The key to finding vintage and retro furniture is simply to search. Antique shops, bric-a-brac shops, interiors stores, flea markets, car boot sales, and auction rooms – you might find a vintage gem anywhere, even in the most unexpected of places. There are also specialist vintage and retro stores such as Scaramanga, where you will often get a bargain. However, you should always check to see if they are authentic vintage items, rather than pieces that are just not new.
Of course the internet – eBay in particular – is also an invaluable resource for finding items, or for gathering ideas and price ranges. We recommend buying only from reputable sellers and dealers, because it is very difficult to really examine items online.
Here’s a short guide to buying vintage and retro furniture and interiors at auction.
Guide to buying at auction:
1. Contact the relevant auction house and request their catalogue/auction list. Some list their lots online. Most auction houses hold regular auction sales with a catalogue printed some weeks in advance. You can also subscribe to catalogue mailing lists.
2. Go through the catalogue carefully, read the details thoroughly and identify the retro furniture you are interested in.
3. Viewing of the lot(s): viewing arrangements will be noted online/by e-mail/listed in the catalogue. View any lots you are interested in. There may only be limited viewing during the auction.
4. Research the items thoroughly. Look them up on the Internet and ask local experts/collectors for their opinions. Check the description of the lot in the catalogue is accurate.
5. Carefully read the auction house conditions printed in the catalogue. e.g. ‘sold as seen’, ‘collection and payment in full within 72 hours’. Do you know their fees? Common selling fees are 15% and buying fees are 10%.
6. Be aware that buying at auction is a binding commitment and carries the same legal implications as a signed contract by private treaty. In most cases, auction offices have copies of legal documentation.
If you are looking to buy a vintage Anglepoise Lamp here are some of the things to look for when looking at a retro lamp:
- Is the fork stamped with: ‘Anglepoise Pat in UK and abroad. Made in England by Herbert Terry and Sons Redditch’?
- Which model is it? A 1227: Does it have a Classic square stepped base, stepped bell shade with rolled rim?
- Does it work and has it been professionally re-wired or restored?
- Are the springs well coiled, tight and untarnished?
- Are there chips to the paint/dents to the shade/corrosions?
- Does the arm move freely and easily when moved?
- Is it in its original condition .i.e. it has not been touched up/painted/repaired using parts from other non-Anglepoise lamps?
- Does it have chromed fittings, original Bakelite on/off switch?
- Does it have the original felt base?
· When looking at an Anglepoise lamp, there are many more things to look out for – we have listed only some of the many factors that may affect the bid you may want submit.
· Arrive early so you can check to make sure the lots have not changed since your last viewing or since the catalogue/auction list was printed.
· How well do you know the auction house? Are there regular antique dealers/collectors who attend?
· Set yourself a price limit for the retro furniture you are looking to buy. If you are buying for your house then you may be willing to bid higher then if you are buying to sell on. Only go higher if you really can afford it and it represents good value for money.
Auction jargon buster: http://www.bbc.co.uk/homes/property/buying_auctionglossary.shtml