Even in this very modern world, antique collecting is very much alive and well. People still want a piece of history or a sentimental find that contributes much to their homes, whether they choose to build a collection of one artist’s work, or prefer a certain style.
We are extremely lucky in Britain to have a very vibrant antique scene, partly due to our history of invasion and trade throughout the world. Because of this, we have built up a tremendous collection of unique antiques, some of which you could own. But if you’re not an antique collector already, where do you start?
1. Get to know your style
Establishing what you like is a good start, understanding why you are drawn to pieces is essential to building a collection you’ll love after the heady thrill of purchase has passed.
Ask yourself if it’s something you love because it fits the style of your home?
Do you have a particular space just screaming out for Art Deco, or a spot in your living room where a 1950s armchair would fit perfectly?
Or are you heavily interested in a part of history, and would like to learn more about a certain era and how the design was shaped by world events?
Getting at least a rough understanding of your wants and needs will make your search a lot more productive.
2. Visit Fully Vetted Antiques Fairs
Antiques fairs are a great way to browse a huge range of antiques and really pick the brains of the experts. You can touch and feel the pieces you are most interested in and speak to a wide range of sellers all in one place.The diversity of pieces on show is often vast, meaning antique fairs are a great place to go when starting out. Antiques Fairs also allow you to meet specific dealers that specialise in your preferred taste and meeting a knowledgeable dealer can often be the start of a hugely rewarding journey.
Top tip: Do make sure you go to a reputable fair and buy from a reputable dealer so you can buy your antiques with confidence.
3. Peruse Antique Shops
After gathering a wealth of knowledge from experts at fairs you will feel well equipped to visit the plethora of antique shops around the UK, some of which are brimming with an eclectic mix of antiques from across the ages.
These wonderful ’boutique’ venues offer a charm of their own with individual character that is so welcome in the midst of today’s uninspiring ‘chain brands’ on the High Streets.
These shops or ‘Galleries’ allow you to take your time in a more relaxed setting and will give you the chance to have an unrushed conversation with the dealer.
These dealers are very knowledgeable and will be delighted to explain values to you and ensure that they put a fair price on their items in order to sell them, you won’t find a piece of Lalique for bargain basement prices.
4. Head to the Auction Houses
Having garnered as much knowledge as possible and handled many items yourself, you may now feel well equipped to take on the auction houses. Try popping along to some of the main auction houses, Sotheby’s and Bonham’s are great places to get inspired and further your research, or even to purchase if you have the right budget.
Arrive early enough and you can often speak face to face with the experts and learn more about the antiques you find yourself drawn to.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
You should then ensure that you look very closely at the item you are interested in and check for any signs of damage or restoration, you will not be able to ask for a refund if you find any faults after you make a purchase. At auction, you should always appreciate it is ‘Caveat Emptor’ – ‘Buyer Beware’.
Top tips: if you are purchasing at an auction, remember too that the buyer’s premium + VAT will be added on to the hammer price – this is often around 30% extra on top of your bid.
Do not buy an item without first viewing it – it never looks the same as in the pictures and you cannot return items you buy at auction.
The Key Dos for Collecting Antiques…
* Do always make certain that you are purchasing your antiques from a registered dealer, to ensure you are purchasing authentic antiques. Registered dealers are usually a part of LAPADA, BADA or CINOA – associations that require members to follow strict rules of conduct
* Do always ask the seller if any restoration work has taken place and insist on a receipt with full description and approximate date of production
* Do always buy something you love. An antique is a great investment, but they do not always increase dramatically in price as the years pass go by. Buy something you can treasure for years to come and you’re sure to build a collection you can be really proud of.
If you would like to know more about antique collecting, along with the antiques we specialise in and where you can meet us next have a look at our forthcoming events page to find a fair near you.