30 November 2012

'Vintiquing' In England

Portobello Road

I almost wrote 'Nervous Nellie' when the form asked my name,
as I registered as a buyer at an antique auction house
along with experienced antique dealers
What had I gotten myself into?

The nice man gave me my numbered card to raise during the auction
(could I exchange it for my favorite number 9, please?)
(elderly lady behind me smiles and says her mom always asked for a 3)

This was really the last frontier of buying cool vintage stuff for me
It showed my absolute dedication :)
 and I was sooooo nervous

Would I be able to understand their accent
as numbers flew out of their mouths?

Dare I remove a stray hair tickling my cheek
in fear of accidentally buying something?

Would my American accent 'out' me as a foreigner,
my shaky voice indicate my inexperience,
or would I accidentally double the price?

Here's how it worked:
I went a few days before the auction to view what was going to auction
I marked on my paper the items I was interested in (2 paintings)
The sheet indicated the opening bid
On that particular day, there were loads of furniture, artwork, and kitchen goodies
all at incredibly affordable prices/opening bids
Basically wholesale antiques!

Some of my recent purchases-
Groovy vintage printers tray by blogging friend, Vintage Sheet Addict
Authentic letter blocks from The Bothy

The day of the auction I found about 70 people in the room
The auctioneer was very easy to understand and spoke slowly (yay!)
They went through the items only by number, so I'm glad I went on preview day to view the goods
Typically only about 2 or 3 people were bidding on a particular item
The highest bidder paid for the item and took it home that day
(delivery available)

Because most of the bidders were dealers,
they would drop out from a bidding war early
as they didn't have the emotional tie to items
and needed to make a profit

I got my two paintings at half the price I would have paid at an antique fair
with no embarrassing mishaps
- plus a story to go with it and conquering the fear of auctions :)

Ardingly Antiques & Collection Fair

But if you must know, 
my happy happy place for vintiquing
held only twice a year

It is HUGE and jam-packed with vendors from all over Europe
It is open two days in a row, but only go the first day when it is full of vendors

Everything you could imagine is there
It is so freaky-good that I get giddy
each time I step foot among the treasures yet to be discovered

I have found London to be too expensive,
but nearby Surrey has some other great finds:

Hampton Court Village, East Molesey  
Dorking's West Street

I've found car boot and jumble sales have great deals 
but rarely provide good loot

The most bizarre thing I've seen in my foraging?
A container of human glass eyeballs from Victorian times(!)

My recent brocante obsession?
Kitchen scales and kitchen containers

Do you have any tips to share?
Your obsession?

- all photos by me -

More info: Ewbank Auctions
Related post: Buying Vintage In England



Sandra said...

What an interesting experience you had at the auction and on top of that you got the two pictures you wanted!
I had to laugh about your latest interest: kitchen scales (and kitchen containers), does that mean that you will start weighing things in ounces?!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Ha! Yes, after 2.5 years, I have finally surrendered to weighing ingredients :)

likeschocolate said...

What a fun experience!

Leslie said...

Yikes! Those eyeballs would creep me out a little! What a great day you had and good for you for stepping out of your comfort zone and going for it. Now you have two lovely paintings as a reward for your courage and efforts! I'm sure they are just perfect :) Personally, I would love to do this king of thing. This is where you get all the deals for gorgeous items.


Daydream Living said...

Oh am I happy to see this post! You know I love old stuff, and I mean LOVE.
Tips? No. More about this subject? Yes please!
I'll show you my desert life and you show me these gorgeous vintage posts, deal?
Cause that is something I am missing here, and I can''t see Kirsty and Phil either ....
Thanks for sharing! And for your sweet comments every time!
Virtual huggies,
(...mmh, that sounds like the diaper brand, but you know what
I mean right? )

Iota said...

I've recently made a foray into auctions! Haven't actually bought anything yet.

Vintage Sheet Addict said...

I'm definitely going to the Newark Antiques/vintage show next year! Glad my baby found such a good home! :)

A little bit Country said...

I lived near Hampton Court! Just love your posts. My obsession is Crown Lynn Crockery and have just started with their swans. I need a large granny cabinet to keep it all in. Happy weekend! xo

Barbara said...

How fun. I would have been nervous too!! So glad you were able to get your two paintings!

topchelseagirl said...

Good for you for going for it. I once went to Ardingly in November and all the cars got stuck in the mud - it was a quagmire.
In Farnham the Antiques Warehouse is also good, very close to The Packhouse it is set back from the road with fields of horses in front of it.

Pom Pom said...

I'm curious, Laura. How are you going to get all your finds home? I always look for tin cups and tin teapots. I look for handmade dolls (really old). I also look for cream pitchers and old books.

Tina @ Girl Meets Globe said...

Oh, I love this post! We'll be living in the Surrey area, so I'm glad to know there will be good vintaging near by!! Now you need to share what you do to find out about these great places! I wouldn't know where to start!

HippieGirl21 said...

Sounds fun :D Love all the retro signs there

Privet and Holly said...

I think of you and our lovely
lunch together, every time I
spy my "fortune teller's hand"
that I purchased at the Hampton
Court Village shop! Can't believe
it was just a day over a week ago
that we were in there, together.
I'd love to see the paintings that
you scored ~ bravo for having the
verve to get in there and go for it!

xo Suzanne

Joyce said...

I've got some Ardingly treasures in my house : ) The auction sounds like fun!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I find old books to be a bit irresistible too.

How am I going to get everything home? Good question. The rest of the family's stuff will be left behind. Just kidding :) Actually, I'm an excellent purger, as I can't stand having too much stuff. Things that I bought in the States that I don't love have made their way to the nearest charity shop :)

Noelle the dreamer said...

Laura, your previous post about differences made so much sense! Now I get it! Much obliged.
As to auctions, you are far more courageous than I. Never been to one in fact but love boot sales! Being such a dreamer, I go for what appeals to me on the spot (albeit I make a wee list prior). I usually come back to the States with 2 suitcases (purchased at a run in charity shoppes). I can't resist having a few home goods around me!
All the best,

Gillian said...

Fascinating! I have never bid on anything in an auction and would have been just as nervous as you, and I'm a brit.

Claire said...

i've been to auctions, but have never had the nerve to bid yet!! I want to though, just to say i can :)

Zosia said...

I have a collection of white milk glass. I've been to an auction only once, in Canada. I quite liked it.

Alicia said...


Denise said...

How wonderful that you got the paintings you wanted, Laura! I've never participated in an auction; I would definitely be a "Nervous Nellie." It sounds like you had a really good first experience and got a good deal, to boot.

As for my obsessions, I love china, silver, and crystal. But I would really love to find a couple of pretty oil paintings. When I see them around here, the price is always more than I can afford to pay right now.

Have a wonderful day!

Denise at Forest Manor

Emmy said...

Yea! Good job for attending your first auction. I have never been to one but I do love a good antique/thrift store. I love old windows that I can use to decorate- found this awesome store near me that has them for $5- total steal!

Annie @ knitsofacto said...

I'd have been nervous too! I have bid in livestock sales in the past, but that's a bit different. Clearly Surrey is the place to be to pick up some goodies!

lisaroyhandbags said...

You have no idea how envious I am of you! Auctions, boot sales, flea markets... they're my absolute favourite thing and it's one of the things I miss most being in Dubai. I had longed to move to the UK after Ireland just so I could travel to all of these wonderful sales. Maybe someday... :)

Urbanstems said...

Loving you blog too and I was giggling away about your antique auctions. I get giddy too just at the mention AUCTION!! You described it so well. Well done on getting your paintings. The auctions are definitely the way to go. You never know what you might come home with though - always bring a large car or beg a friend with a large car to travel with you!! Sinead

PURA VIDA said...

Oh I know you just had so much delight!

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

Great post and as a Dorking girl born and bred had to smile at your comments about West Street. :)

My Garden Diaries said...

Good for you for conquering your fear! And you got the pieces half off! Awesome! I love me some vintage!

susan@avintagefarmwife said...

Good for you! Before long, you will be an English auction pro. So glad I stumbled upon your blog. I am fascinated with all things England!