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ATG’s first-ever edition. The row over the introduction of VAT had well and truly begun.

It almost did not happen.

As the first edition of Antiques Trade Gazette was being finalised the printers that had been chosen to produce the issue suddenly said they could not do it in time and asked if the newspaper could be delayed by a week.

Publishing a weekly seven days late is hardly the stuff of timeliness. Somehow alternative typesetters and a press were found and issue number one was completed with the fledging staff team toiling all hours to get it over the line.

Working on that first edition alongside founder and editor Ivor Turnbull was Ian Mckay who, 50 years later, still writes for this newspaper. With no time to go back home while creating issue number one, Ian began growing the beard that he still sports today. You can find his regular column about books and works on paper on page 62-63 of this week’s issue.

No obstacle too great

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Ian McKay (and beard) outside the village from which he commuted to London – when he wasn’t working all night.

In the years that followed, the Gazette team overcame all manner of obstacles to ensure the news would reach its subscribers every week. Postal and printing strikes never stopped them, and even trade unionists could not prevent ATG going out. Secret meetings used to be held with a sympathetic typesetter who, to get around problems caused by a militant troublemaker, would do their work elsewhere and hand it over to Ian in a south London car park at 4am.

Our production processes may have changed since then but our determination to bring you the best possible newspaper every week has not.

Here we look back at some of the people and businesses that appeared in that first issue. Many, just like ATG, are still around today.

50 years of ceramics

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An article on the front page of ATG's first edition.

On the front page was an announcement of the world’s first major exhibition of Doulton art pottery staged by Richard Dennis. Half a century later, in April this year auction house Kinghams held a sale titled Richard Dennis: 50 Years Promoting British Ceramics (1971-2021).

The auction, which featured an illustrated talk from the man himself, included objects of the kind Dennis championed, many from the once-neglected field of 19th and 20th century British art pottery. As a leading dealer, scholar and publisher, Dennis helped revive interest in a range of Victorian and later potters such as Royal Lancastrian, William De Morgan, Moorcroft and the Martin Brothers.

They didn’t own a Bentley but…

A new shipping company called Vannic launched in September 1971. The news made the front page of the first ATG and the company also took out a full-page advertisement that must be a contender for the coolest ad ever to have appeared in our newspaper. It reminds us of 1970s police TV dramas or a piece of artwork for a vinyl record cover.

The photograph features a Volvo estate car, the vehicle of choice for any antiques dealer back then, which was stationed in Trevor Square in London’s Knightsbridge area.

Today, if you check Street View in Google Maps you will spot a parking attendant coming round the corner (the Volvo has long gone).

The firm appointed a new chief executive in 1975 but, according to website 192.com, Vannic International was dissolved in the late 1980s.

Auction house Debenham Coe advertised in ATG No 1. In 1975 it was taken over by Christie’s and rebranded Christie’s South Kensington, as advertised at the time in ATG.

More than four decades of selling Christie’s lower-value consignments ended in July 2017 when CSK was closed, a moment which ATG marked with a poignant front cover and eight pages of coverage inside. Bonhams marked it by taking the first two pages of advertising, putting a special cover wrap around the issue and lining up Bonhams-branded taxis outside the CSK premises. Many regional auction houses lined up to hire the ex-CSK staff and expand their roster of specialist sales.

From acquired to retired

Auction house Debenham Coe advertised in ATG No 1. In 1975 it was taken over by Christie’s and rebranded Christie’s South Kensington, as advertised at the time in ATG.

More than four decades of selling Christie’s lower-value consignments ended in July 2017 when CSK was closed, a moment which ATG marked with a poignant front cover and eight pages of coverage inside. Bonhams marked it by taking the first two pages of advertising, putting a special cover wrap around the issue and lining up Bonhams-branded taxis outside the CSK premises. Many regional auction houses lined up to hire the ex-CSK staff and expand their roster of specialist sales.

Still going…going…strong

Among the auction houses that advertised in the first ATG were Phillips; Bearnes & Waycotts of Torquay (the firm later relocated to Exeter in 1997 and became Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood following a merger. Its old address at 3 Warren Road, Torquay, is now occupied by West of England Auctions); Wallis & Wallis (still in Lewes and now located at 7-9 West Street); The Crewkerne salesrooms of TRG Lawrence (now Lawrences); Aylsham Salerooms (now Keys); McCartney, Morris & Barker of Corve Street, Ludlow (now McCartneys).

Biddle & Webb (now located on Icknield Square in Birmingham) was also in ATG No 1. The firm became the first auction house outside London to record sales of more than £1m, which it achieved in 1977.

In our 25th anniversary issue in 1996 Ernie Biddle noted the effect of appearing in the early issues of ATG: “Antiques Trade Gazette made a dramatic change to the antiques business.

“Instead of having to rely on local trade, one or two advertisements in the ATG brought trade buyers, not only from all over the country but from Europe and America as well.

“Our first advertisements in the ATG featured a pair of Edgar Hunts, a local artist for whom we had built up a reputation. That advertisement brought in enquiries and further Edgar Hunts from all over the country.

“It taught me that there was another world outside the Midlands. We couldn’t get our follow-up adverts into the ATG fast enough.

“We were attracting dealers from all over the country. The market had truly opened up.”

Gone but not forgotten

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The advert in ATG’s first issue in September 1971 for Jollys of Bath.

Ambrose Russell sent us memories of Jollys of Bath:

“I had the pleasure of working there from 1966 until it closed around 2006. I remember when the ATG first appeared and we were contacted by Chris Jukes for advertising. The ATG certainly played a big part in our advertising from the beginning and is now a main part of advertising in the auction business.

“Back then mobile phones, computers, telephone bidding and other such essentials required today didn’t exist. The auction rooms were owned by Jollys, a well-known local department store which was taken over by the House of Fraser. The auction rooms were sold to Phillips which owned them for several years until Phillips was sold out to 3i and various others and the rooms were acquired by Bonhams.

“The auction rooms finally closed down in 2006 and became a ‘gastro pub’, Bonhams moved to an office and dealt with items from there.”

Market value

An event advertised in the first issue of ATG still takes place today. Bermondsey Antique Market runs every Friday in London SE1. After lockdown ended it returned to trading in April this year under new management.

The first auction calendar

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The auction calendar in ATG’s first issue in September 1971.

The listing of forthcoming sales was revolutionary at the time. Dealers no longer had to rely on local newspaper press cuttings to find out what was going on where.

An easy reference source with all the information in one place, the auction calendar remains a unique and well-read section of the newspaper today, even with the proliferation of the internet. These days it typically runs to six or seven pages rather than the half page we published in No 1 and it includes timed online auctions. We also publish a monthly international auctions calendar along with weekly listings of fairs and markets.