from our previous Article.
My sixth rule is to do with the condition of an item and
the likely cost implications of any repair or restoration
necessary to bring it up to an acceptable standard. Try
to buy objects that are in as good a condition as possible
and be very careful of the wording in the catalogue description
if the item is an auction lot. Lookout for words in the
description such as, 'after' so-and-so in design, or 'in
the style of...', or 'similar to...'. These distractions
confirm any suspicions that the item is a fake, possibly
a forgery and at the very least, not original. These are
areas of the Trades Description Act that are not open to
interpretation and the way an item is described must be
real and true. Nevertheless, note that unless you build
into your own price estimate the likely cost of restoration,
you could easily end up spending more for the item than
it is worth, even at resale. This is why the research you
do on an item will never be wasted time. The old saying
"Caveat Emptor" - let the Buyer Beware, is never
more true than in the antiques world!
As a side note to rule six, while Caveat Emptor has a long
history in common law, I quite like the new Consumer Rights
version, Caveat Venditor. Literally meaning Seller Beware,
the saying purports that the Seller is much more knowledgeable
about an item (after-all he/she did buy it with the likely
prospect of making a profit and so it may be assumed knows
more about it than the prospective purchaser) and therefore
must bear responsibility for protecting an unwary purchaser.
Whilst there may be a certain poetry about the idea, don't
rely on it when you realize you've bought a dud.
So rule seven can quite legitimately recommend that you
buy items that are well made, have a fairly easily proven
provenance, and are representative of the time in which
they were made.
It's always tempting to 'go with the flow' and buy things
that are in vogue at the moment. The trouble is that that
is the trouble. A vogue is now, not yesterday and certainly
not tomorrow. Rule eight is about not following a fashion,
paying the inflated price of that fashion and watching the
price fall as the next fashion takes over.
I've lost track of the number of times you see an item on
a TV program, such as The Antiques Roadshow, or see a glossy
picture of a fine piece of pottery in the Millers Annual
Antiques Guides, only to come across it, or something similar,
at an antiques fair and with a price tag twice its actual
value, just because it's 'in vogue'. Some even have the
audacity to advertise the item, "As seen on Antiques
Roadshow", as if that justifies the exorbitant price.
The fact is, some unlucky person will be suckered in and
regret it in fairly short order.
Self preservation and instinct will serve you better if
you stick to your own area of expertise.
Rule nine? Always, always, always ask and obtain a proper
receipt. This is not only useful to establish ownership,
it may be necessary for probate, the tax office, your insurance
company or the police may want it should, heaven forbid,
the item ever get stolen. Your receipt will need to contain
the following information: (a) The date. (b) The complete
name, address and telephone number of the seller. (c) A
full and complete description of the item ('a pair of candlesticks'
isn't good enough!) (d) Whenever it's important, make sure
any damaged or worn areas are also noted and also the date
estimate of its origins (i.e. circa 1895). (e) And finally
the price you paid. You should also note for yourself the
method of payment, credit card, cash, or cheque.
Mostly, an auction house or antique shop owner will give
you most of this information without asking. Your main problem
will be at 'car boot sales' or 'antique fairs' where stall
owners all to often turn up without a proper receipt book
or even a piece of paper to write any sales on. Take your
own paper and get them to write it out, or you write it
out and get them to sign it. At car boots sales, I even
surreptitiously write down the registration number of the
car driven by that table owner. Believe me, you'll be glad
you took the trouble one day!!
My last rule is simple; Only ever buy something you really,
to say I have kept the collections I made as a youth, why
would I not? They sit in the attic, in fairly ornate, and
incredibly old, biscuit tins, whose value is probably much
higher than any of the contents, mainly as a reminder of
the B.S. of youthful folly.