The market for Antiques in the UK today

– or – why no one wants to buy your wardrobe anymore!

Having worked in the antiques business since 1985 I have seen markets come and go, rise and fall and sometimes disappear altogether. Today we are in a world of ‘downsizing’, ‘decluttering’ and minimalism, gone are the days of high demand and eager buyers furnishing with antiques and dealers filling container load after container load of furniture to send around the world. If you have a hose full of possessions or are a collector you are unusual, probably a ‘hoarder’, very odd, at best eccentric.

Different times generate different markets and today ‘no one wants brown furniture’ is a mantra that is regularly repeated as an unquestionable fact of life. There are many reasons for these changes, fashion, the size of our homes, the way we live, the age of the furniture, the cost of antiques – surprisingly items being too cheap can have an impact on demand, the media, the way our parents furnished, taste and even government policy can all impact on the way we live at home and furnish at work.

fullsizeoutput_850.jpegThis talk will examine the changes in the market in recent times and explain why ‘no one wants to buy your wardrobe’. The wardrobe illustrated here sold for £10.00 recently, it came with a chest of drawers, dressing table and display cabinet! Have you cleared an elderly relatives house recently? What happened to the tea sets, dining chairs, dressing tables and china cabinets and all those little nick-nacks … where do all these things go and what happens to them? Why are our ancestors prized possessions, items that they cherished and valued, now so unloved by this generation?

13swivel-555x740We will consider what it is people do want to buy, after all many auction rooms still sell hundreds of lots every year, one I work closely and regularly with sells in excess of 40,000 lots every year – so it can’t be all bad news. Prices in the thousands of pounds are still routine in the auction houses, collectables of all sorts still find a ready market: militaria, postcards, fine silver, jewellery, books, coins, jewellery and toys all generate flourishing markets. Flourishing but changing, the auction market for large gold mounted cameo brooches used to be very good … but today … it is not the jewellery that has changed, all the features we used to get excited about when selling them, the fine materials, the lovely gold, the great craftsmanship and the classical beauty of the subject matter, these things haven’t changed. So why is this brooch worth a tiny fraction of the price your great-aunt payed for it thirty years ago?

And what about the moment we all dream of,  finding that life changing and enormously valuable item in the corner of the back-bedroom, the mythical lottery winning ‘Ming’ vase, the unnoticed item to solve all your money worries. It does happen, not very often in a career, but it happens and this talk will  be illustrated by a number of examples from my working life. Those remarkable moments when unsuspecting clients received life-changing sums of money simply because they were clearing out their elderly or deceased relatives possessions.

fullsizeoutput_852.jpegIllustrated with many images from the antiques business and supported by anecdotes from over thirty years of professional practice you will hear what really happens in the day-to-day life of the antiques business. With tales of some of the most interesting items to come to the market, some of the most colourful collectors and the most surprising events in this vibrant and ever-changing world. We will consider the current state of the market, will it improve for your wardrobe, will your Victorian chest of drawers ever sell for more than £30 again? Or alternatively do you have that old toy car that you loved and cherished as a child which is now worth hundreds of pounds, or what about that ‘dreadful’ work of art that your parents bought in the 1960’s, it might just be worth more than the house!

All elements of the market will be covered in what is usually a popular and entertaining talk that rasies many questions from those attending and might just alert you to that lost treasure in your attic … or depress you about the value of your wardrobe!

Smaller groups can turn this talk into a ‘valuation event’ where those attending bring one or two items of their own in and I bring along a number of items to pass around and illustrate the talk. This can make for a great interactive session with lots of audience participation – this session can work well for more informal groups and charity events. Charging people a small amount of money per item could raise money for your cause, get in touch if you think I can help.