Bargain Hunting in New York city for the BBC with my very dear friend David Barby  .Jimmy Braxton & Kate Bliss

  • Antique furniture
  • Art Oils & watercolours. Prints, engravings
  • China & Porcelain
  • Silver and plate 
  • Jewellery  Watches and Clocks
  • Books,
  • Glass.
  • postcards, ephemera
  • Medals, coins, stamps 
  • Posters & prints
  • Contemporary art and design 
  • 20th century Furniture and design 
  • In just 3 easy steps the cost effective way to have your treasures valued by a expert 

 Our Head Valuer 

Michael Hogben.  He will be known to millions of Television viewers from his many appearances on antiques programs shown daily on ITV Dickinson Real Deal & BBC1 Bargain Hunt  & Auction Man and Channel 4s Name your price

  • Author of 3 best selling books on antiques and collectables , Michael Has a vast Knowledge of Fine  art ,antiques & collectables  stretching back over 30 years
  • Email inquiries or  free valuations 


  1. Always view the lot before you bid.

  2. Read the catalogue description carefully and check for any disclaiming phrases such as "in the school of", "in the style of" or "after such and such period".

  3. Ask for the condition report if you intend to bid by phone, or are leaving a commission bid with the auctioneer.

  4. Bid with confidence, but don't get carried away and bid more than you intended to.

  5. Unless the lot is unique, another one will turn up one day.

  6. Never be afraid to ask the auctioneer for his or her advice.

  7. Check the saleroom's Buyer's Premium, which will vary from 10%-25% and may also have V.A.T.

  8. Do not base your buying or selling price just on price books, the quality and condition of an item is always an important factor.

  9. Do not feel unlucky; you make your own luck in an auction room.

  10. Remember that if an item has been restored the value will always drop.

  11. If buying a lot that needs restoration, check the cost of the additional work before you bid.

  12. A piece of furniture made up of various pieces - a 'Marriage' - will be cheaper but harder to spot, look closely and see how well it sits.

  13. If a dinner or tea service is a couple of items short you will get it cheaper and then have fun tracking down the missing pieces.

  14. Always go with your gut feeling; first impressions are nearly always right.

  15. You can restore and repair everything except glass.

  16. If you aim to profit from a collection of items, build your collection in one field and then sell it all in one specialist auction sale.

  17. Never buy antiques or collectibles without getting a receipt.

  18. If you are selling on a stall, at an Antiques Fair, or in a shop, always 'Display well to sell well'.

  19. Always haggle when buying at a fair or in an antiques shop, most traders will give a 10% discount, some even more.

  20. You can often buy cheaper things at antique fairs later in the day because traders want to minimize what they take home.

  21. 'Early Birds Catch the Worm'. To ensure the best choice, go to fairs early to find your bargain.

  22. Charity shops can be a great source of vintage clothing and the odd collectible.

  23. You can't rummage enough when visiting a general auction sale or car boot fairs, you'll be amazed at the bargains found at the bottom of boxes.

  24. If you are starting a collection, stick to one field and concentrate on learning as much as you can, you will be an expert before you know it.

  25. If selling, get two or three people's opinions on the price to make sure you are offering the right price.

  26. If you need to reference items viewed in an auction sale, most local libraries have a reference section on antiques and collectibles.

  27. Modern household furniture and fittings can be bought cheaply in general auction sales; you could furnish a house for £500 or less.

  28. Beware of buying electrical items; don't be afraid to ask to plug it in, especially televisions and fridges.

  29. Restoration is acceptable if the item is a rarity; otherwise steer clear of restored items.

  30. Silver is a great investment and it is very hard to fake.

  31. 'All that Glitters is not Gold'; if it has no hallmark you will need to test the gold content.

  32. Sometimes a picture frame can be worth more than the painting or print enclosed.

  33. If investing in antiques, think of current trends. If something's in vogue then it will cost more, but if it's not so fashionable but has potential, it could be a better buy.

  34. If silver jewellery has a small gold tip on the clasp, it normally means it is platinum.

  35. Becoming an antiques dealer is easy, making money is the hard bit. When you start, keep a close eye on your profit margins.

  36. When bidding, stick to what you know; costly mistakes can be made with impulse buys.

  37. Antiques are the keyhole to the past. In their day they were contemporary, but now they capture a moment in history and time.

  38. You can never stop learning about antiques; there is always something new on the market.

  39. Make yourself known to the auctioneer, they will guide and advise you in the right direction if you need help.

  40. If the porters are helpful, tip them, you will be amazed what inside information they have.

  41. If you are buying a 'big lump', check the delivery cost first; especially for pianos.

  42. Don't talk about the 'one that got away'; be positive. There are plenty more fish in the sea.

  43. If you are a trader, always think profit not passion.

  44. Dealers and traders need to survive too so don't ever begrudge a man a profit.

  45. Don't be afraid to invest in Modernist furniture, as lots of money has been made by investors who spotted future collectibles.

  46. If you are wearing designer labels hold onto them. Top names such as Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, D&G, and Versace will show you a profit one day.

  47. Even modern technology is becoming collectible so hang onto old mobile phones, computers and handheld games.

  48. If you want to collect blue and white china there are many other patterns apart from Willow. Keep your eyes open for unusual shapes and designs, especially those with animals.

  49. If you're seriously collecting jewellery then invest in a diamond tester, it will cost you a few quid but it will make life easier.

  50. The Victoria & Albert Museum has one of the world's largest reference libraries on Art, Antiques, and Artefacts, with experts on hand to advise you


Spotting a fake is one of the hardest things to learn in the antiques trade. Only experience and knowledge will see you through this minefield.


Drawing on more than 30 years' experience in the saleroomS, Michael advises you to:

Always know your product.

Study the item and look for obvious signs of ageing.

  • Some general tips to follow are:

    • Never store your valuables near a heat source

    • Clean with care

    • Keep original packaging to maintain value

    • Dust regularly

    • Take photographs and keep them in a separate location for insurance purposes

    Some specific collectible guidelines

    Preserve your book collection by dusting regularly at the very least two or three times a year. Hand-held vacuum cleaners are perfect for dust-busting.

    One of the biggest enemies of collectable books is heat. Never leave books near a radiator as overheating dries out books; the leather and cloth bindings crack and the book will literally fall apart.

    Books/paper will fade if left in direct sunlight, so keep them in the shade.

    Basements are often the best place to store rare books as they are usually dark and chilly but beware of any damp as it leads to foxing - a chemical reaction that can stain paper or result in mould.

    Spines are often the weakest parts of a book so try to avoid pulling old books from the shelf by their spine.

    An overcrowded bookshelf is one to avoid; you should be able to pull them out easily.

    Clear acetate covers are an inexpensive way to protect book jackets.

    To prevent brittleness in leather books, apply a tiny amount of leather protector with a soft cloth, and then add a little leather dressing - this should liven it up.

    Store paper collectibles like comic books, autographs, souvenir programmes and postcards in clear plastic bags or polypropylene sleeves.

    Wash your hands before handling paper collectibles.

    Never fold old paper as this makes it even more fragile.

    Avoid using cellophane tape, other sticky tapes, rubber cements, glue, or post-its on your paper collectibles as they can discolour the paper and attract insects.

    Newspaper collectibles should always be stored separately as the news print and paper contains acid in the ink.

    When using plate hangers make sure they're not too tight as this will scratch the plates. If the clips aren't covered in soft material then insert a piece of cardboard or tissue paper in between the plate and hanger.

    Metal or wooden plate racks are a good alternative to plate hanger but make sure it's securely attached to the wall.

    A well defined groove in your display shelf will keep your plates in place.

    Certificates of Authenticity and the original box add to the resale value, so try to hang on to them.

    Never wash your collector plates in the dishwasher. Instead clean with tepid water and a squirt or two of liquid detergent.

    Try using a small, soft bristle brush on delicate areas or a handheld hairdryer on a low setting when cleaning porcelain or pottery.

    Wipe ceramic items with soapy water using a soft, damp cloth, and then allow them to dry naturally.

    Store your jewellery along with its inserts in its original packaging to increase re-sale value.

    Jazz up your jewellery by soaking your silver and gold in a glass of vodka for a few hours.

    Never wash rhinestones with water, as this tarnishes the foil background and discolors the stone. Instead, use a cotton bud or soft bristle brush and glass cleaner to dab away dirt. Rub dry with a soft cloth.

    Pop small, loose jewellery items in jewellery boxes.

    There is nothing worse than trying to untangle thin chains. Dust a bit of talcum powder over it and tease those tangles out.

    Avoid winding-up watches too much as this can damage delicate Ward off warping and splitting by keeping wooden furniture away from extreme temperature as this damages the wood.

    If there's a white ring on a tabletop the finish is damaged, but if it's a black ring, then the wood itself is damaged. It is easier to remove a damaged finish than a wood stain

    To get the highest price for your doll save packaging, tags, and inserts as these add to the resale value.

    Some dolls come in packaging with acetate windows. Displaying the dolls in their original packaging is a good alternative as it helps to protect them.

    Check your dolls regularly to make sure they are insect-free. Creepy crawlies can easily find their way into the dolls stuffing and clothing.

    Don't wash, set, comb, or change the original hair on a doll.

    Don't wash your dolls clothes as they may not be colour-fast.

    Try to avoid storing dolls in a damp environment as this can result in mildew and mould.

    Never wash your figurines in the dishwasher; just give them a quick clean with tepid water mixed with a dash of detergent.

    To dust small, delicate figurines try using a handheld hair dryer set on low to blow away the dirt.

    Do not over wind the musical mechanism. If this breaks it can lower the resale value of your figurine.

    Postage stamps are best stored in glassine envelopes as they are transparent, have strong seams and keep out moisture.

    Archive playing pieces and instructions as they will add to the resale value.

    Keep games away from sunlight as it will fade the boxes.

    Store games and jigsaw puzzles flat so that pieces don't fall out during storage. If the game has been opened, put the pieces into polypropylene bags to keep them safely together.

    Since games are generally popular and inexpensive, you may as well buy more than one if you plan on playing with it. Mint condition games sell well.

    Do not give old metal toys a lick of paint as this could decrease their value.

    Remove batteries from stored toys, as the batteries may leak and ruin them.

    A-Z of Antiques and Auctions

    Michael Hogben book cover

    Dealers & Dealing

    So you want to become an Antique dealer? Well, what is actually involved in becoming a dealer? There are many aspects to being an antiques dealer, from the part-timer who has the occasional monthly stall at an antiques fair or dabbles on eBay to the general dealer - who has a shop open 9-5 and sells his goods occasionally at large antique fairs, then there's the up-market specialist dealers who have grand showrooms and exhibit and sell at all the best fairs. All dealers, however, have one thing in common - PROFIT!

    So let's start with the first rung of the ladder which is the part time dealer. How do you go about starting up your own antiques business? For a start you would need to draw up a business plan and work out a profitability factor. Most dealers work on a 100% mark up, e.g. you buy something for £50 so on your stall or in your shop you would price it at £100. Sometimes you would price higher to allow for people to haggle the price down which is normal in the antique business. Most ticket prices can be negotiated by 10% - sometimes more!

    Michael Hogben inspects

    To start off at the low end of the antiques market lets say by, having a table at antiques fair; you would need to have a considerable amount of stock. To make any serious money I would suggest £3,000-4,000 would be your initial outlay. You also so need to be good at book keeping, as you will need to keep a stock book, containing the detail of where you brought the item and how much you brought and sold it for. Remember it is a business so you will have to pay tax on any profit you make.

    So you have the money and are ready to go out spending but what do you buy? And where do you buy it from? An auction house definitely offers all of these answers but as I will keep repeating throughout this book you must research and have a good idea of what you are going to buy, so study the catalogue and ask lots of questions. You must think of what will attract people to your stall. If there is one golden rule for this it has to be…

    Display well to sell well

    If your stand looks attractive and is neatly displayed it will guarantee interest from the buyers at the fair. If you are specialising in one field then the specialists will come straight to you. This is when you need to have your pricing right, and you can only price right if you buy right. Do not be tempted to buy something for £80 with 15% buyer's premium when the highest price you could achieve for the item is £120 on your stall. I think also that on any antiques stall you should have something which stands out so as to attract the all important buyers, whether it's a large object, brightly colored or of a unique shape.

    If your stand looks attractive and is neatly displayed it will guarantee interest from the buyers at the fair. If you are specialising in one field then the specialists will come straight to you. This is when you need to have your pricing right, and you can only price right if you buy right. Do not be tempted to buy something from £80 with 15% buyer's premium when the highest price you could achieve for this item is £120 on your stall. I also think that on any antiques stall you should have something which stands out so it attracts the all important buyers, whether it is a large object, brightly coloured or a unique shape.

    So you have invested your money, rented your table at the antiques fair and it is your first show. How much are you going to make. On an average day you should expect to turnover 10 to 15% of your stock in hand, e.g. with your £3,000 worth of stock you should achieve a minimum of £300 to a maximum of £500.

    Lets say you've had an average day and taken £400, you then need to deduct the initial cost of the items you have sold, anywhere £200-220, then you need to deduct the cost of the stall, they average out at £20-40, this would leave you a net profit of approximately £150, not bad for a days work! Of course you also have to consider your time and travel costs but once you have built up your confidence there is nothing to stop you doing three or four antiques fairs a month bearing in mind that you will have to replace any stock you have sold.

    So this must be the aerial?

    The next step up from this would be to open an antiques shop. This will allow you more space to display your items and also would and provide a base for the specialist collectors that you have got to know to come and see you at any time. The overheads for this set up would obviously be a lot more expensive and your stock outlay would have to be increased to cover the profits you would need to make to pay all your expenses. Once again your target should be a turnover of between 10-20% of the stock in hand. Although profit margins can be higher if you have a retail unit it is a very brave step to make and you seriously need to know your stuff before venturing into your own shop. I would strongly recommend if you fancy going into the antiques business that you do a years apprenticeship in and around the antiques fairs and action rooms to get a feel for antiques and prices before venturing into a shop.

    General dealers

    General dealer comes under the category of someone who has possibly got a warehouse or a retail outlet for their antiques. They do not specialise in any particular subject and buy purely for profit. I have seen them many times in auction rooms and buy anything from furniture, silver, china, paintings, anything that is attractive to look at or which they can turn over quickly at a profit. These dealers need to be very hard working and quite successful because of the amount of hours they put in. I know some who work Seven days a week 12 hours a day. yes They do make mistakes but don't often loose their money as once every few months they will go to a big antiques fair with a van load of stuff which they haven't been able to sell in their warehouse, and sell it there at a small profit, sometimes even taking a small loss. They are definitely the people I most admire in the antiques world because of the hard work they put in.

    Let's not forget the new brand of dealers, the eBay dealers. eBay has been a phenomenon in the collecting world and grows daily. On eBay you can sell anything from an electric fan to a Picasso painting! You will need quite a lot of time to list all your items, photographing your items, packing them up and sending the items when they are sold. It is quite a simple process with either a 7 day or a 10 day auction and your items are listed world wide. eBay would then charge you a commission for selling the items and a listing fee whether the items sells or not. eBay is also a good reference site to find out the current prices and trends of what is selling. Most eBay dealers I known tend to specialize be it Books, Beswick, Doulton, Wade, Cigarette Cards, Postcards or Ephemera. normally Dealing in the smaller items as it makes it easier to send the goods out to the buyers and I do know a few people who actually make a living just selling antiques and collectables on eBay. A site worth a visit if you are interested in antiques.

    Whichever route you decide to take in becoming a dealer I wish you luck, I guarantee you will have fun learning along the way. And meet some interesting people and characters and make some good friends along the way.

    Things to remember when starting out

    1. Not every antiques fair is going to be busy and you might not make a profit every time.

    2. The best time to take a inside stall at an antiques fair is from September until May. People tend to visit antiques fairs more in the winter, especially the indoor events.

    3. From May to September I recommend that you do the outside fairs this would maximise your profits throughout the year.

    4. When you have a stall at an antiques fair you will gain early access to the fair which will give you a chance to look around and perhaps find yourself a bargain.

    5. Many items change hands before the public have even arrived.

    Published by New Holland ISBN: 1845374975


    Try to avoid over winding toys, or pulling the strings of talking toys as overuse may break them 

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