Is ‘Antiques’ The Right Word?

“Antiques. I can’t afford them and I don’t understand them.”

Much has been made recently about the difficult state of the antiques market. In an increasingly fast-paced world led by interiors magazines and the pure, hard drive of commerce from high street and retail park retailers, some say antiques have fallen by the wayside. Even more so as these retailers build their offerings of new versions of the objects we love, buy and sell.

For many, the very word ‘antiques’ conjures up images of polishing heavy brown furniture, tweed covered gentlefolk from the shires, and the tick-tock of a grandfather clock in an otherwise silent antiques shop ruled by a rather grumpy looking dealer engrossed a newspaper. All once appealing, but now not so to much of the public. Then there’s granny’s china cabinet, bursting at the hinges with trinkets and bibelots. “Look, but don’t touch anything!” she cries as she serves a cup of tea in her precious tea service. “It’s very old you know, it used to belong to my granny, so be careful!” She says with a …

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On my recent trip to Dublin to talk at the Irish Antiques Dealer’s annual fair, I picked up an interesting book on the €1 vintage book stand at the Dublin Flea Market. Called ‘Antique Dealer: An Autobiography‘ and written by R.P. Way, it was published by Michael Joseph in 1956. I thought anyone who was old and experienced enough to write an autobiography then must have begun dealing around a century ago. And sure enough, I was right. Reginald Way was the son of John Philip Way, a Bristol-based antiques dealer, and was born in 1893. He began working in his father’s business in 1910 and saw it change dramatically over the next four decades with the arrival of the motor car (and how that changed browsing and shopping habits), two world wars and economic depressions. It’s a fascinating tale that’s written in a lively manner as if Mr Way was recounting it, pipe in hand, while sitting in a leather wing armchair in front of you. I can’t find out how long after 1956 he …

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