11th November 2016
To warm up the winter months we thought we'd track down some interesting and knowing characters within our industry and present them with a Q&A. So, we asked ASFairs PR person, and Reclaim Magazine news and features writer, Alice Roberton to pose the questions. Enjoy the first in this series of winter interviews.
How did you get into the antiques business?
I did an apprenticeship with a large firm of antique dealers in Hertford in the 1980s and went on to work with them for six years. I got hands-on experience in buying, selling and doing insurance valuations - it was the most interesting job a young man could ever hope for and I got hooked. I knew I had found my career for life. My bosses were very knowledgeable and happy to teach me about the business, which gave me a great foundation. I dealt with a variety of antiques; items worth £5 up to £50k, and everything in-between. We had some famous customers, including Barbara Cartland, Frederick Forsyth, and even Kirk Douglas. They were pretty exciting days.
Do you trade in a specialist area these days?
I buy and sell most antiques, but I have recently opened an eBay shop where I sell mid century chairs. Very popular styles at the moment are the classic Bartholomew cocktail chair, and designers such as Halabala are selling well.
How, and where, do you source your stock?
I travel to Europe to the big trade fairs in Germany, Belgium and France, but I also buy from the continental dealers who come to Lincoln. My favourite place to buy at the moment is the big trade fair at Avignon in the south of France, which takes place six times a year. It has a real buzz, and there is the most incredible selection of antiques to choose from, and is swarming with international trade. Plus, it is in the south of France, need I say more!
What kind of clients do you have?
My clients vary, from private customers who find me on eBay, to large firms of interior designers who are furnishing bars, shops, restaurants and hotels. Well known private customers I have sold chairs to include Jamie Oliver, Orlando Bloom & Harry Styles. Corporate customers include Ted Baker shops and Hilton Hotels. I also get a lot of trade from bars and restaurants who are re-fitting.
What are client expectations like?
I think ultimately that customers hope to get an honest deal with a good competitive price, and not have to bring the item back after two months because it has fallen apart. Selling reliable stock is a must. I’m asked to source for clients too, so I will look for a particular style of furniture specifically for them - it's important to offer this service.
What’s the weirdest or most wonderful piece you have ever bought or sold?
The weirdest item I have ever bought, which I then sold on, was a relic said to be a finger bone from Saint Nicholas. Yes, Father Christmas! It was under a glass dome and had a signed certificate of authentication from The Bishop of Antwerp, and was dated 1874.
Have you ever bought something that you love so much that you can’t sell it on?
Yes, I have a life-sized charcoal drawing of a ballerina from around 1900 which hangs in my living room. I have been offered large sums of money for it but I could never sell it. I never get bored of looking at it.
What do you think makes a successful trader?
Same as anything in life; hard work. You have to cover the ground to find the treasure, and having a good eye helps. You can’t be shy of doing lots of early starts and miles upon miles of driving. The best dealers I know have kept the bug - the thrill of the search is what keeps them going. Most of them would rather be at work buying than anywhere else.
Do you have any advice for traders who are new to the industry?
The best bit of advice I was ever given was by my old boss, who always said "buy what people need; everybody needs a chair to sit on, everybody needs a table to eat at, everybody needs a light to read their book”. The essentials in life will always sell - not everybody needs a fish slice or a cheese dish or something purely decorative. Also, buy what you like. If you like it, the chances are someone else will too.
What trends are you seeing at the moment?
The new trend in interiors seems to be cheerful, bright colours, and less is more, by which I mean, three or four big eye-catching statement pieces in the room, be it art or furniture, or an unusual lamp. I think that clutter is out.
Until next time, Alice.
Many thanks to Barrie Reeve for taking the time to be 'Winterviewed'. You'll find him exhibiting at our next Lincoln Antiques & Home Show (avenue 4, stand 54) which takes place 28th - 29th November.