The size of the fair will obviously depend on the venue. Village halls are small and there will usually be around 25-40 stalls at these.
Civic and community centres will offer about 150-200 stalls.
Racecourses and county showgrounds will often have outside pitches as well as indoor stalls and can be huge, having as many as 5000 or more stalls.
There are many different categories of fairs. Antiques and fine art fairs will generally be 'datelined' and will sell the more expensive class of antiques.
Datelining can take two forms. Fine art fairs held at top quality venues will have a dateline of 1830 for furniture, 1860 for ceramics and silver, and 1900 for pictures and jewellery. This means that nothing beyond those dates will be sold at that particular fair.
More generally, the dateline will be either 1930 or 950. These datelines ensure that the buyer has some idea of what the fair will be like as regards quality - a useful pointer if you're thinking of travelling some miles.
Antiques fairs cover a wide range of interests for the collector, from glass and ceramics to metalware and furniture.
Stamps and postcards, books, and commemorative items can all be found at a fair, as well as dealers specializing in just one strand of collectables such as ceramics by Moorcroft, Royal Doulton figures, pressed glass, and so on.
SPECIALIST ANTIQUE FAIRS
Specialist fairs are held less frequently than antiques and collectors' fairs, but if you have a particular field of interest, you are probably more likely to find what you are looking for.
Such specialist fairs cover collectables such as dolls, clocks and watches, records and books.
Bottle fairs will usually also sell items of advertising interest such as pub jugs.
Art deco fairs and decorative arts fairs cover the art deco and art nouveau periods, although some of the more interesting and well-designed items of the 1950s are now becoming acceptable.
FEES AND PRICES
Fairs are generally open between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., although there are obviously variations on these times. The organizers usually charge an entrance fee, which can be as little as 25 pence or as much as several pounds for up-market fairs.
If you visit antiques fairs often, you'll get to know the regular dealers
- and it is always best to buy from these. They will be happy to share their knowledge with you and will guide you in learning about your particular interest.
They will also look out for pieces for your collection, and will be honest about any items that have been restored or are damaged.
Prices of goods at antiques fairs will generally be less than those asked in antiques shops and the stall holder will often give a small discount on the ticket price.
But do remember that the dealer is trying to make a living and often has high overheads.
So, if the price is fair, it is wise to accept it and not to cause embarrassment by haggling or hard bargaining.
• Fairs do get cancelled or postponed so, before travelling miles to a particular fair, check with the organizers or local newspaper that it is still on.
• Decide on your areas of interest before getting to the fair. Use the catalogue with its list of exhibitors to guide you to
appropriate stalls. This can save a lot of foot slogging at large showground or racecourse fairs.