Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

THE press release that accompanies this Mighty Miller’s 25th anniversary edition tells me that someone somewhere buys a Miller’s book every two minutes. I am unsure why I need to know this or how this calculation is arrived at, but what I do know is that last year’s guide is reduced at my local remainder bookshop to £15.99 while Antiques Under £1000, published this April at £16.99, is selling at £9.99.

Rather edgily, the press release also comments that 25 years after the guide’s introduction in 1979 it is “still streets ahead of the competition and remains the No 1 best-selling antiques title in the world”. But competition is surely catching up from Judith Miller’s Antiques Price Guide published for Dorling Kindersley and in its second all-colour year. Bothered by this all-colour production, Miller’s would seem to have blown a chunk of their budget and this year’s cover carries the strap Now All in Full Colour!, which is a slight variation to the strap in the Mitchell Beazley catalogue which carries the message “25 years as No. l Antiques Price Guide”.

It may well have “thousands of photographs illustrated”, but these are, after all, submitted by auctioneers and dealers or in some cases downloaded from the Net, while Judith and her team of photographers hurl round the country taking very good quality photographs in situ – both books have some 8000 images.

My gripes about the Miller’s Price Guide 2004 are to do with its confusion with itself. Pick a card, any card: take commemorative ware. This appears as one example per page, on pages 242, 246, 259, 266, 290, 457 and 748 under, respectively flatware (pottery), jugs and ewers, transfer-printed pottery, lustreware, flatware (porcelain), Doulton and sport. The descriptive information on subjects are jammed onto the pages and increasingly the layout looks confusing. The book does now probably need a redesign and a rethink about how all this information is presented. But the advertisers obviously love it. A plus point as a reference, in this anniversary year the guide has a feature highlighting a special collection offered for sale or auction during the past 25 years.

By comparison Judith’s Antiques Price Guide 2004 reminds me of Mrs Patrick Campbell’s remark about the “deep peace of the double bed after the hurly-burly of the chaise longue” as it is such an even and intelligent book, even though it is not without its sniping moment as it declares on its cover that it is the “best all-colour, all-new guide guide”. There are many examples of the upmarket approach. DK use the word Oriental on a section subhead, while the more outdated descriptions Chinese Ceramics and Japanese Ceramics appear in Miller’s. DK have detailed subject descriptions of their chosen highlights, ie Nanking Cargo under Shipwreck Cargoes, the pages aren’t littered with fact boxes and, very importantly the layout, crucial when presenting so much data, is crisp and modern, making reading this book so much easier – we’re in calmer waters here.

Look up commemorative wares and the main chunk of it is from pages 73-80, plus some well thought out information, and there are just two other references on pages 82 and 106. This guide is my bet for the top-selling antiques price guide of the future.