November 14 is the 74th birthday of our new king. As Charles III, he has brought in the new Carolean era – indeed Carolean has been chosen as one of the words of the year.
Major events in Royal life are always accompanied by a fresh release of memorabilia. From Coronation mugs to Jubilee tea towels, almost every household has had at least one item pass through its doors at one time or other.
The Royal Family mean different things to different people, from the staunch royalist to the anti-monarchist, but none can dispute that their presence and impact on public life is as far-reaching and important today as it has ever been.
Those worried that the campaigning frankness of Prince Charles, especially on matters of the environment and architecture, would continue once he had donned the crown, making the role more political, can now rest assured that will not happen.
The new king has clearly learnt from the unrivalled experience of his mother, the late Queen, and is set to put his own stable regal stamp on the coming years.
This creates the ideal circumstances for cultivating a new era of collecting in the royal memorabilia sphere, and this will undoubtedly start with the Coronation in May.
The king is known for wanting a stripped back monarchy and less opulent start to his reign – a noble and sensitive approach in these straitened times – but even he is unlikely to deny his many devotees the opportunity to obtain a small keepsake of what will still be a grand and landmark occasion.
The earliest surviving pieces of Royal memorabilia, some dating to the previous Carolean period of Charles II, can make six-figure sums. However, even Diamond Jubilee mugs specially made for children to mark Queen Victoria’s 60 years on the throne in 1897, appear at auction regularly and can be had for around £150-200. Similar prices can be had for subsequent Coronation mugs, including those for George V and Edward VIII, whose short-lived reign meant that he was never actually crowned.
The BBC becomes an antique on October 18 as it celebrates its 100th birthday. TV has proved a wonderful format for antiques programmes thanks to the magical mix of culture, cash and treasure hunt.
Everyone dreams of having a hidden fortune in the attic. Remember Del Boy and Rodney, from Only Fools And Horses, and the great Harrison watch that brought them millions at Sotheby’s?
This mixture of hope and fascination has made the Antiques Roadshow one of the great BBC success stories of the past half century. But it is not alone in pulling in the viewers and making stars of antiques dealers and auction house specialists.
Some of you will remember the first TV star from the antiques world, a rather unlikely celeb in the form of the late Arthur Negus, who wooed the public with his knowledge of furniture in the late 1960s on Going for a Song. Negus had been an auction house specialist but attracted a cult following thanks to his popular scholarship and a smooth and calm delivery that was the vocal equivalent of a rich patina.
He also made us curious and showed how a thirst for knowledge could widen our aesthetic appreciation and understanding of history, as well as arm us better when in search of a bargain. He took that knowledge onto the Antiques Roadshow when it first launched in 1979, setting the tone and format for the next few decades
Many other experts have proven to be TV friendly down the years, helping to create healthy audience figures for the Beeb and its rivals, as well as entertaining and educating the public more widely on the greatest commercial game of them all. It is indisputable that his enthusiasm and the programmes that followed helped bring the populace en masse into the saleroom and bidding online in a way they did not do before.
So as the BBC celebrates 100, let’s salute Arthur Negus for what he started.
Students have headed back to college, pupils to schools, but there are also a lot of new graduates and school leavers looking to their careers now. Should they consider becoming auctioneers?
Having started at the bottom and worked my up, I have no regrets. I still think the best way in is the traditional one: starting as a porter at one of the larger auction houses, graduating to cataloguing and developing specialist knowledge in your chosen field while studying for a fine arts valuation qualification. There aren’t many courses left around the country, but they are worth doing if this game is for you.
A lot of the auction business has already gone online and I have no doubt that more will in future. However, I also believe that there will always be brick-and-mortar salerooms for people to visit, view and handle the goods first, particularly at the top end of the market where prices run into the millions. We sell via both channels.
Greeting buyers and browsers face to face in the saleroom means we have the best of both worlds: the chance to deal with people and things. I suspect that has more appeal to most people than cutting out the live human element of the transactional process.
If the past couple of years have taught me anything, it is that the young are very resourceful, tackling the challenges of the pandemic in inspirational ways by harnessing the internet and social media. That tells me that many of them also have the talent to develop the next generation of the international art and antiques market as fresh ideas and ways of selling emerge in tandem with collecting fields.
Auctioneering as a career still holds a lot of promise and the chances of setting up your own business and working for yourself in the long term are greater than in most other industries. It’s something you might want to have a think about.
Keeping a detailed record of what you purchase, whatever it is, is essential, not just to prove when and where you bought it, but also to show that it really does legally belong to you.
The other reason is that the more detailed a record you have of what you own, the more attractive it will be to others if you ever decide to sell it, and so the more valuable it can become.
So what sort of information should you get hold of and keep?
Where and when you bought it, the receipt itself, especially if it has a lot of detail about the item on it, and whether it has appeared anywhere in a book or catalogue. If you have any information as to its history of ownership (provenance) all the better. Even better, include photographs of it among the paperwork. So if you bought it online at auction, it is a good idea to take a screengrab of the piece on the auctioneer’s website along with the lot details.
Keeping detailed records is just as important for items of value that you inherit or acquire as gifts. So if you have access to that information, all the better. And it can also be handy when it comes to insuring your property. Remember, individual items over a certain value will need to be listed separately for cover.
All of this has become much more important in recent years as the art, antiques and vintage market has become a global phenomenon. Anyone hoping to import rare and valuable items at customs now has to have much better paperwork proving legality and ownership than ever before, so developing good habits when it comes to what is known as due diligence is what it’s all about.