What to consider when selling antiques and collectables

Frederick Gore (1913-2009) Lavender Fields, oil on canvas sold by Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood

Frederick Gore (1913-2009) Lavender Fields, oil on canvas. Sold for £6,500 - Credit: Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood

If you're considering selling a family heirloom, an antique piece of furniture or rare artwork, it's important to seek specialist advice to make sure you're getting the best possible deal. 

Nic Saintey, director and head of the ceramics department at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood in Exeter, answers some frequently asked questions about selling antiques and collectables at auction. 

Q: Firstly, why is it a good idea to invest in antiques and collectables?

A 19th century heart-shaped amethyst and diamond brooch sold by Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood

A 19th century heart-shaped amethyst and diamond brooch. Sold for £1,350 - Credit: Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood

Acquiring and buying art and antiques is an investment in pleasure – there's joy in owning something beautiful and rare, or an item that reminds you of your childhood. Investment for investment's sake is something that should be done dispassionately, in a similar fashion to buying and selling shares.

Q: What types of items sell well?

A Wemyss pottery cat. Sold for £980 sold by Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood

A Wemyss pottery cat. Sold for £980 - Credit: Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood

If you asked three different auctioneers, you would get 12 different answers. People will always buy what they like, not what their neighbour likes. For me, it’s provincial pottery. Show me a piece of North Devon pottery, with a thumb print in the glaze, and I’ll be first in the queue to bid for it. 

In broad terms, our digital age favours small portable things over the large. It goes without saying that the rarest and highest quality items are most desirable to those who can afford them.

Q: How can I get my items valued?

Obviously I am biased and will extoll the virtues of an auction house, who provide free verbal valuations. We are also happy to advise on the basis of digital images, although there is no substitute to handling an object, which can be done at one of our regular valuation days around the county, at the saleroom in Exeter and of course, home visits are available too.

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Q: Is there anything I need to know or be wary of before selling?

A reputable valuer will always make you aware of what you need to know and of any potential costs that could be incurred. Their transparent terms and conditions can be found on any paperwork and their website.

Q: Where’s the best place to sell antiques and collectables?

A Louis XV kingwood, inlaid and gilt metal mounted commode sold by Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood

A Louis XV kingwood, inlaid and gilt metal mounted commode. Sold for £2,700 - Credit: Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood

Auctions are a great place to sell antiques and collectables, bluntly, because the person prepared to pay the most gets the item. Whilst there is perhaps comfort in being given a specific sum for your item, there is always the nagging doubt of whether it could have fetched more. There is nothing like online auctions, backed up by expertise to maximise competition.

Q: Any other considerations or tips for selling?

Always get good advice and don’t be afraid to ask if there’s something you don’t quite understand. Whilst damage will affect the price, don’t be tempted to restore, repair or polish an item before seeking professional advice. You might think you are improving the item, when in fact you are often doing the opposite.

Sometimes we are presented with lots of ‘shiny’ things, but from experience it is often the most unexpected item that has the highest value.

Q: Why sell with Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood? 

Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood is committed to the highest standards of ethics and integrity and has a successful track record for identifying, valuing and selling fine art, antiques and collectables. Our specialists can give you a free valuation and we will also advise you on the most appropriate sale method for your item or items. We also have regular specialist sales that attract international attention.

To find out more about buying and selling antiques and fine art, go to bhandl.co.uk. You can also visit the saleroom at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood; St Edmund's Court; Okehampton Street; Exeter; Devon;
EX4 1DU.