Britain runs out of antiques

BRITAIN'S MOST prestigious auction houses are closing sales rooms because of a dramatic fall in the number of antiques coming on to the market.

The third largest auction house, Phillips, will close its regional salerooms in Glasgow, Cardiff and Retford at the end of the month as part of a restructuring. Christie's closed its Glasgow saleroom earlier in the year, although the company still holds sales from Edinburgh. "We're very much a global business and we are always looking at new markets," a Christie's spokesman said. "We are very much international buyers on all fronts." Sotheby's Holdings, owner of the international auction house, has reported a 19 per cent fall in income from pounds 17m to pounds 14m in the first half of the year. Bonhams has lost three directors and four leading members of staff this year.

The lack of antiques is partly due to a decline in country house sales, which used to provide rich pickings for the auction houses and the private collectors who patronised their sales. Since the war there has also been a rise in the number of art galleries and museums, which have acquired many treasures, and thus taken them out of circulation.

There is also the power of foreign buyers, in particular the Americans. "An awful lot of stuff is going to the States," said Susy Smith, editor of Country Living. "More and more goes abroad, especially to the Far East"

Over here, it is believed that many owners are hanging on to heirlooms rather than selling them off with the family silver.

The remains of the British aristocracy have enjoyed more support from the heritage industries so they are not so desperate to sell grandpa's favourite Turner. Nor is it only the upper-classes who are holding on to their trinkets. The middle classes, too, thanks to programmes such as The Antiques Road Show, are more inclined to keep heirlooms knowing that the most unexpected objects can now increase their value.

What are now referred to as "collectibles" - things of value which are not strictly antique - are an increasingly popular subject for sales. In September, a small cardboard ticket to a baseball game is estimated to sell at Sotheby's for pounds 6,300. At a recent auction, a cardboard cut-out of the Spice Girls sold for more than pounds 500.

"Some collectibles are far more valuable than antiques," said Ivan MacQuisten, deputy editor of Antiques Trade Gazette. "For instance, a Faberge egg, say, which isn't strictly antique but early 20th century."

Ms Smith added: "Suddenly stuff from the 1950s to the 1970s, which would have been viewed in a sneering way until recently, is moving into a very wide market; it's what's available at a reasonable price that most people can still afford."

The cover of Christie's magazine gives a good insight into the state of the antiques market. "Ten years ago it always showed pictures of classic antiques," says Mr MacQuisten. "Now it's just as likely to be Eric Clapton's guitar."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Manager / New Product Manager

£33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company mission is to be th...

Recruitment Genius: Software Tester

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Software Tester is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Developer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: The Company sells mobile video advertising sol...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have a vacancy within our ra...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project