The Collector’s Companion was launched by Terry Smith in summer 1995 with 12 pages of adverts and articles. How we’ve grown! Impressively, a quarter of the advertisers in this issue have been with us for over 20 years, so to celebrate we thought we’d take a look at the familiar names from our first 25 issues.
How did you start out in the antiques trade?
Tony (Bushwood Antiques): I started off as a young boy by going to jumble sales and buying records called 78’s and then reselling them, sometimes to rag & bone men.
Becky (Mainly Deco): From an early age I attended auctions with my parents, who were avid collectors. From then I started collecting myself. After going to university I decided to make my hobby into a business and I opened my shop, Mainly Deco in 1997.
Alison (Home & Colonial): I went to auctions with my grandfather so I’ve had an interest since an early age! I started buying antiques and renovating them for our first home.
Richard Frost (Book Fair): I had always been keen on buying old books from the age of 10 when I purchased a bound 1890s volume of “Punch” magazine for 5/-. in a second hand bookshop in Folkestone.
How has trade changed since the 1990s?
Becky: I still have avid collectors, but there are definitely more people purchasing for use in their homes and interiors. I think it’s more about the look and how that item will fit within their homes.
Marcel (Marcel Fairs): There’s more younger & older people both taking stalls & visiting. Furniture has disappeared from a lot of the fairs but jewellery remains popular.
Alison: We have seen a range of ages and more men shop with us over the years. Brown antique furniture was popular back in the late 90s and we used to sell a lot of oak and Arts & Crafts pieces. At the moment mid century is extremely popular.
Tony: The price of renting a shop in London became prohibitive for a lot of dealers. They were forced to rely on antique fairs. Then the Americans stopped coming over. And antique furniture had, by then, gone out of fashion. The result is that many big dealers have gone out of business. I am one of the few that have survived and I have done it by selling to the public as well as to the trade.
Becky: There is definitely a trend towards modern and vintage. I sell a lot more ceramics and glass from the 1950s – 1980s than the 1930s now.
Richard: A vast number of books have been published since I started selling in 1988. Most old books have no second hand value, even if they are over 100 years old. The cheaper end of the market has long been taken over by the charity shops, and some of them now refuse to take second hand books. There is no option but to put many used books in the recycling.
What’s the secret to your success?
Becky: I love what I do! I collect myself so I’m always looking for items. It’s a passion that never fades.
Marcel: You’ll have to ask my participating dealers.
Alison: The unique and high quality stock that our dealers are continually sourcing. The way we display everything beautifully in room settings. Excellent customer service from our wonderful dealers. Many dealers have been with us from the day we opened and we are like one big family!
What advice would you give to those starting out?
Becky: Get to know your customers and what they want and at what price. Keep up with current trends and always try to work out what the next one is going to be. Try not to buy anything which is damaged or restored and if possible buy the best you can.
Marcel: Think hard about starting. Ask a lot of questions of the organisers. It might seem easy from the outside but in reality is hard, especially selling the spaces and filling them with last minute cancellations
Alison: The stock needs to be high quality and well presented. Variety of stock is also important and things need to keep changing to encourage customers back.
Tony: My advice to anyone thinking of starting out in the antiques trade would be… get yourself a proper job! Just joking! Give it a go.
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