Green shoots in the market for the most iconic of all English furniture was among the more encouraging findings of the Antique Furniture Price Index in 2012.
Alongside ample evidence of the continued
difficulties in the antique furniture market as a whole, the index
recorded a small rise in the stock of Georgian mahogany.
As a whole the index, based on a blend of
retail and auction prices for 1400 typical (rather than
exceptional) items pictured in John Andrews' book British
Antique Furniture, fell by 3% last year. Set at 100 when Mr
Andrews began the project in 1968, the Index reached a high of 3575
in 2002 but now stands at 2391, a level it last saw in the mid
This reflects falls in six of the seven
major categories from which the Index is derived with Oak (-5%),
Walnut (-6%) Regency (-5%) and Early Victorian (-6%) pieces all
feeling the pinch.
"This year's update of the ACC Index comes
at the end of a depressed decade for antique furniture," says Mr
Andrews. "Many dealers have closed up shop completely; some of the
remaining traders cluster together at fairs like besieged Wild West
pioneers in covered wagons.
"On the other hand, in late 2012 reports
circulated of improved sales of antique furniture and the
fashionable disdain for Georgian-style mahogany seems to be
Early Mahogany, a category based on
good-quality, middle-range pieces made between 1730 and 1760,
during which the reputation of English furniture was established,
rose 3% in 2012.
While large amounts of Victorian and
Edwardian mahogany furniture continues to be discarded cheaply at
auction (the separate Victorian & Edwardian index registered
another double-digit fall at -14%), the Late Mahogany (c.1760-1800)
category also fared relatively well, registering only a small drop
(-1%) - and this despite the continued decline in formal dining
furniture and the fall in demand for pieces too bulky for the
"The latter part of 2012 had some cheerful
signs of better activity and optimism about the market. It is still
not possible to conclude that a substantial recovery is imminent,
but the mahogany furniture that took so much criticism over the
last decade is now being viewed with much better understanding,"
"The sneers at dull brown furniture are
ignored by people simply furnishing, not necessarily collecting or
investing, to whom much good robust furniture is available at
Certainly, as so much antique furniture is
now affordable, there are signs that the rate of decline may have
slowed and the modest drop recorded in 2012 comes in the wake of
much larger falls in 2011 (-7%) and 2010 (-6%).
A fuller analysis of the numbers is
published in the February edition of Antique Collectors' Club
magazine Antique Collecting.