In Preston, the Antique Collectors Club Annual Furniture Index is widely considered as a yardstick for the industry. The 2010 report, published in February 2011, reported gloomy sales of traditional furniture, like Victorian cabinets and antique desks, in Preston and much of Britain.
However, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors had a different view. While the 12-month index figure showed a disappointing drop, the last few weeks of 2010 showed a pronounced upwards swing in sales. London sales were most promising – provincial auctions being less promising. However, even in Lancashire, Victorian dining chairs and Arts & Crafts furniture proved popular enough to tempt buyers to the auctions, despite the freezing temperatures.
Overall, there was a firm improvement in the percentage of antique furniture lots sold, with buyers taking a distinctly selective approach. Georgian brown furniture, even when of good quality, was hard to shift, particularly taller pieces such as antique bookcases, which often sold for far below their estimated value. However, when something proved popular, such as upholstered Victorian dining chairs (a favourite with interior designers) buyers were prepared to bid high – an indication of the retail element which has crept into auctions.
With antique dealers in Lancashire often prepared to see small returns on their purchases, rather than no return at all, now is the time to buy “low rise” furniture such as antique desks, which Preston experts say will be a good investment in years to come. The ACC concur, pointing out that the index travels in two-year cycles of peaks and troughs – with the latest dip now coming to an end. “A breeze of change is stirring” is the message from their chairman.
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