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- Antiques guide author
gives interview at her clinic
- The Internet has changed
antique dealing forever
- By Jessamy Johnson
- The emergence of the Internet, along with quality online
photography, have changed the face of buying and selling antiques
forever, says Judith Miller of Miller's Antiques Handbook and
- Judith, a regular on BBC's Roadshow Antiques, had a lot to
say during an interview after hosting an identification clinic
at Cynthia Findlay's Toronto Antiques on King in October.
- The clinic coincided with the release of the latest edition
of her guide, Antiques Handbook & Price Guide (2012-2013).
- There was a steady stream of clients throughout the morning
clinic, but between gaps, Judith and I chatted about how she
had started in the antiques world, the changes she has seen over
the years and what is hot and what is not.
- Judith is an avid collector - she jokes that her husband
makes her promise every time she leaves the house not to
bring back one more single chair.
- Her main area of collecting is ceramics, but she will hone
in on anything she thinks is beautiful or interesting.
- Judith started collecting when she was little and it is the
history of a piece that has always appealed to her: when was
it made, who used it, what was it used for. This passion grew
and by the time she was at Edinburgh University in Scotland in
the 1960s, she was hooked.
- Fortunately, her passion for antiques and collectibles led
to a career in publishing and journalism. In 1979, she co-founded
the international best-seller Millers Antiques Price Guide
and has since written more than 100 books.
- Judith appears regularly on the BBCs Antiques Roadshow,
which attracts six million viewers in the UK alone and is syndicated
throughout the world.
- Doing the Roadshow is an absolute joy as she has the opportunity
to meet so many other collectors and sees so many beautiful and
interesting objects, Judith said during the interview.
- So what are the greatest changes in the antiques and collectibles
world she has seen over the years?
- She says without a doubt, it is the emergence of the Internet
and the use of the web as a sales office. The quality of pictures
on the web has improved so dramatically that collectors can have
a good idea of what they are buying.
- With todays youth completely computer-literate (and
the oldies are not faring too badly either) and want to buy online,
the growth in Internet sales can only continue.
- As a result, many dealers have gone online themselves. Not
only do they use shop premises, but they will also have websites
where they can showcase their treasures and give the collector
an idea of what is available.
- However, buyer beware.
- The condition of a piece is paramount to its value and that
cannot always be assessed online. Also, watch out for the modern
piece. You could end up buying an object that looks old, but
was in fact produced fairly recently.
- Manufacturers such as Lalique currently produce pieces that
were first made decades ago, and this will not be evident until
you actually see your purchase.
- Judith moves regularly between Canada and the United Kingdom
and as a result enjoys an overview of the antiques and collectibles
markets in both countries.
- The economic recession has impacted on the markets in Canada
and the UK and it has been tough for the dealers. Many antique
shops have had to close, dealers have retired or simply stopped
- The only consolation for Canadian dealers is, since the Canadian
economy has proved much sounder than those economies in the rest
of the world, the impact has been less severe in Canada.
- For buyers though, an uncertain economic climate makes this
a good time to buy: a dealer wants to make a sale and everyone
is being more realistic about pricing.
- What is hot and what is not? Some areas are just not shifting.
You cannot move mid to low-range brown furniture
for love or money. This goes back to the buyers being of a younger
- Younger buyer wants furniture that is cutting edge and more
streamlined. So, 1950s furniture onwards is of interest and pieces
by leading designers such as Charles and Ray Eames or Arne Jacobsen
can go for a fortune.
- The good news though is if you like brown furniture
(and a lot of us do), now is the time to buy it. You can kit
out a house or condo at a fraction of the price it would take
you to furnish it with new furniture.
- Likewise with Victoriana - while Victoriana enjoyed a renewed
popularity in the late 20th century, it has now fallen foul of
the fashion police. Pretty Victorian floral tea sets, which are
over 100 years old, are not selling even if they are in mint
- So, again, now is the time to hit those auction houses and
antique shops if you like that look. Who knows if it will be
popular again, or if it will ever have a big re-sale value but,
as Judith says, you should buy a piece because you love it, and
not just because you hope that it will increase in value (though
it wouldnt hurt if that was the case as well).
- But some antiques and collectibles are selling very well
and are attracting a lot of interest. With the growth of the
Chinese economy, there has been a surge in demand for Chinese
18th century Imperial porcelain and jade, and also for 19th century
export ware. As ever, where there is demand, there is a price
increase and these pieces are achieving great prices. However,
the down side to the Chinese growth is that the Japanese market
has become very flat.
- The market in 20th Century Design is strong, with Mid Century
Modern in particular enjoying great prices. Twentieth Century
Design covers a variety of styles, from Art Nouveau, with its
fluid, romantic look (though still with clean lines when compared
to Victoriana), Arts & Crafts, which is more boxy and homespun,
and Art Deco, with its more stylized and geometric design.
- The market for arts & crafts and Art Deco is particularly
strong. These two styles have the benefit of quantity, high price,
medium price and low price pieces and varying conditions. This
means that there is something for everyone. The market is buoyant
and collectors are buying - furniture, ceramics, glass and jewelry
have all seen strong competition between collectors and this
is reflected in the prices.
- The constructivism of the 1920s, as typified by Soviet posters,
and the work of the Bauhaus design group (1919-1933), with its
very plain, geometric and functional look, then follow. Mid Century
Modern dates from the 1940s and includes furniture and objects
that were produced in the post-World War 2 era through to the
New Wave design of the 1980s and 1990s. Younger buyers love these
more functional, edgy looks, and this popularity is reflected
in the prices achieved.
I asked Judith whether she felt there was a great difference
between what a collector could find in Canada and in the UK.
- She said two markets are actually quite similar. The staples
found in British auction houses and shops are also found in Canadian
auction houses and shops.
- Judith sees many examples of European wares, such as Royal
Doulton and Moorcroft,as well as European silverware, glassware
and other smaller objects.
- The immigrants to Canada brought their treasures with them
and the family and friends left back at home would send them
presents from there. However, in Canada, you obviously come across
Canadian and American manufacturers whose pieces are not seen
as often in Europe.
- Judith Miller is visiting Canada and the United States to
publicize the latest edition of her guide, which provides the
reader with a comprehensive overview of the market place.
- She is currently working on her next book, which will be
called Trash to Treasure. It will showcase items, be it furniture
or ceramics or decorative objects, that we and our parents and
grandparents all got rid of.
- The identification clinic was held at Toronto
Antiques on King, 284 King Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 1J2
- 1 - Judith Miller, clinic host, left, and Cynthia Findlay
- Jessamy Johnson has worked in publishing at Penguin Books
and Reed Elsevier and was the General Manager of Millers
Price Guides for many years. Following the birth of her triplets,
she left Millers and has worked since then in a freelance
capacity as an editor and journalist. She started JessamyJohnson
ClutterClear in 2007, a professional organization company.
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