Browsing in antiques markets is a good way to learn about the value of antiques and collectables and, with luck, you can also pick up some
especially among bric-a-brac.
You will find antiques markets in
almost every city or large
town. Usually they are located in a fairly large covered complex, either within the city centre or
sometimes on its outskirts.
Except in capital cities, it is rare for such markets to be
open for five days of the week. Generally, in smaller towns or cities, the market will operate on one day, usually Saturday; in London, where there are a number of antiques markets, opening days vary.
Basically, an antiques market or centre consists of a number of units or stalls which are rented on a regular
Within any complex, you will find a variety
of dealers, each selling either a specialist range or general wares.
Often, this is the dealer's main base, especially if he or she has rented space on a long-term basis at one of the well-established London centres such as Alfie's, Gray's Antiques Market, Antiquarius or in Camden Passage or the Portobello Road.
ESTABLISHED ANTIQUES CENTRES
In such instances, the dealer has, as it were, a mini shop with the trading name displayed, perhaps a permanent showcase of wares, and a telephone (often with an answering machine so that he or she is contactable on the days when the
'shop' is not open).
Dealers who have a more or less permanent base tend to be specialists and, although you will find no great bargains, they will have a good but
limited range of stock at any one time at reasonable and sometimes lowish prices.
The latter is often the case when, like any other shopkeeper, the dealer has a clear-out of old stock to make way for new pieces picked up on buying trips or at auction.
Because they can only carry a limited range of goods, it's worth returning to these dealers if you have a specialist interest; when business is good, they have a regular turnover with new stock appearing all the time.
Also, if you want something specifically, they will keep an eye out for what you want at auctions and so on.
Take your time to look around and browse until you find something that you really do want.
Bear in mind that even permanent markets or centres have few furniture dealers because of the space required; furniture warehouses, however, stock a
wide range of assorted pieces.
WEEKLY ANTIQUES MARKETS
These take place up and down the country and provide a venue mainly for small or
part-time dealers, who rent a stall on a relatively short-term basis.
Generally, dealers have little or no storage space for their stock so, on market day, they have to transport their goods there, allow time to unload and then set up their display of wares. The stalls can be under a covered area or in the open - and
sometimes a mixture of both, as in London's Portobello Market.
Although you will find specialists here, their net is fairly wide. Someone selling prints, for example, may have a few expensive collectors' items, along with a lot of collectables including plates or illustrations from books of fairly recent origin.
A silver dealer will also carry a wide variety of items and will sometimes sell mixed lots of sterling silver cutlery by weight - the price per ounce being the current value of silver on the precious metals market plus his profit. There is quite a big turnover of stall-holders.
BARGAINS TO BE HAD
These kinds of markets are wonderful for browsing in and here you can, in fact, pick up bargains or some sought-after item relatively cheaply.
A lot of these dealers have acquired their goods in house clearances, jumble and car boot sales and have a general but not specific knowledge of their wares.
Most prefer cash but will take cheques for more expensive items in order to make a sale.
Collectables from the 1950s and 60s are often to be found on market stalls, as are small items such as hatpins, buckles and buttons.
Post-war china and decorative household objects are also fairly common and
there will usually be dealers selling old clothes and textiles, uniforms, metalware and costume jewellery from the 1950s or the 1960s.
When buying from stalls, it is important to check condition; items can be slightly damaged and you should always point this out before agreeing a price.
Beware particularly of buying clocks or other mechanical items that do not work; the dealer may say they are easily mended but this is rarely the case.
Bargaining is essential; many part-time dealers will lower their price to make a sale.
TRICKS OF THE TRADE
• Before making a special trip,
check that the dealer you want to see will be there on market day, occasionally they're not,
because of an important auction, for
example, or in winter when business is particularly slow.
• Don't expect a general market trader to be too knowledgeable.
• Don't be afraid to haggle over price; most stall holders will give a discount,
if only because it
means one less Item to pack up and take home.
• You're more likely to get a discount if you offer cash.