My Worst Ever Antique Buys - Learning The Ropes Of The Antiques & Collectibles Trade

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It's 'Blog Post Monday' once again!  Welcome, welcome, welcome....

Over the course of the past year I've written a few posts about interesting and exciting finds I've experienced during my time as a collector and dealer.  Most dealers like to share stories of their favourite and most fruitful buys, but we're not so forthcoming with the disastrous ones...

Like many of us, I've had my fair share of idiotic buys.  But let's be fair, there's just so much to learn when you're starting out in the antiques and collectibles trade, and it's only natural that you should make a few mistakes a long the way.  I think they call it "learning the hard way" and by jove, haven't I had my moments!  And, for a change, I thought this week I'd be upfront and honest, and share with you some of my worst buys of all time.

So, as always, get that kettle on, settle into your favourite chair and make sure you've got a spare pair of pants to hand, as I regale tales of my most disastrous buys...

 

 

I suppose I'll start with one of my most regretful buys and I'm almost certain that you've all made the same mistake.  A few beers down one evening I decided it was a good idea to peruse local items for sale on eBay.  What popped up?  A great big vintage shop cash register.  The listing was ending in a matter of minutes and, of course, having sunk a few beers, I was full of confidence and got my bid in sharpish!  Needless to say, there was nobody else stupid enough to bid on it so I won the auction.  A couple more beers down and I'd forgotten all about my wonderful purchase, until the next morning that is...

I should probably set the scene for you at this stage.  I didn't own any form of transportation.  No car, no van, no bike, just a trusty pair of trainers.  But, alas, I had been clever and bought local, I thought...!  So, I could walk to the destination, collect the item and walk back with it, I thought...  So, that's what I did!

 

 

An hour later, hungover, drenched in sweat and with the soles of my shoes worn down to the depth of a sheet of paper, I was still walking, and, by this stage, heading out of town.  Nevertheless, I make it to my destination and the seller wheels out my purchase.  "Goodness me", I thought to myself, "that's a big one".  The seller asked where I was parked and not wanting to lose face, I said "just around the corner".  With that, I lifted the cash register, with my legs buckling under the weight, and off I went.

 

 

I waited until I was out of sight before taking a break to consider my options.  I had to find a shortcut and decided upon cutting across the grounds of a secondary school.  Faces of school children and teachers looked on as, little by little, I made my way across the field.  I edged ever closer to the centre of York until I reached the city's beautiful Museum Gardens.  This is when the staring became more intense and people began taking my photograph.  I made it to a bench and put the cash register down for yet another break.  It was at this point that I realised just how dodgy this whole predicament must have looked.  I was carrying a cash register through the city, for gawds sake...!

Anyway, long story short, I made it to the antiques centre that I was renting a cabinet in.  I kept the cash register there and had it for well over a year.  But I did sell it, eventually, for cost price.  So, it really was the biggest waste of time.  But, like I said, I'm sure we've all been there....right...?

 

 

Next up is one of my worst and probably one of my most embarrassing buys.  Whilst walking around York car boot I came across a lovely decorative antique piece.  Made of brass and pewter, and of French origin, this curio was coming home with me. 

The following week, I went around the French cafes and restaurants in York thinking they'd be interested in buying this fabulous decorative piece.  Giving it the hard sale, I explained how wonderful it would look on a dining table, behind the cake display or at the bar.  The managers at every venue I visited had the same look on their face and turned down the chance to own this exquisite French curio.

 

 

I got home and decided to research the piece more thoroughly and it was during my research that I discovered this exquisite French curio was in fact a secondhand douche...!!  Nevertheless, I did manage to sell the piece, albeit, at cost price.  But let this be a lesson to everyone, always do thorough research...!

 

 

And finally, not only an awful buy, but probably my most heart breaking one.  I was contacted by someone looking to get rid of a few pieces.  I went to his home and he showed me to his garage which was filled with your basic vintage household finds, nothing of great interest.  However, on the way out I saw something hanging from the side of a skip at the property.  On closer inspection I discovered it to be a very large antique tapestry.  The image depicted a scene of a family in their home with the Mother using a sewing wheel.  I decided it was worth a shot and although it was in his skip, the guy still demanded money from me...!

Anyway, it came home with me and basically, the long and the short of it is that I convinced myself it was worth an absolute fortune.  I could almost see myself on Antiques Roadshow!  I'd started to plan my retirement in my 20's!  I photographed it and sent the pictures to a number of different auction houses.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be nothing but a common Dutch machine made tapestry and was valued at £30...

I really wouldn't have minded, but I'd told everyone about my "incredible" find and how I thought it could be worth "thousands".  I'd been house hunting in the Bahamas and picturing how I would spend my retirement.  Absolutely heartbreaking!  I can't even bring myself to look at a tapestry these days!

 

 

Well, that's it for this week folks.  I hope this made you smile.  Remember, no matter if you're starting out in the trade or you're an old hand, mistakes will always happen.  It's all part of the learning process.  It's impossible to know everything and sometimes you have to just go with your gut instincts.  Just don't trust them after a few beers!

Let me know your worst buys and funny stories in the comments section below.  And, remember, if you enjoy my posts, please show your support by subscribing to my blog which you can do here or via the 'Home' page.

So, until next week, stay safe, keep buying those antiques and keep spreading that Source Vintage love!

Cheerio!

 

Stephen

Owner Source Vintage

Shop from Source Vintage here


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  • Amin Mukaty on

    I am over 70 and have bought more “antiques” than most people. Fortunately my wife gives them away :)
    Now even though I have seen a genuine hand-carved ivory chess set, Buddha style pieces, I am delaying the purchase

  • Howard Emmerson on

    Nice blog Steven.
    Thought I’d share a recent ‘whoops’ purchase with you and anyone else who fancies a chortle.
    Scenario:
    Ebay
    4 Glasses of Wine
    Hunt for the Holy Grail
    ………. and boy did I think I’d found 10 of them!
    Advert: 10 Rustic, probably Georgian, cast iron church candlesticks £200.
    Thats it, I’m in, they’ve got to be worth £80-£100 each.
    So I paid the asking price, no quibbles, oh how smug was I.
    That is until 2 days later when the postie arrived with a box, I remember thinking hmm, wonder what that is, such a small box?
    On opening my mistake was glaringly obvious “Check the dimensions of what you’re buying”
    In the box we’re 10 perfectly formed Georgian Cast Iron Church Candlesticks, as described, but they were 15cm tall, not 15 inches tall as I had drunkenly thought!
    They are currently sat in said same box under the stairs, can’t bring myself to open it again.
    So yes, even after 20yrs in the trade, we still make the occasional goof!
    Howard
    Class Antiques

  • Howard Emmerson on

    Nice blog Steven.
    Thought I’d share a recent ‘whoops’ purchase with you and anyone else who fancies a chortle.
    Scenario:
    Ebay
    4 Glasses of Wine
    Hunt for the Holy Grail
    ………. and boy did I think I’d found 10 of them!
    Advert: 10 Rustic, probably Georgian, cast iron church candlesticks £200.
    Thats it, I’m in, they’ve got to be worth £80-£100 each.
    So I paid the asking price, no quibbles, oh how smug was I.
    That is until 2 days later when the postie arrived with a box, I remember thinking hmm, wonder what that is, such a small box?
    On opening my mistake was glaringly obvious “Check the dimensions of what you’re buying”
    In the box we’re 10 perfectly formed Georgian Cast Iron Church Candlesticks, as described, but they were 15cm tall, not 15 inches tall as I had drunkenly thought!
    They are currently sat in said same box under the stairs, can’t bring myself to open it again.
    So yes, even after 20yrs in the trade, we still make the occasional goof!
    Howard
    Class Antiques


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