With tongue firmly in cheek again (we seriously hope!), Satirist and Antique Collector Michael ‘Atters’ Attree casts his wry eye over the world of Antiques Fairs - collecting and dealing, giving us an insight into his singularly unconventional, whimsical and occasionally naughty view of the subject.
Please note that all views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the organisation and its management.
From millennia, “Dominus” Atte Ree, relic diabolist and Lord of the Manor begot a perverse legacy; “All Attree's as yet unborn must crave antiquities, objet de arte and Wade Whimsies on a pitiful budget. Thus I, “Atters” Attree, prostrate my dark affliction, expertise and ongoing cash flow problems at your disposal.
WTF! aka; Whata Terrific Find!
Pictured above: Cry me a river! A titanic sized antique perfume flacon possibly made for display (spotted at Alexandra Palace Antiques, Vintage & Collectors Fair).
I’m not entirely sure what this titanic flacon was made for but it looks remarkably similar to the smaller Victorian “tear catcher” scent bottles commonly found, just without the usual gilt decoration (see photograph below). This hand blown monster was in perfect condition and had panel cut and bevelled sides, a polished pontil base and its original glass stopper. I’d say this was manufactured around 1900 - 1920 as (despite a few characteristic air bubbles) it lacked that grey metallic lustre typical of its smaller, earlier lead glass counterparts. However, it was purely its large size that caught my eye; the likelihood being it was produced purely for a novelty window display. At £65 pounds I’d say there was little room for profit due to its lack of colour or decoration. However, the ambiguity of its size surely makes a precise valuation difficult? I’ve never seen one this big before and a keen collector will probably think the same.
Luckily the generic clear, facet cut and gilt smaller horizontal phials can still be picked up for as little as £5 or £10 and can be sold on for around £35-40. Rarer examples are enamelled and found in coloured glass (I’ve experienced amber, blue and green myself) and may easily fetch three figures. These vials may well be romantically referred to as "tear catchers" (lachrymatory), but in truth, they were far more commonly used as a decorative flask for attar (rose oil) or lavender water and were often procured at Victorian fairgrounds as disposable fripperies. Once filled, the stopper and lip of the bottle would have originally been dipped in sealing wax to render it watertight (as may be seen as a reddish residue on some examples to this day).
Pictured (below) is a typical example I bought recently at Newark Showground (outdoors) for a mere £2 (plus a few compliments to their pug dog). The cut and style of this particular phial suggest it would have been made during the earlier part of the 19th century - quite possibly even the Regency period. As is so often the case, the glass stopper’s top has snapped off leaving the stump stuck inside its neck; a dash of WD-40 and tweezers would possibly shift it – and alas, the gilt decoration. I safely chose to let its melancholic story and ghostly tears remain mysteriously entombed inside.
Pictured above: Heavenly sent? An antique “tear catcher” perfume bottle – commonly sold on piers and at whimsical Victorian fairgrounds. With a snapped glass stopper this example was a mere £2 (from the recent fair at Newark Showground).
The Unscrupulous Vendor’s Polari
The Antiques Trade very much has its own patois, and it's always valuable to know a bit of it, in order to avoid embarrassing oneself.
Vernacular: “Hello Sir. Laaavly morning inn’it? Yeah, nice piece of ‘Chinz’ that. What’s it worth to ya? Nah-nah, go-on? Don’t worry about insulting me boss, that’s what I’m ere for ha-ha-ha. Eh you wot? Yer aving a laugh encha? ERE THAT BOYS! THE WEED IN TWEED’S OFFERED A LADY GODIVA FOR ME DAULTON! On your pennyfarthing sonny… Go on, F- OFF!
Translation: I’m both terribly hurt and offended.... Having failed to embarrass you into paying over the odds you’ve clearly wasted my time in my wasting yours.
The Atters Ruse: Because Yore Gorgeous...
We’ve all fantasised over the highly erotic antique antics of TV’s Lovejoy, Fiona Bruce or the 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu (surely?); that knee tremble from a cheap whiff of Pledge perfume, slowly teasing out the flaps of a wanton drop leaf table (already on all fours), the drizzle of warm linseed oil over one’s yearning ball and claw, kicking off swivel peg casters to ravish shapely gate legs or gnawing chiselled leather and grinding one’s angry mill-bastard tool... Well, my antiques world is not like that. Cerebrally stimulating, lucrative and enjoyable for sure, but erotic? Frotting warm water filled balloons plopped inside an antique brassiere would prove more titillating (my specialist area). Yet, the bereft young antiques dealer must attain stock somehow and what better way than via the eager patronage of a lonely old antiques connoisseur? To the widowed collector, there is nothing more rewarding than patronizing a nubile young protégé over the fineries of their valuable hoard; the wrinkle here is how to get them to part with it. I find tarting, the power of attorney and the idiom “what’s yours is mine” works rather well, but first, we must court their advances. So let us anon into salty stocking land and woo a wrinkly! Their usual fertile haunts will be quality auction houses; large antique fairs and Les Swingle Singers recitals (crowd surfing). I can never stress enough the importance of visual props; used wisely they wield potent powers. Dress like Mr Darcy and peddle a Pashley around Ardingly Showground with a twee teddy in the basket and listen to those middle-class squeals of joy. That act alone could seduce Una Stubbs herself. One might also turn a few heads masquerading as a Pre-Raphaelite. Enhance the vision with a few subtle touches such as an Arthurian split robe and Laura Ashley handbag. Perhaps plait daisies in one’s handlebar moustache and hold an expression of “Why? Where am I?” Even recite a Rossetti poem and then gently sob. Anything nauseatingly twee will do. Follow my advice and “voilà!” you’ll be living the dream... If blagging fails – there’s always blogging instead.
Pictured above: A typical rich widowed connoisseur apt to take a protégé under her (bingo) wing.
ATTERS ANTIQUES: We Are NEVER Closed...
Michael “Atters” Attree is a veteran satirist writer, television producer/director and actor with a penchant for antiques, the supernatural and all things British.
More of Atters via: www.atters.com
and Antiques, vintage objet d’art & sartorial delights by AttersAntiques
The next Antiques & Collectors Fairs are:
Newbury Showground - Sat 7th - Sun 8th July
Ardingly International - Tues 17th - Wed 18th July