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Doing some busy-work

Not quite this bad...Yet!
Not quite this bad…Yet!

It’s all got a bit out of hand!

So much to do, so little time to do it and the house is piling up with an eclectic mix of goodies which we hope some people will pay some money for. And that, in a nutshell, is the crux of this weird and wonderful life of antiquity. Everything one undertakes is based purely on hope.

With less than three full weeks before we jump into the fine arts end of the market with little to support us but a PayPal card reader and some hastily printed business cards, we are a little flustered but we do think we are well on our way to some small victories. Research indicates that one or two of the pieces we have bought have some SERIOUS fine art collectability – notably a 19th century bronze cherub with cornucopia style single stem vase by Rousseau (a Belgian Sculptor) and a fine art monochrome study by Herbert Sidney who, despite his unassuming name, seems to fetch quite a packet at art auctions.

My French polishing arm is well and truly lubricated too and business partner is threading beads like they are going out of fashion – which, given the number of necklaces we have, we sincerely hope is not the case. In the meantime of course we still have what we call our “BOG fairs” (bloody ‘orrible garbage) and an Etsy store to run; something is on the way to giving. With less and less time to spend online, our Etsy shop will gradually be diminishing in size over the next week as we take items off for Avisford Park. As a by product we have been running a “last chance to buy” promotional thread on Twitter

This campaign has to all intents and purposes been very successful and we have sold some of our Avisford Park stock; can anyone else see the flaw in this otherwise perfect plan?

So, as we prepare for another day doing busy-work and delving into artifacts from a time when jazz ruled the airwaves and before they decided to put cancer in cigarettes (and that might give some idea of the level of cleaning some items need), a time of elegance and hand crafted design – pre plastic and pre formica – here are a few pieces which will be coming offline very soon. Come and join us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest  for more as it happens

 

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Video killed the antiques dealer

Only one of many
Only one of many

Cue some light orchestral, 30s style background music, a vintage car and some antiques experts; stick several pins in several maps and what do you have? A televised antiques themed Eurovision song contest – entertaining but with little substance or artistic value.

I am thinking of one particular BBC programme here, but there have been – and I’m sure will be – others with a similarly simple premise: to buy and sell antiques and along the way “educate” the audience as to historic and monetary value of said objects.

The original Antiques Roadshow achieved this goal by drifting around the upper echelons: selecting high quality pieces appraised by genuine lifelong experts and realising (often) high prices. Looks of shock and awe notwithstanding, it fairly represented the current antiques and fine art market without the hovering spectre of “resale bargains”.

The TV execs next great idea was to add a populist twist. To create celebrities of the experts rather than the antiques, to create artificial buying and reselling opportunities and to create a market of “collectors” whose instincts are guided only by the pound (Euro, dollar, yen) signs in the eyes.

I should briefly explain the show I have in mind (Possibly the most entertaining but also the most damaging). Two experts drive several hundred miles, in five legs over five days with a starting budget of £200. On each leg they purchase 5 items and sell them at auction aiming to make an overall profit at the end of the week

Wonderful but with two MAJOR problems.

Firstly – retail pricing. The show presents bartering as an extreme sport with bargainous peaks and drops of up to 90%. Believe me, items with a starting price of £200 are NEVER sold for £20. Most dealers will circle around a 10 – 20% discount and no more.

With the installation of a TV crew, many a dealer’s marbles appear to vanish, creating a public view that unrealistic 90% discounts are standard. It is more likely that the BBC pays the full asking price off camera while on screen the dealer accepts improbable offers in the name of publicity.

Secondly (and this applies to most of the populist shows) the auction.

Antique dealers rarely buy from antique centres or shops to sell at auction. This makes very little business sense. Most non-specialised auctions sell to dealers who are hoping for at least 100% retail mark-up. General auctions (Depending on the auctioneer) will, at best, generate a trade price and often struggle to achieve full market values.

Worth a lot more at this fair than at auction

In this TV format this can mean substantial losses if the item was a little over-egged to start with. Auction prices on most TV shows should be regarded as a wholesale price – but sadly more and more retail customers think that because something sold for a song on TV it is worth far less than any ticket price.

While dealers agonise over pricing – allowing a bit for profit while not overselling; today’s antique outlet has become a temple to head shaking, eye rolling disbelief and reverberates to the sound of breath sucked slowly in over the front teeth. The bargain hunting spectre with exaggerated expectations, released from its televised prison, hovers – greedy and poised to destroy.

Naturally, there are other factors to consider – internet auction sites (where prices range from the ridiculous to the sublime), economics, payday; but nothing is such an exhaustive drain on value as false expectation.

Instead of just ranting though, I have designed a more realistic TV antiques show format – it maybe less entertaining but is certainly more lifelike:

Two experts travel several hundred miles in a vintage car with a budget of £200 accompanied by some light orchestral, 30s themed music gathering five items a leg over five legs. They can buy anywhere but at the end of the week they have a pitch at an antiques fair. The one who generates the most profit is the winner. The catch? The buying public, with unrealistic expectations, will attempt to knock their £200 price tag down to £20.

I’m still waiting to hear from the bigwigs at the BBC, in the meantime I’m off to re-price everything by 90%.

Check out some of our fairly priced antiques and very reasonably valued vintage jewellery in our Etsy store:

www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TouchstoneVintage

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