The Joys of Collecting

Collecting antiques and collectables is a wonderful hobby and you do not need a large bank account in order to get started. The word ‘antique’ often makes us think of high end collectables such as expensive jewellery, fine furniture and Georgian silver which you would usually find in the fashionable auction houses such as Bonhams, Christies and Sothebys and most of these would be well out of reach for those of us with modest incomes. Don’t despair, if you love antiques and collectables and you want to put together a collection of your own, there are a number of sources that you should explore.

Your first stop should be your local auction house or auction centre where you can attend auctions on a regular basis. In my area there are six auction houses within striking distance and I could be attending several auctions a month. Most auction houses these days publish their catalogues on the internet a week before the auction. This is very useful as it gives you an overview of what is on offer and you an then make a decision on whether the trip is worthwhile. Most catalogues will contain estimates of what the particular pieces should fetch and this enables you to weed out all the items that are beyond your budget.

Quite a lot of auction houses run their auctions live online and this means that you can bid from your own home. This is particularly convenient during the winter months when the weather can be bad.

An important tip: always attend the auction preview which is usually a couple of days before the auction. Photographs on a website can look amazing but you really need to look at the pieces themselves in order to check for damage etc. China and porcelain photographs particularly well and the real think can be quite disappointing as photos often do not show up scratches and chips. Remember though that when you buy second hand vintage china you cannot expect it to be in mint condition.

Another excellent source for hunting out antiques and collectables are antiques fairs and markets. These are especially useful because you can chat to the invidivual dealers who are usually very helpful and are always open to a deal, as long as your offer is sensible and not a million miles away from the asking price.

Lastly, don’t forget your local charity shops and car boot sales. There are several charity shops in most towns and are often well worth checking out. Car boot sales have really taken off and many are held weekly, and often on a Saturday or Sunday. The prices are usually very reasonable and just like the fairs, always haggle – there is usually a bargain to be had.

Out and About at Antique and Collector’s Fairs

May and June are always exciting times for collectors in the UK. There is always a wealth of antique fairs, country shows and country house content sales and there are many opportunities for the serious collector to increase their collection with an extra piece or two. If you are not loaded with cash you will still be able to find many bargains at the antique shows and fairs and it is always worth checking out you local auction house. You could furnish an entire house from top to bottom for a fraction of what it cost you to buy from the High Street, especially as quite a number of auction houses are including new furniture in their auctions, having struck deals with local furniture sellers.

If you are in the UK you should visit the International Trade and Collectors Fair at Newark. It is on every other month and always on a Thursday and Friday – the next one will be 9th-10th of June. The fair is huge and you can literally get anything. Look out for the stall selling French linen fabrics, they are fabulous and the stall holders are friendly and helpful. If you have a thing for far away place you should visit the stall selling antique leather suitcases and trunks – they are divine, if rather expensive.

For the collecteors of glass there is a fair in Kensington Town Hall on 12 June. Here you will find Art Deco pieces by Lalique, among others. There will also be mid century designs and contemporary glass.

The current fashion seems to be for anything vintage, Kath Kidston has built an entire business around it. There will be a vintage bazaar at Henley Town Hall, Henley-on-Thames on 18 June which will feature fashion and homeware – a very good opportunity to get your genuine 1950s prom dress.

Quite apart from the big fairs and events it is also worth checking out small local events. May villages have events, table top and car boot sales at this time of year and there are many bargains to be had for the collector.