Shopping for Antiques in London
by Terry & Doris Michaud
In a previous column, we discussed the wonderful array of street markets in London, Including Portobello Road, Camden Passage, Bermondsey and several others. The markets are always fun to explore and search out that "sleeper" that is just waiting for you to discover.
Unfortunately, the majority of the dealers are only at the markets on one or two days a week, and more often than not your trip takes you to London on a day or days when the markets are simply not available.
A toy specialist's stall offers a grand array of hand-painted lead figures
Not to worry! There are a number of indoor antique markets similar in scope to what we call antique malls, where a hundred or more dealers rent stalls and display their specialities for your selection.
These markets have two big pluses for the collector. First, they are generally open every day, which gives you much more flexibility in scheduling a visit. Secondly, the majority of the dealers are experienced in their trade and tend to offer top of the line goods.
Keystone Traders partners Bill and Rosemary Hayes add two more teddies to their collection
In fact, most of the dealers operate their stalls full time and are well versed in their particular speciality. It is also rare to find a fake or a reproduction in these full-time venues, where they turn up on a more regular basis in the stalls of the part-time dealer or the dealer who has no speciality but tends to offer whatever he or she can find to sell. More often than not they have been taken in and simply are unaware the item is not genuine.
If it's high-end art and antiques you are seeking, the best selection will be found in the galleries and shops concentrated in London's West End, especially In the St. James and Bond Street areas. Other areas to consider would include King's Road, Fulham Road, Kensington Church Street and Pimlico, to name but a few. Most hotels can provide booklets describing the antique markets and where to locate them.
One of our favourite stops is Grays Antique market and Grays Mews in the heart of London's West End. Take the underground to Bond Street station and ask someone where the markets are. The two buildings are filled with better quality antiques and collectables and you are sure to discover a rare treasure here.
Or, head north to the Hampstead Antique and Crafts Emporium, located in the heart of historic Hampstead, where you will find over 30 antique traders under one roof. Here, you will find everything from Art Deco silver and jewellery, to furniture, paintings, handbuilt wooden toys, glass, china, textiles, limited edition teddy bears and even fossils.
Backpacks are ideal for carrying purchases and keeping your hands free
Alfies Antique market is on Church Street and advertises their hours as open Tuesday to Saturday, although a fair number of the stalls are only open on Saturdays. Alfies can be reached by taking the underground to Edgeware Road or Marylebone stations and walking several blocks from there. Best to ask directions before setting off.
Build some spare time into your day's planning, as unplanned delays are common. While some of the market dealers will accept payment by credit card, It"s always wise to have extra cash on hand so you don't have to seek out a bank in the middle of a transaction. There are any number of foreign exchange offices in and around most of the markets, but you pay a premium exchange rate over a regular bank.
It is worth a call or visit to London's auction houses to check their schedule of auctions. With a little luck and advance planning, you may hit one that is featuring your field of interest.
Britain for Collectors is written by Terry & Doris Michaud, internationally known in the world of teddy bear collectors. They have authored 5 books on collecting and regularly write features for magazines in the U.S. and abroad. In a partnership with Bill & Rosemary Hayes, they conduct annual collector's tours to Great Britain.