When watching the Antiques Roadshow we always tend to assume that the experts who wax so lyrically about contestants’ antiques have been born with antique silver spoons in their mouths, or that they have been brought up in the antiques trade like John Bly whose family business has been going in Tring for over 100 years. In fact, John Bly’s grandfather established their family business in the centre of Tring in 1891 although there exists a letterhead suggesting they had been antiques dealers since the reign of William IV. Certainly many of the Roadshow experts like John Bly himself have worked at Christies or Sotheby’s and it shows.
When it comes to knowledge about antique furniture, John Bly is at the forefront and it usually falls to him to value a Queen Anne walnut chest of drawers or a fine antique Welsh oak dresser. We wistfully look on as he pulls out the drawers and examines the dovetails, finds the secret drawer that no-one ever knew existed, then smiles effortlessly at the contestant as he suggests a price that we just know to be right. Surely, if you asked him if he was ever wrong, he would say ‘of course’ in a self effacing way, not that we would believe him.
So where would we start if we wanted to be antiques dealers? Well John Bly’s grandfather had to start somewhere. So Tring or Preston for antique furniture? Perhaps we should just give it a go and see where we get to then it will be our children and grandchildren that are born into the trade.
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