master painting with a price estimate of between £400,000 to £600,000($689,000-$1 million).
Perhaps more of the items on offer should have been shipped out.
A Faberge cutlery service for 24 diners - listed with $120,000 hopes - fetched $55,000. It is possibly heading to a Paspaley family residence.
An early 19th century Russian ormolu chandelier fetched $100,000 - half its expectation.
A six-piece Louis XVI-era armchair suite fetched $12,000, well short of the $50,000 estimate.
Anderson's son-in-law, Paul Attard, bought several pieces, including a 19th-century French gilt bronze mantle clock for $17,000; $30,000 had been expected. Its unstated provenance reputedly included Paul Keating, given the two clock devotees were once close.
With more lots for sale in October, the collection - built using wealth Anderson amassed over 20 years spent consolidating Coles supermarket sites - was even bigger before a warehouse fire in 2002 for which Anderson secured $15 million in insurance payouts.
''You don't get a feed in the bush by making a lot of noise as you go through,'' Anderson, who these days resides at Fern Hill at Mulgoa, once said.