Television programmes like Bargain Hunt and Cash in the Attic have made antiques and collectables more and more accessible. While antique shops and sales for a long time have been popular treasure troves, the internet has created the largest antiques fair you can imagine. Hundreds of thousands of antiques are for sale around the world on auction sites such as eBay through to specialist dealer websites. It is also possible to bid online for items for sale at traditional auctions as well as browsing emporium type sites that showcase items from many dealers. Sellingantiques.co.uk claims to be a largest emporium type antiques website in the UK and features thousands of antiques for sale from over a hundred dealers. A quick search of the current 35,000 antiques offered for sale ranges from a pair of 1940s Bakerlite earrings for £10 to a 4ft high 17th century South German figure of a saint for £50,000.
Convenience and choice makes buying antiques online very attractive but buyers should beware that many of the same pitfalls apply as buying antiques face to face. The law offers some consumer protection by prohibiting commercial practices that are unfair and so dealers should provide you with the information you need to make an informed purchase including a correct description of the item and clear information on price. Always ask for a receipt that includes a description of the item. Buying online allows you to pay by credit card which also can be useful protection if there are problems later.
Meeting dealers face to face allows you to ask for a discount but don’t forget you can also do this online. Don’t be afraid to email or telephone. In any case, chatting with dealers is a great way to improve your knowledge. Remember that specialist dealers are likely to charge more than general antiques dealers, but that all antiques dealers could be open to some negotiation.
Check that dealers are members of the British Association of Antique Dealers (BADA), LAPADA, the Association of Art and Antique Dealers, or a regional association that has a code of conduct for its members. Be suspicious if an item is offered far below its market value. It might be stolen or a fake.