The UK antiques market is always changing - so what is happening now and how can collectors take advantage of it?

“The overall market is picking up now," says Marco Forgione, chief executive of BADA, the British Antique Dealers Association. “Eighteen months ago it was causing concern but now it is improving across the board. The low value of Sterling means overseas buyers are attracted to the UK market, but the home market is also reviving."

"There is always a healthy market for the finest objects but now mid-range items are attracting more interest.”

Tastes are changing too. “The minimalist aesthetic that has dominated for a long time is breaking down now, and people are showing greater interest in more diverse items. They are looking to furnish their homes with a few exciting, interesting pieces that combine artistic appeal with a compelling narrative, which they place among more contemporary designs.”

Thus good examples of design and ethnographic and folk art are being mixed with more traditional antiques, adding vibrancy to this blended approach.

As for prices, renewed interest in mid-market objects means that prices, currently reasonable, are  likely to rise. Forgione says: “For instance, at present antique furniture is relatively inexpensive, and can be found for prices similar to those of contemporary mass-market pieces, which do not have the same qualities as antique pieces.”

“The minimalist aesthetic that has dominated for a long time is breaking down now."

When it comes to deciding what to buy, Forgione says: “Antique items can be aesthetically pleasing, have interesting heritage and they are sustainable. Whatever you choose, buy something you like, and which will give you pleasure for years to come.”

He recommends using a dealer. “Find a dealer that you like and trust, and talk to them about what you want. They should be able to tell you about the manufacture of the object, it's provenance and how to care for it. One of the joys of buying antique items is that they each have their own histories and stories, which dealers often know.” BADA dealers have a code of conduct and are vetted annually to check their level of knowledge, expertise, business practices, and the quality of their stock.

Once you have bought your object, look after it carefully. Forgione says: “Many high street furniture polishes leave a residue that could potentially damage antique furniture, and some silver cleaning products can affect the look of the object.” Ask your dealer about cleaning or check for guidance on the BADA website.


Forgione has selected examples of items that could be bought now for three different levels of investment – around £500, £5,000 and £50,000.

£500: An excellent complete set of Cecil Beaton's Diaries, with original dust jackets. First editions, first printings (except Years Between and Parting Years which are second impressions). 6 volumes. (£550 from Beaux Books)

£5,000: Anglo-Indian Stag Horn Box, c. 1855 Possibly by Chinniah, a master craftsman in Waltair (now part of Visakhapatnam), India. This intricate sandalwood box is overlaid with strips of horn from the Sambar Deer. (£4,800 from Peter Petrou)

£50,000: Landslide, acrylic on cotton duck by John Hoyland. (50,000 from Alan Wheatley Art)