Changes in the Antiques Trade

Sunday, 8 September 2002 09:44 PM BST

Contributed by: Norma Hesketh

Forty years ago antiques were regarded as items over 100 years old. Most people looked in Antique shop windows, but few entered unless they had a small fortune to spend on a special piece. You certainly wouldn't have entered the shops in jeans with a couple of kids in tow. Interest therefore tended to be restricted to the elite and rich. In the intervening years the trade has changed but where is it going now?

Forty years ago antiques were regarded as items over 100 years old. Most people looked in Antique shop windows, but few entered unless they had a small fortune to spend on a special piece. You certainly wouldn't have entered the shops in jeans with a couple of kids in tow. Interest therefore tended to be restricted to the elite and rich.

I thought it might be interesting to look at how that image has changed; and to speculate on how we got there.

In the 50s and 60s there were big changes in decor. Out went the old furniture and in came the plastic, synthetic laminates and stainless steel. A man, Barry Bucknell was on TV telling us how to convert lovely panelled doors by covering them up with hardboard and adding plastic handles.

In later years we all became used to the Antiques Roadshow on TV. Similar TV programmes and specialist magazines captured interest causing people to root in their lofts and garages for bits and pieces that had escaped the tip. The 80's saw the start of car boot sales. Sunday morning became a regular treasure hunt for many. Thus emerged a new breed; the collector.

While all this was happening the antiques trade awoke to the public demand. In many towns the Antiques Market added to the couple of shops on the High Street. These towns became centres for collectors, dealers and interested browsers particularly on Sundays. Shops were generally closed on Sundays so a pub lunch and a walk round the antiques market and shops became a regular pastime for many. Somewhere to bring the mother in law.

The towns attracted many foreign visitors; in particular American tourists and dealers. People visiting other attractions in the area became regular customers.

In the last year the number of foreign tourists, especially Americans has reduced. All shops are now open on Sundays.

What is the future for the antiques trade?

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