Mark Seabrook speaks to Grant Nicholas about oak & country furniture, at Newark IACF - IACF Blog
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Mark Seabrook speaks to Grant Nicholas about oak & country furniture, at Newark IACF

Posted February 10th, 2017 by Mark Seabrook and filed under Dealer Corner

The Newark International Antiques & Collectors Fair is world renowned. It is the largest event of its kind in Europe – a world-wide phenomenon; and it was Grant's introduction to being part of the IACF team.

Held at the Newark and Nottinghamshire Showground on an enormous 84 acre site, up to 2,500 stands attract thousands of dealers and buyers from around the globe every other month. As a new member of the IACF team, Grant was lucky enough to speak with Mark Seabrook, one of the many experts who regularly exhibit at the fair, to find out a little bit about his specific area of expertise, and try to learn what a new-comer to the world of antiques (like Grant) might be able to keep an eye out for.

Pictured above: Mark Seabrook (member of BADA)

What's your specialist area Mark?

My speciality is Oak & Country Furniture. The sort of items I specialise in are 17th Century & 18th Century English Period pieces of furniture. Things like: 17th Century Oak Coffers, ideal for storage; Tripod tables that fit neatly into corners, for putting lamps on; side tables that go to the side of the room, and have a useful single drawer for storage; sets of chairs, Ladderbacks and Spindlebacks, all hand built with rushseats, very comfortable and durable; as well as the grand “Wainscott” and “Panelback” chairs of the 17th Century. These look wonderful around the very sociable round Gateleg Tables, where no one gets left out as everyone is facing each other on these hand built tables, which are all over 300yrs old!

What kind of items might the entry-level collector look for?

What an excellent time for the entry level collector to start his collection. I have never known Oak & Country Period Furniture to be so “buyable”, you literally couldn’t make modern Oak Furniture for the low price you can buy the real thing. The things you can buy are really right across the board:17th Century Gateleg Tables, 17th & 18th Century single and sets of chairs, coffers, joint stools, cupboards, side tables, dressers – you name it, everything is really buyable!

Pictured above: Antique 17thc English Oak Plank Coffer (c. 1630 to c. 1640 English)

What kind of prices might one expect to pay?

Prices for good quality Oak & Country Furniture are really as low as they can go. To give examples: last year I bought several 17th Century six seater Gateleg tables for less than £600. I used to have to pay £1,500 - £2,000 for nice examples. Sets of 18th Century Ladderback Chairs that some dealers were selling for between £6,000 – £8,000 you can now buy for less than £1,000! So what I am saying is, if you have a few thousand or less to spend, you can go a long way towards furnishing your entire home!

Pictured above: Antique 19thc Broad Arm Windsor Chair (c. 1840 to c. 1870 English)

Which useful sources of background & up-to-date information can you recommend?

Useful publications to keep an eye on the market and for what is coming up for sale are trade papers like 'The Antique Trade Gazette', and also magazines like the 'Antique Collector', which have excellent articles on Oak & Country Furniture, plus current prices at auction.

Should the beginner go to fairs, auctions, specialist dealers or take their chances online?

My advice to the beginner setting out for the first time on this wonderful collecting journey is go to quality vetted fairs, where everything is labelled correctly. Talk to specialist dealers who, like myself, will be only too happy tp discuss the merits of a piece: the construction, the importance of colour, originality and overall patination. I spent my ‘learning’ days polishing Oak Furniture in a top dealer’s shop (not being paid) handling many superb items. When you polish a piece of furniture you see the construction, you learn about the colour and patination and you also ‘train your eye’, so when you see a piece ‘made up’ of other pieces, alarm bells ring! So don’t be afraid to ask, pick up the piece, look underneath and also view it in good light.

Specialist dealers are the best people to learn from, and you may find many at quality fairs. The trouble with auctions is, it is buyer beware, so mistakes happen and there is usually no come back, along with a big buyers premium on top of the price! With a dealer, you know what you are buying, no buyers premium, and if the leg comes off your table you can take it back and it will be repaired. Online auctions…not being able to see and feel the piece you really are taking a chance!

Pictured above: Antique 19thc Welsh Childs Rocking Chair (c. 1800 to c. 1820 Welsh)

What are the pitfalls, and how can we avoid making mistakes?

There are many pitfalls and mistakes to be made, I know, I have made my share! But they are the ones you remember and you shouldn’t make the same mistake twice. Talk to dealers, tune your eye in and read the many good reference books on the subject. A  good book to start with is: Victor Chinnery’s ‘Age of Oak Furniture'. Don’t buy an item because it is cheap, buy because you like it and have the perfect place for it. Most of all, enjoy this exciting and rewarding collecting journey you are about to start on. There has never been a better time to begin, and I hope to meet you somewhere on this journey!

Grant Nicholas was speaking to Mark Seabrook (member of Bada) at the February Newark IACF.

To contact Mark: email enquiries@mark.seabrook.com or call 07770 721931

The next Newark Fair will be on Thursday 30th & Friday 31st March 2017.

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