There are a huge number and variety of antique and vintage shops across the UK, offering a stunning range of interesting antiques and heirlooms from times past. Let’s first take a look at a guide to antiques and antiquing.
A Buyer’s Guide to Antiquities
When it comes to purchasing antique items, antique shops are usually the best place to start. They are simply retail shops that specialise in the area of selling antiques, and most will only sell antiques that fit into particular categories. The antique industry has bloomed over the past few decades, although in reality it has been prominent for centuries.
In the modern-day world everything can be found online, and the online market for antiques is no exception. So while most consumers love the appeal of a physical antique shop where they can browse through antiques at their leisure, it can be easier to find certain items on the internet.
If you are looking for antiques in a particular category, the internet could be the best place for you to start. But, you should also be cautious when purchasing antiques online, as it is harder to spot a fake, or forged item.
One thing that anyone looking to buy antiques should be aware of is that the quality of items that are found in antique shops can vary dramatically, so it is worth researching the item that you are looking to purchase. Or even seeking specialist advice.
Antiquing is the term used to describe the act of shopping for, or bargaining for antiques. Believe us when we say that bargaining for antiques is easier than you think it is.
So whether you are looking to purchase antiques for personal use, or as gifts to give other people, this article will give you the advice that you need to successfully complete the task that you have in mind. It will also show you how to make a profit out of the antiques market.
A Brief History of the Antiques Market
The antiques trade has been considered to be neglected by the field of academics, until recently. The University of Leeds recently began performing ground-breaking research into the history of the modern British antiques trade (“Antiques Dealers: The British Antiques Trade in the 20th Century, a cultural geography”).
From a distance the industry of antiques looks as though it only flourished within the last century, but ask yourself, why do people find antiques so appealing? The reality is that owning a piece of the past appeals to the very core of human nature.
To own a piece of history is an idea that fascinates the majority of collectors. Whether that appeal comes from the age and rarity of the piece, or the cultural/historical resonance that an item may have. Although the reason can vary depending on the viewpoint of the buyer.
The nature of collecting antiques is not a new idea, or an idea of recent history. By the 18th century there was a huge number of both public, and private antique collections. The increase of public collections during the time period has been accredited to the scientific discovery of the time period, with the influx of archaeological finds, and medical relevance. As well as the development of both art and artistic styles.
Earlier than this there were not many public collections, although there was a wide number of collections across Britain and Europe as early as the 16th century.
Throughout history items have been collected for a variety of reasons, most of which involve the age and rarity of the item. It seems as though humans have always respected the historical relevance of certain items, or the beauty that can be found in an item that is hundreds of years old and yet in perfect condition.
Another reason would be the personal emotional connections that humans will place on certain objects, especially family heirlooms.
The very industry of antiques has been dated from the preservation of valued religious objects, and that preservation has been around for a millennium.
The Current Antique Market
So, while antiques have always been an important area of retail, they have become more and more popular in recent years. Whether they have become more popular because of how accessible they now are, or the number of people with an interest in antiques is dependent on the consumer.
Some people purchase antiques for their own private collections, or as investment opportunities for the future.
Numerous different antique shops now exist, with most towns and cities having one or more of their own. So the industry is affluent. The only problem with this affluence is that where there is money, there is competition, especially within the auction house environment.
It is worth noting that there is a difference between antiques and artefacts, and you will rarely find something that would be considered to be an artefact.
Artefacts are human-forged objects that have a significance that is both archaeological and historical, whereas antiques on the other hand are artefacts that have been assessed to have monetary value based on their age, among other factors.
The term antique comes from the Latin word ‘antiquus’, which means either ‘old’, or ‘ancient’. The modern day interpretation of this is that an antique should be at least 100 years old, and the majority of antique dealers agree with this.
One of the best things about the modern-day antique market is that it focuses more on owning an object that represents a previous era or time period in human society, and letting it appreciate in value over time.
But unfortunately this does mean that the market is saturated with false products, forgeries, and reproductions. So it is worth finding a specialist or expert if you are unsure about the origins of a product.
The antique market in Britain is financially worth billions each year to the British economy. One way that the average consumer can see this is by noting the endless hours of antique television programming that have been created due to the economic benefits of antiquing. The televised programmes have created a larger audience, and a bigger interest in antiques across the general population.
If you are looking to purchase an antique on the British market, then one of the key things that you should be looking for as a buyer should be high-quality craftsmanship.
The field of antiques covers such a wide variety of items that there are a number of experts, all with different fields. An expert can spot the excellent detail that a brilliant craftsman would have put into the overall design of the product when it was created. Most of the products on the British market will be furniture, and furniture that is high in quality will generally appraise in value over time.
When it comes to antiques, one of the best places in the world for buying them is within the United Kingdom. This is because the UK has an incredibly rich history that involves invasion and conquest, so you can find authentic antiques from across the world.
It also has a history of trade, and brilliant inventive minds. Most specialists believe that because of this history the United Kingdom has the most genuine antiques per square mile than any other country in the world, and this makes it an affluent hub for the antiquing industry as a whole.
But, what sort of antiques should you be looking out for? One of the key rules in becoming a private antique collector/dealer is that you should only buy items that you genuinely like, especially if you are buying antiques to profit from them when their value goes up. You do not want to be sat on an antique that you do not like for years and years, you would simply end up despising the look of it in your home.
Most private antique dealers will have a specific field that they deal in, and this means that they will be happy having a product within their house until it reaches an optimal profit point that they are happy with. But there are a few things that you should look out for when buying antiques.
If you are unsure what field you want to specialise in then you should research the both the current, and past market trends. You should also see what specialists within the field are forecasting. Don’t buy something that is currently at its peak in the market, as then you run a higher risk that it will not appraise in value.
For example, a few years ago natural pearls were one of the most valuable products in the jewellery industry, but they quickly peaked and Mediterranean Coral took the top spot. This shows that you can’t always judge the market based on what is currently popular.
Some examples of the most valuable, and most common antiques include:
If you really are unsure when it comes to the area that you want to specialise in, then furniture is usually considered to be a safe bet within the industry. This is because furniture holds its value over time, and it usually appreciates in value. The majority of collectors that deal in furniture put a lot of care into their products, due to the appreciation level.
You can usually find everything from dining tables and chairs, to bureaus and chests, as well as a wide variety of other pieces of antique furniture. Most pieces of furniture will be made out of mahogany, oak, pine, walnut, and rosewood. But you should be aware that the majority of antique furniture that is of Chinese origin will be made out of elm.
Architectural fragments have stood the test of time within the antique industry, unlike the majority of products on the market that jump up and down all of the time. They are important due to their design features, and usually include pieces like Corinthian capitals, chimneypiece tablets, carved panels in marble, and more ornate larger reliefs in plaster.
They have held their value mostly because of their use by interior designers, to create a modern and yet old-fashioned signature piece within homes.
18th century revival antiques
One of the areas that has become more affluent is the 18th century revival antiques area. This is regardless of whether the antiques are Egyptian or Greek-inspired. The classical and neoclassical designs are recognised across the industry due to their exquisite beauty.
Fossils and minerals
Fossils and minerals have never really been popular in the area of antique dealing. At least, this was true until around several years ago. In history, the collections that included fossils and minerals were usually privately owned by academics. Whereas now they are featured as home decorations, especially in the area of contemporary décor.
Specialists in the area of antique dealing believe that this influx will continue, and expand. So they could prove to be a worth-while investment.
Remember that the market isn’t always black and white, and that one of the most desirable areas in the field of antiquities is in vintage kitsch homeware. Including the famous 1960s lava lamp!
Buying and Selling Antiques
When it comes to buying antiques, there are a few things that you really need to focus on. The five key things that you need to remember are:
Remember that you should only ever invest in items that you actually like, as it can take quite a long time for most items to appraise in value. Dealing antiques can take time, so you should avoid purchasing anything that you wouldn’t be happy to have in your home for at least several years.
You should try to buy only from dealers who are established, as this reduces the risk of purchasing fake items. Authentic dealers will usually be a member of an association, and the two most common associations in Ireland and the UK are the IADA (Irish Antique Dealers Association), and the BADA (British Antique Dealers Association).
You should always be on your guard when it comes to the authenticity of an item, as the market is saturated with fake items. Avoid the temptation of purchasing an item before you can get confirmation that the piece is actually authentic.
Get the help of an expert that can spot a fake item and you won’t have to worry about the risk of buying a reproduction, fake, or forgery.
You should always ask an antique dealer about damage and restoration, and try to avoid buying a piece that has been restored. Unless it is a perfect restoration.
Watch out for signs of restoration, as the vast majority of restorative workers use intuitive techniques that go unnoticed to the untrained eye. Original furniture will always be worth more than restored furniture.
When you are purchasing antiques you should always ask the antique dealer for a discount, as the majority of professional dealers will have a code marked somewhere on the item to tell them how low they can actually go.
You should also never offer a dealer cash to start with, instead you should get a price for paying by credit card or check. After you have got that price you can then see if there is a further discount available for paying with cash.
You should always have your wits about you when looking around antique shops, try to see if you can spot a piece that doesn’t quite fit in. For example, see if you can spot a silver item on a stall full of bronze art deco pieces. Or jewellery in a shop that deals mostly in ceramics.
You will probably find that a dealer will discount the item because it doesn’t quite fit in, and it will be harder for them to sell if they are known for dealing in another type of item.
When it comes to selling antiques, there are a few things that you should try to keep in mind. The key things that you need to remember are:
First of all, make sure that your collection has a focus. Especially if you plan on selling the collection as a whole. Things that can tie a collection together include the manufacturer, artist, or region. As well as the time frame in which the piece was made, or the general theme that runs through the collection.
Try not to get possessive over an item that you purchase, as it could affect your ability to sell the item on to a buyer.
Make sure that you seek multiple professional valuations of your item before you attempt to sell it, as you want to ensure that you are getting the best price that you can. You should also seek professional advice to find out whether or not it is the right time to be selling the product.
Try to avoid buying to sell any products that have had, or need to have, a lot of restoration work. You will have to factor any repair costs into what you can get out of the product if you do.
Seek out professional collectors before you head out to the auction house with your item, you will usually get more money for the product this way. When selling you should also make sure that you know as much about the product as possible, this will help you sell the product to a private collector.
If you do go to the auction house, make sure that your listing does not include phrases like ‘after’, ‘in the style of’, and ‘similar to’. All of these phrases can make buyers think that you are selling a fake, or just not an original.
If you remember all of these key things, then you will be able to successfully sell your item, or collection.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes an antique, an antique?
An antique is an item that is both old, and has a monetary value due to its age or cultural significance. Opposed to an artefact, which is an item of both historical and archaeological importance. There are a wide variety of antique categories, and people collect in a variety of fields.
What would count as restorative work?
Restoration work can actually cover a variety of things. Sometimes restorative work is simply a light cleaning, that removes dirt. This type of restoration is usually performed on the surface of paintings. Yet, restoration can also include the near complete rebuilding or replacement of a product, and it is often done in preparation to sell an item.
The idea of restoration is simply to ‘restore’ a piece to its original appearance, or its original functionality.
What items do people collect?
There is no easy way to sum up the type of items that people collect, as the field is as diverse as you can imagine. People collect everything from Beswick’s cheap and cheerful ornamental wears (especially the animal figures), to dining chairs that are centuries old.
Can you actually make a living from dealing antiques privately?
Whether or not you can make a living from dealing antiques depends on your point of view. You can make a living dealing antiques privately, but a lot of dealing antiques involves sitting on an item and waiting for it to appreciate in value. If you want to make money fast, the antiques field may not be for you.
But if you are happy to wait, and gain from your patience, the antiques field could be calling your name.
When it comes to buying and selling antiques, there is one simple rule: always have your guard up. If you are unsure whether or not a product is genuine, then decide that it definitely isn’t genuine until an expert tells you otherwise. That way you aren’t tempted to rush into purchasing the product without thinking about it first.
Sitting in a house full of antiques might not be desirable to everyone, but if you are patient by nature then you can profit from it. Make sure that you choose antiques that you actually like, and you could find yourself sat on a gold mine in just a few years.