Changes in Fashions of The Antiques Auction World. – Vivienne Milburn – 23rd April 2018.

Vivienne Milburn valuing a painting

Vivienne is an independent antiques valuer and auctioneer, based in Great Longstone, near Bakewell, Derbyshire. This means that she is not tied to one auction house and will put client’s goods in the best auction for its genre ensuring that the optimum price is obtained.

A lot of her work is for clients who are ‘downsizing’, for insurance valuations and probate purposes. She likes to think that her clients can benefit from the true value of their pieces rather than the people specializing in house clearances. It is quite surprising how some inconsequential looking pieces can have a very high value.

Apart from working for private clients she also gives talks to various organisations including Probus and the U3A about the changing fashions of the antiques auction world, and invariably she asks that her audience bring along their own pieces for valuation; a sort of private, ‘Antiques Road Show’. This was the format of her talk to us.

She started by displaying a slide of a typical 1960’s lounge containing minimalistic furniture, showing tubular steel dining chairs and table, a ladder bookcase, a simple standard lamp and a high winged armchair.  Ten years ago, this type of furniture would have been virtually worthless. Before this period most furniture was made entirely from wood but in the 60s many more materials were introduced including steel and plastic and now young people can’t get enough of it causing its value to go right up.

A wall unit manufactured in the 60s sold for £750.00 a few weeks ago and a sideboard, dining table and six chairs sold for £3,500.

She sells for clients all over the country because various parts of the UK have interests in different styles. As an example, she said that G Plan furniture might fetch a few hundred pounds in Yorkshire but in Essex it would be more like thousands of pounds, simply because the style is desirable there.

She talked about the effect of China on the market and especially on Chinese goods and by that she was not referring to Chinese goods made for export. During the Chinese cultural revolution, the vast majority of the people suffered terribly and were exceedingly poor. Now that the economy of China is becoming one of the leading economies in the world people are wanting to own Chinese artefacts which have found their way into the Western world and their value has increased many times over. One mono glazed vase sold for £26,000 and a jade Tarchens thumb ring sold for £21,000.

A Jade Tarchen Thumb ring used by Chinese Archers.In the accessory market goods fetch a high price as well provided that they have a designer label. Recently a Chanel handbag costing between £12,000 to £15,000 when new sold recently for £2,500. A pair of black brogue Shoes made by John Lobb would cost about £4,000, because they be made to a model of the purchasers, foot would cost about £4,000 new, sold at auction for £750.00

Silver and gold jewellery also can command a high price. An amber necklace fetched £25,000 because of its Chinese intent. A single stone 3 carat Diamond ring sold for £11,000.

Northern art is also in demand. A small painting by Arthur Delaney in the style of Lowry sold for £6,800.

Tin plate toys made by Mettoy of Northampton are also collectors’ items. The firm was started in 1933 by the German, Philip Ullman who had a toy company in Nuremburg called Tipp & Co. He fled Germany in 1933 when Hitler came to power because he was a German Jew.

The last half an hour of the morning was given over the valuation of some members items, like the ‘Antiques Road Show’. Some members were pleased with what they were told but I have no doubt that many were disappointed.

The morning was very educational, entertaining and very well presented and the club members showed their interest and appreciation by the questions they asked and the applause they gave  Vivienne at the end of the meeting.