Buyer Beware

Buyer Beware

I’ve been passionate about collecting Antique furniture from an early age. I grew up with nice things and I took the time to study and view them close up. Even then they fascinated me.

I remember as a young boy I was captured by the beauty of the really good pieces, the proportions, the elegance and the wonderful timber. I wanted to understand why some bits were much more valuable than others, why some bits were so much better; I wanted to understand where the difference lay between the really good and the ordinary.

And so I began looking at how they were made, lying under tables, studying the undercarriages, trying to understand how they had been created to look so fine and elegant. Soon I learnt to recognize the construction methods and materials that had been used, and I got a real understanding of the skill and craftsmanship that went into making these. I learnt to tell if a piece had been repaired or altered in any way from the original, and this time spent looking so closely at furniture was to prove invaluable when I became a dealer in the late 80’s.

I could spot restoration a mile away and then looking at the undercarriage I could pinpoint any alterations, restoration and of course forged or fake pieces.

Auction Houses are sometimes the dumping grounds for these altered or forged pieces and it’s so important to view correctly as when the hammer falls it’s too late. The lot is yours, there’s no going back.

Over the years I have done many valuations for clients who are often disappointed by the true value of their antiques as things are sometimes not quite what they seemed to have been at the time of purchase, and receipts are often absent. There are many pitfalls in the trade for the novice buyer. If you want to invest well then get good advice, but also try to educate yourself as much as you can, and train your eye to look closely. Learn about the period that interests you, get good books and visit stately homes and Museums. Go to antique shops and auctions, and where possible turn the piece over and examine it carefully. Ask yourself these questions….Is this piece original …has it been re-polished ….are the handles and feet right…. is there a Provenance? These are the basic questions you need the answers to as they determine the true value.

Time spent viewing correctly is so important, and don’t be afraid to ask advice from a dealer or the auctioneer.

I have a client who some years ago arrived at an auction that was mid-way through, which he hadn’t been to view. They were selling a lovely looking George III snap top table on the monitor, there were no bids at €200, my client thought he saw a real bargain, and flung his paddle up. To his delight the hammer instantly fell to him, he thought he had the steal of the sale. He went to collect it, and handed in his docket waiting excitedly to see his new table appear. The porter returned, not laboring under the weight of a lovely Cuban mahogany tea table, but instead proffering in one hand a miniature apprentice piece of a snap top table.

Investing in Antiques can pays dividends if you get the right piece that has all the correct credentials. The right lot will make a room, but now more than ever in the current situation with the rise of online shopping it’s a time for Buyer Beware.

In my next post I’ll tell you about The Parrot of Lutterlstown Castle.

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