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Undressing Antiques



Report of the lecture given by Mark Hill
on July 27th 2016

Mark Hill – antiques expert, author, TV presenter and Antiques Roadshow stalwart - came to talk to us about the antiques market, and was a charming, knowledgeable and engaging speaker.  His introduction presented a picture of a changing market for antiques over the last 20 years, driven by new buyers, post IKEA, who mix and match, using objects rather than just displaying them.

There is never a better time to buy than now, as demand has dropped.  Therefore, an elegant Regency sofa will cost less than a modern John Lewis sofa, and will hold its price.  Buyers like the history of antique furniture, as every object will tell a story.  Bear in mind, too, that the purchase of an antique represents “green” recycling at its best.  The cost today of replicating antiques would be enormous.

However, because the market is fickle, some antiques will not sell, a good example being the blue and white meat platters which once adorned many a Welsh Dresser.  There is just no demand for them anymore.  On a practical note, the wonderful antique bureaux can be acquired at a reasonable price, as they cannot accommodate today’s computers – they are not useable in the 21st Century!  Louis XVI chairs go in and out of fashion – in the trade they are known as “Louis Toujours”.

Chinese buyers are interesting; a recent sale of a Chinese porcelain vase achieved a sale price of 53million.  There is huge wealth in China, and a great demand for buying back old Chinese antiques, returning them “for the benefit of the State”.  This provides an interesting contrast with Communist ideology!

There is intrinsic value in portable antiques, such as $1million diamond rings, but the value of Georgian silver teapots must be achieved by melting them when the value of silver escalated.

Mark offered us some winners and losers.  Mid-century modern furniture has risen by 300%, but Edwardian knee desks have lost 50%.  A Star Wars toy, carded and in mint condition, bought in 1981 for 1.50 was sold in 2016 for 15,000.  In contrast, cowboy memorabilia has virtually no value – who of the modern generation remembers Gene Autrey?!

Mark had bought four items from local charity shops in Cranleigh.  He valued all at more than he paid for them, the most valuable being a mid-19th Century decanter, bought for 4.50 which he valued at 60.00.   Food for thought as we scan sale items in Oxfam!

An outstanding talk from Mark Hill, which everyone seemed to enjoy.

Philip Akroyd


Related Link (opens in new windows):

Mark Hill's website