An Antiquarian's Tale, Issue 35

Clinton Howell Antiques - July 2, 2018 - Issue 35

An Appreciation of English Antique Furniture

A semi biographical journey of my life in the English Decorative Arts

You might wonder why I go on about the supply of great English antique furniture? My rationale lies in trying to understand why so little great English antique furniture is on the market today. Clearly, there are people holding onto pieces that they know are nowhere near as valuable as when they bought them, but that has to be a relatively small slice of the vast quantity of things that were bought and sold in the 1980's and 90's. It is also clear to me that there has been a re-evaluation of those items that were sold as antique that really didn't fit the bill of being proper English antique furniture. Perhaps that vast quantity I refer to is actually a small slice of items. If one closely examines  what was classified as antique and sold in copious quantities in the 90's, there was a quantity of things that hardly claimed the title of antique. For example, I had a friend who had a factory in Essex (UK) who used to make standard pine pieces like Welsh cupboards which he would dip into caustic soda and then leave outside to weather. He had an American buyer for these pieces. These were not antiques, but they were part of the "antique market". I could give many more examples of the same such as the two gentleman I met in Crystal Palace (south London) who made "antiques" out of old linen presses. They concentrated on walnut pieces and would bang out about 3-4 chests and other case pieces per week. Again, they had an American market for their work. 

I could go on about the gullibility of the American buyer, but that isn't entirely true. The people who cared bought wonderful items, many of them creating collections of note. And, oddly, their interests were often sparked by inconsequential visits to some of the most egregious sources for antiques in America. However, the one thing I will say about buying antiques is that it is, more often than not, a pastime that requires personal relationships. Not everyone wants such a pastime. But back to faux antiques, to get upset with them is a little like getting upset with the weather. However, the question remains--where have all the great things gone? With a little luck, I might find a few.