Last Thursday Alfie’s Antiques Market in Church St, Marylebone, London hit a major anniversary when it turned 40. It’s almost as old as me! A day of festivities, including a lecture on 20thC Glass given by me, culminated in an intimate party, held as part of the London Design Festival. Exhibiting in a pop-up shop was London’s glass legend, Peter Layton, who was also celebrating 40 years of business by selling some of his newest designs in stunning black and white, as well as much-loved favourites including jewellery and his gorgeous Aeriel range of stone-forms and dropper bottles. The Antiques Young Guns also created a pop-up shop just 2 minutes walk away, with a varied stock that showcased the future of antiques, from posters to taxidermy to 18th & 19thC furniture and decorative accessories. For those into antiques, fashion, jewellery, mid-century modern design, and collectables with a leaning towards the 20th century, I can’t emhasise how wonderful and unique Alfie’s is – especially in this day and age of identical high streets across the world. I’ve …

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I recently wrote an article for The Daily Mail’s ‘Weekend’ magazine about my experiences behind the scenes of the Antiques Roadshow. Although I still see myself a a ‘new boy’, I’ve been a specialist on the show for nearly a decade now. How time has flown – and what stories have been uncovered and discoveries made! What’s more, the article made the front cover of the magazine. So a couple of us specialists were asked along to a grand house in North London to do a special photoshoot with celebrity photographer Nicky Johnston. You can see one of the results below. We had so much fun! Our much-loved presenter Fiona Bruce was interviewed, along with other experts including Eric Knowles, Joanna Hardy, and Ronnie Archer-Morgan. My article also covers everything from how filming really works to the research we undertake, and from the most valuable finds we’ve ever made to the most bizarre. For me, the most valuable was a Tiffany glass panel filmed at Towneley Hall in Lancashire that could fetch …

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It’s a charming twist that could have come from the pen of P.G. Wodehouse. Upon the death of his indomitable, aged socialite aunt Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe (right), 80-year old TV personality and ertswhile host of ‘University Challenge’ Bamber Gascoigne ‘accidentally’ inherited the stately pile of West Horsley Place in Surrey. Once described by its aristocratic owners as a ‘cottage’, this oft-ignored country house dates back to the 11th century and is unusually contructed in red brick with a ‘rustic’ version of the Classical architectural features that became popular from the 16th century onwards. Previous owners include King Henry VIII, Viscount Montagu, the family of Sir Walter Raleigh and, most recently, the Crewe family, from which its last owner was descended. It’s even reputed that Raleigh’s severed head was kept there for a while by his distraught wife, before being interred in St Mary’s Church opposite. Local legend has it that there was (is?) a secret tunnel that led from West Horsley Place to the  church, to enable the encumbent Catholic family to worship secretly in …

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This has nothing to do with animals, obviously. Vetting is the process that occurs the day before certain, usually higher end, art and antiques fairs open. Teams of independent experts grouped by discipline (silver, glass, jewellery etc) move around the fair looking at every object in the fair in their category, closely examining any they feel the need to. Some are dealers at the fair, but most are not and travel in for the day. The point is to ensure that everything for sale is exactly what it is described as being – authenticity, condition, attributions and date must all be correct. Price isn’t included in vetting. That’s down to the dealer selling the item. A vetter may have an opinion, and/or experience, which they may voice to the dealer if they feel it’s appropriate, but generally a vetter is encouraged to keep their opinion on price to themselves. At some fairs I’ve vetted, thoughts on price are offered where a vetter feels that the object is under-priced in the market. Helpful stuff – as is when when a dealer …

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A few years ago, I bought a Minton majolica tile (above and below) at auction that, according to the handwritten labels on the back (see below), had a rather interesting provenance to the Great Exhibition of 1851. I wrote a blog post about it appealing for more information, which you can read by clicking here. I had a few helpful responses shortly after but was delighted to hear very recently from Michael Spender, a tile collector and the Museum and Arts Manager at Poole Museum. He was the original owner of my tile and had researched it and the other, similar tiles he owned. He wrote about his discoveries in 2004 in Glazed Expressions, the magazine of TACS, the Tiles & Architectural Ceramics Society. Michael was kind enough to pass on scans of the article and here is what I learnt from reading his in-depth research. Michael traced the source of the design of a stylised flower-head in an ogee arch to a row of tiles shown in …

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Are you a collector of pop culture, memorabilia and collectibles in the US?

Is your collection enormous?

Is your collection incredible?

Do you want to be on TV?

If so, the makers of BBC2’s primetime TV series ‘Collectaholics‘ want to talk to YOU about an exciting new American TV series!

Comics, Rock & Pop Memorabilia, Americana, Disneyana, Toys from Tinplate to Star Wars and Transformers, Christmas,  Halloween and Coney Island Memorabilia, Funky Specs, Fashion, Fifties & Sixties stuff and Costume Jewelry are just some of the things we’re interested in…why not surprise us?!

To find out more email collectibles@rdftelevision.com or contact them via Twitter on @rdfcollectibles.

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Having missed the opportunity last year, I was delighted to be able to attend the annual Hornsea Pottery collectors’ event last week, held as part of the Hornsea Freeport‘s ‘Nostalgia’ weekend. Organised by the Hornsea Pottery Collectors & Research Society, the busy event sees exchange of information and new learnings, as well as allowing members to buy and sell, and build their collections. My weekend started with a visit to the Hornsea Museum, in the charming seaside town of Hornsea itself. I was driven there by Pauline Coyle, author of the official biography of John Clappison, Hornsea’s lead designer (see below). This museum, contained in two pretty converted cottages, must be one of the best maintained and best organised small museums I’ve ever been to – and it’s all run by volunteers. The passion the curator Carol Harker and her team exude just shines through! Over 2,000 examples of Hornsea pottery made from 1949-2012 are organised by decade and type, with each smart cabinet containing carefully curated and beautifully displayed ranges of pottery. You …

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On Friday 4 July 2014, the hottest night of the year, an excited crowd gathered at The Rooftop Restaurant at Alfies Antiques Market for the celebratory party and awards ceremony to announce the winners of the ‘Antiques Young Gun of the Year’ award for 2014. The winner was the very popular choice of James Gooch owner of Doe and Hope, who was presented his award by the 2013 winner, 23 year old auction house specialist Timothy Medhurst. James commented “I’m naturally delighted to take on the mantle of Antique Young Gun of the Year from the superb ambassador that is Tim Medhurst, and I’m looking forward to both the challenges and benefits that come with the role.  It means a lot to be the first bona fide dealer to win the award and I hope I can leave a distinct mark on the year’s proceedings and help the movement continue on an upward trajectory. Since I was part of the first core of AYGs championing the movement on social media, it is wonderful to be recognised …

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In April this year, I was lucky enough to be able to secure the central exhibition space at the Spring Antiques For Everyone fair at the National Exhibition centre in Birmingham to promote Skrdlovice glass. Although the accompanying book ‘Berànek & Skrdlovice: Legends of Czech Glass‘ was launched later that month, we were able to mount the first exhibition of its kind in the UK, covering glass made at the factory from the mid 1940s until it closed in 2008. The glass was generously provided from the private collection of glass historian and collector Robert Bevan Jones, who organised it into sections and created the display. Along with along with Jindrich Parik, he is one of the two authors of the accompanying book – the first on the factory and its designers. As you can see from the photographs below, the display made an immense visual impact. As a result, it was visited by many thousands of people who visited the fair – comments were extremely positive and everyone came away having learnt many new things …

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The eagerly awaited confirmation of the Antiques Young Gun of the Year Awards 2014 can now be revealed! The team behind this fast growing and now very high profile movement, designed to promote members of the antiques trade, aged 39 and under, George Johnson, Mark Hill and editor of Antiques News and Fairs Gail McLeod, are delighted to announce that the awards ceremony and party will take place on Friday 4 July 2014 and will be hosted by Alfies Antiques Market – the iconic London antiques, vintage and 20th century design nexus founded by Bennie Gray in 1976.

Bennie Gray told Antiques News & Fairs: “These days the politicians are all saying it’s the entrepreneurial spirit that will save our economy. Which I think is true – of course the antiques trade has always been one of the most fertile breeding grounds for entrepreneurs, especially those with a fine eye for design. So it is a great privilege and a great pleasure for our antique markets to welcome and support …

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There he was, in a tent in a park at London’s top decorative antiques fair. Standing in funky trainers, Tom Ford glasses, designer jeans and a Prada jacket. A successful City banker friend of my boyfriend, trying to look at least ten years younger. A mid-life crisis and an attempt to stay relevant maybe? It doesn’t matter, it’s what’s in his wallet that the mercenary are interested in. And isn’t every dealer and fair organiser (rightly and fairly) looking for exactly this sort of buyer, who they may be able to turn into a regular client and even, dare I say it, a collector?

He’d just bought his first million-pound house in Kensington, and was looking to furnish it. He knows what I do so addressed me direct and directly. “I don’t want mid-century modern.”, he said. “I get the feeling it’ll be out of fashion and half the price in three years time.”, he continued. “I want the proper stuff, something real.” His Russian boyfriend needed convincing, however. “He likes everything gleaming and new, he just doesn’t get this old …

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I need help!

It’s a thorny one, this. I might not make many new friends, but dealers, auction house specialists and other ‘experts’ (if you really want to use that word) will undoubtedly nod knowingly. They may even sigh in agreement.

Let me start this off by saying that, like any normal, adjusted and sociable human being, most people who work in antiques, collectables and 20thC design are happy to help. They count themselves lucky to be working in the area they do, they enjoy it, and they’re keen to encourage others to find the magic they did. Thinking commercially, they may even gain a new client in the future. A rich seam of passion ready for mining runs through. But the problem comes when this help, be it a value, more information or advice on places to sell, is perceived as a free public service.

Take a fair, any antiques fair. A dealer is behind his or her stand, eagerly checking out the passing crowd around it for potential. Someone approaches with an item they own, a photograph or question about something …

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