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HELLO, is it me you’re looking for?

Posted March 22nd, 2017 by Robert Shaw and filed under Dealer Corner

The news that Christie’s, South Kensington is to close in order to focus its London operations at King Street signals another shift away from antiques dealers who operate at the low to mid end of the business.

Dealing in antiques in the 21st century is a tough business and only the strong, adaptable or wealthy can make it pay.

The modern day antiques trade attracts people from a variety of backgrounds and one has only to wander around a large antiques fair such as Newark to see and hear the difference in age groups, social classes and personality types that populate the showground.

But while diversity exists and our personal needs and circumstances vary, as antiques dealers, we share the common goal of trying to make a profit from the antiques we source and sell.
Although the business has always operated at different  levels , reading the trade papers and periodicals could lead one to think we are all routinely dealing in objects worth tens of thousands of pounds.

And while most dealers will have had the odd ‘touch’ or two in finding a prized and valuable item, the day to day reality for most is far more mundane as modestly priced objects are routinely bought and sold.

This however is not always reflected in the antiques and art press. Just recently, the millionaire playground of the antiques fair TEFAF Maastricht, was given page after page of editorial coverage with associated photographs appearing more appropriate to the pages of Hello magazine than to the antiques press.

Of course the top end of the market should be covered by the trade press, but the level of exposure of such events seems totally disproportionate, appearing more akin to a lengthy advertisement feature when very few of the readership will actually visit such an event.
With the pages of much in our trade papers being taken up with advertisements for goods for sale at more modest provincial auction rooms, it sometimes seems that the editorial often follows a different agenda.

The trade papers are already too often filled with interviews with characters most of us have never seen or heard of - whose only qualification often seems to be their wealth -  as they pontificate on some topic from the rarefied air of an elitist gallery or shop.

Where one might ask, is the view of the man or woman standing on Saturday morning at the crack of dawn at Portobello Road, in a muddy field at Ardingly or underneath the grandstand at Kempton Park at 6am on a winters morning?

These are the dealers ‘at the coal face’ - the squeezed middle, who are often the most knowledgeable members of the antiques trade.

It is they who fuel the business and who in reality provide most of the readership and revenue to our antiques press, yet it seems too often they are also the most unrepresented, both by the major auction houses and by the trade press.


by Robert Shaw |  mincedpenny@gmail.com

After studying journalism at Highbury College, Portsmouth, Robert worked as a full time news and features journalist at a number of newspapers in the south of England.He has also written a number of articles on antiques and antiques dealing.Robert has been buying and selling antiques for nearly thirty years, sourcing a variety of antique objects but with a special interest in Chinese pieces.He is based in Chichester, West Sussex. Robert can regularly be found buying and selling at fairs and markets both in the U.K and Europe including the massive Newark antiques fair where he exhibits in the George Stephenson building.

The next IACF fairs are at: Newark on the 30th & 31st of March; Sandown on the 4th April; Ardingly on 18th & 19th April & Runway at Newark on the 24th April.  For more information go to www.iacf.co.uk


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