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 was once again asked by Homes & Antiques magazine to be part of an expert panel given the nigh-on impossible task of selecting the ’50 Best Antiques & Vintage Shops’ from across the UK. My colleagues were drawn from across the full spectrum of the modern antiques, decorative and vintage industry today and included homeware designer Sophie Conran, vintage specialist Wayne Hemingway, celebrity interior designer Nicky Haslam, and my fellow Antiques Roadshow expert Katherine Higgins. We raided our exclusive ‘little black books’ to come up with a list of ‘must-visits’ whatever your tastes or however deep (or shallow!) your pockets are. Where do you go to find a fabulous mid-century couch? Or an elegant Georgian sideboard? Homes & Antiques magazine’s article has the answers!

Click here to read about the UK’s 50 Best Antiques & Vintage Shops.

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Last year, I was delighted to be asked to contribute to South Korea’s bestselling travel guide to London. Just published by Wisdom House, British Classic is a beautiful and weighty tome packed with lavish, specially commissioned photographs showing London at its best. It’s a book that will tempt and tantalise before you travel, as well as being an essential companion on holiday. Written by Nari Park, chapters include ‘Royal Heritage’, ‘Afternoon Tea’, ‘Green Spaces’, ‘Antiques & Vintage’, ‘Pubs’, ‘Sports’ and ‘Behind Classic Icons’ and show many of the different facets of British life in our capital city. I think you can guess which chapter I contributed to! Each chapter begins with an interview with a specialist in that area where they reveal their ‘secret’ tips for shopping or visiting sights, their personal thoughts on the area, and their opinion on the state of that particular area right now. Apart from the obvious destinations, I was able to mention a number of my favourite haunts, including Grays Antiques, Alfies Antiques,

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I love ephemera! By that term, I mean things that were produced for a single use, or for short term enjoyment, before being discarded or thrown away. They are literally ‘ephemeral’, which is where the term is obviously derived from. Good examples are tickets, flyers and similar promotional material, or even things like ‘sample cups’ produced by brands such as Coca Cola so you can taste their world-famous drink. Ephemera is typically made from paper or card, and is usually printed. It also often has a strong social history element. Even if I can’t find anything of interest to buy for stock or my collection in an antiques shop, centre or antiquarian bookshop, I nearly always find something interesting to buy in a basket or box full of photos and such papery things. A good example is this ticket, which I found on a recent visit to Henley-on-Thames, where I stumbled across the truly excellent Richard Way Books. Although there were plenty of books I could have bought, my budget was tight and I decided on some ephemera …

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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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Who could resist? You’d just have to stop the car and go through the entrance to see what the Mystery Spot is all about. Well, I would anyway! A ‘Mystery Spot’ is the name given to a number of areas of ground in the US which claim to have amazing gravity-defying or ‘mystical’ properties. The owners have usually built small houses or huts on top and, upon entering them, people appear to be able to walk up walls effortlessly, and balls roll and water flows upwards. It is claimed that this is the result of some form of alien technology or science-defying phenomenon from ‘dielectric biocosmic radiation‘ to a ‘magma vortex‘ to landing technology for alien spacecraft, or even a buried alien spacecraft itself! Of course, none of these are true and the amazing effects are caused by tilting the building and tricking our senses of spatial awareness, perspective and direction in the walk-up to the building. By the time you enter, your angle has been shifted although you still believe everything is as it is …

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As a typical Aquarian, I always favour the underdog. I love the unsung, the hated and the ignored. Wandering around the Portobello Gallery of contemporary art and crafts with my wonderful uncle and aunt on the stunningly picturesque Otago Peninsula, I spotted a couple of cabinets of vintage New Zealand studio pottery. As the banker was temporarily elsewhere and couldn’t enforce my ban on antiques while on this holiday, I dived swiftly, somewhat reminiscent of a hawk spotting a mouse in a field below. There was a fair bit of Crown Lynn, one of New Zealand’s most collectable names in 20thC pottery, but I wanted something more unusual. I went through a number of different companies until my eyes rested on a rather unusual double-handed cup. I was also a little peckish, and the swirling colours reminded me of fudge, toffee, cream and chocolate. That, the two handles and the fact it was ‘solidly proportioned’ (at 3in or 7.5cm high) made it seem like something I’d want to drink a hot chocolate out of …

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We were lucky enough to spend this Christmas visiting family in New Zealand who I hadn’t seen since I was five years old. Looking for suitable souvenirs of my travels, I found the prices for much good and worthwhile contemporary art or Maori crafts that I also liked to be beyond my meagre budget, especially given the cost of getting there! Furthermore, the banker had banned me from bargain hunting in antiques shops as it was deemed I needed a break. Banned from antiques shops I may have been, but neither the banker nor I can resist the allure of a secondhand bookshop. Thankfully there was a rather large one where we were staying in Devonport, Auckland (sketched, right) that was sadly closing down and offering a healthy discount on purchases. How could we resist? As well as picking up a few reference books, I spotted the book shown above in the New Zealand art section. Priced at NZ$30 (£15) with discount, it’s titled ‘New Zealand Sketches C.J.’, with C.J. presumably being the otherwise …

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Since writing my book on Mdina Glass & Isle of Wight Studio Glass (which is now out of print), I’ve encountered a number of vases with coloured swirly patterning like this. People have brought them to me at BBC Antiques Roadshows and other events to ask whether they’re Mdina Glass, or which range of Isle of Wight Studio Glass they are from. Although I could confirm without any doubt that they were not made at either company, I didn’t know who did make them, or when or where they were made. This Summer, the Banker and I decided to holiday in the heat of Israel. While we were there, we walked across the border (legally, of course) into Jordan to visit Petra, which is rightly one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Wandering around the town the night before, I stopped dead in my tracks in front of a display of many hundreds of vases in different shapes and sizes – but all with this characteristic swirly colouring. Even though I was …

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Regular readers will know that I’m a huge fan of the Bath Decorative Fair, held annually in March just minutes walk from Bath’s bustling centre. You can read about my previous visits, one of which included hosting an exciting awards ceremony with Kirstie Allsopp, by clicking here and here. After being run by Robin Coleman for 23 years, the fair has now been taken over by Sue Ede of Cooper Events, who is making what was often viewed as mostly trade fair much more open to everyone. That means that we can all enjoy the amazing stock on offer from many of Britain’s best dealers in decorative antiques. This year, exhibitors include Patrick Macintosh and Richard Nadin of Macintosh Antiques (Patrick below, reclining with his wife), Alys Dobbie of Britain’s Best Retro & Vintage Shop (2012) winner Nannadobbie, Mark Newsum of Newsum Antiques, Sue & Alan Poultney of Scarab Antiques, and of course my Lalique, Gallé and Daum glass dealing …

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Although it’s not something I specifically collect, I’ve always had a fondness for early technology. It must have developed out of working with scientific and optical instruments when I worked at Bonhams and Sotheby’s. If I see something that tickles my fancy and I can afford it, I’ll add it to one of my many different collections. Passing through Amsterdam just before Christmas, the Banker and I stopped by Roerende-Zaken in the famous ‘9 Streets’. As we were just about to leave (unusually) empty-handed, we spotted this portable transistor radio in a cabinet. It wasn’t the radio itself that stopped us in our tracks, but the name – Internet. Transistor radios like this were first released in 1954, and were produced in vast quantities during the 1960s & 70s. This example probably dates from the late-1960s to around 1970, considering the design of the box. This is an extremely interesting date when the name is considered. Nobody knows exactly when the word ‘internet’ was first used, or who coined it, but it appears to have been …

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