ALTHOUGH since its inception 16 years ago the August Antiques For Everyone fair at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre has been overtaken in terms of business by its spring and autumn counterparts, this summer’s staging from August 8 to 11 proved the most lively NEC fair for some time.
As usual nowadays, most of the 600 exhibitors – that is the figure always quoted by the organisers and since it is sometimes a bit up, sometimes down, who is counting? – arrived and laid out their stalls with low expectations.
So, many, particularly in the smarter Section 1, were very pleasantly surprised by sales by the time they shut up shop. Actually, those who fared well would have been happy by Friday evening since most business was achieved on the first two days, and much of that on the busiest opening day for some time.
Well-known country furniture specialist Sandy Summers of Cheshire’s Adams Antiques was a dealer in quality items who enjoyed her best fair for a long while, and she has done some of the better ones this year.
Adams Antiques sold their major pieces, including a 17th century chest from the Mary Bellis Collection and an 18th century dresser base for around £15,000 to the manager of a Midlands premiership football team.
Furniture has been among the most depressed of markets of late but on this occasion it was in demand with Doveridge House of Wolverhampton, veteran NEC exhibitors who carry the largest stock of period furniture at the fair, among many reporting excellent trading.
Roy Harris, the Staffordshire clocks specialist, was understandably delighted when he sold an early 19th century striking regulator for around £16,000.
Although the trade were buying a number of furniture people were happy to see the return of their regular private customers.
Fine art of all types sold very well throughout Section 1, as did bronzes. But while silver and jewellery sales were up to par ceramics this time around flagged a little. Business in Section 2, where trading was described as “very competitive”, was not so consistent although favourites like Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts found a ready market.
Organiser Fran Foster was both pleased and relieved with this most welcome August boost. She said: “When trade buyers and serious private collectors came on the first day a real sense of optimism pervaded the fair. The level of business surprised us all, and was most welcome for those dealers who have endured such difficult trading conditions in the past year.” The official attendance figure was 24,890.