There is an art to buying antiques, so the palette has to be perfect for the outcome to be pleasing; Knowing the best places to purchase is crucial, if you want to make an opportune investment. Whereas antique shops and auction houses used to be the go to, the surge of the internet now means that there are many more ways. It’s just a case of knowing where to go…
So, we’ve put together a list of the 10 best places to buy antiques, depending on how you like to shop and what your purpose is. The top four are all online services, which provide a much more convenient way of shopping and offer a greater diversity and quantity of objects. If you still prefer browsing in person, allowing you to inspect items of interest before you buy and speak to the seller about them, then skip to number 7.
Before you purchase, be sure to read our article on how to spot genuine antiques, so as you don’t get swindled.
1. Online Antique Shops
Many antique shops now have their own online stores, so you can visit your favourite ones without even leaving the house! Rest assured here at Nimbus Antiques, we offer exactly that, and though we may be biased, our online antique shop is the best place to buy if you are looking for fine antique furniture.
If you don’t have a particular shop in mind, but want to make sure you are buying from a trustworthy seller, then the LAPADA (Association of Art & Antique Dealers) is a brilliant place to start. They recently introduced their online marketplace, which boasts a bank of over 17,000 unique objects from over 550 certified dealers, who all adhere to a common code of practice and comply with consumer protection laws. If you are a new antique collector, this is a good place to familiarise yourself with reputable dealers.
2. Online Auctions
Online auction sites are very popular as they remove the physical and geographical limitations of an auction and increase the target audience, thus they have heightening online e-commerce. Be cautious of unlawful activities though, such as selling fakes, sellers not sending purchased items and shill bidding (where the seller raises the price by placing a fake bid) and only bid on authorised and trusted sites, such as these three:
- Ebay: Being the oldest and thus having the largest user base, paired with an easy to use interface, Ebay takes top place. The selling fees can be a little steep though.
- Bonanza: Rapidly becoming one of the leading online marketplaces, Bonanza’s Collectables & Art section is a great place to bid for antiques.
- eBid: Offering some of the lowest fees for sellers, eBid attracts many, so you can be sure to find a diversity of objects.
3. Online Marketplaces
Many online marketplaces now have antique and collectable sections, and with such a vast quantity available at the click of your finger, prices have become increasingly competitive, meaning you can often find a jem for a reasonable price. These are great havens for homeowners who want to add a touch of vintage, at an affordable price. As with the online auction sites, keep your wits about you and only buy through well established and respected sites. Here are our top picks:
- RubyLane: Established in 1998, RubyLane specialises in antiques, fine arts, jewelry and collectibles. They have strict requirements for sellers and restrictions on what can be sold, meaning there is less haggling, but a higher calibre of goods.
- Etsy: Branching out from its reputation of selling primarily handmade goods, Etsy now has a huge vintage market, under Art & Collectables.
4. Live Online Auctions
Bridging the gap between live auctions and online auction sites, live online auctions allow you to experience the thrill of a live auction without having to travel to one. As they become more and more popular, some of the most prestigious auction houses, like Christie’s, now host their own. There are also sites set up especially for the purpose, offering a wider range of antiques and the ability to host several auctions at once.
Be sure to read the Spruce’s article on what you need to know before placing an online bid. Knowledge is power.
5. Live Auctions
Christie’s auction room, 1808, William Combe. (Wikimedia Commons)
Nothing beats a live auction like a live auction. Steeped in tradition, the buzz is contagious and it’s brilliant to be able to bid, win and walk away with your prize all in the space of a few hours! These give you the opportunity to inspect the objects before they go up for auction, asking any questions about their condition or heritage. These are hosted at auction houses, the most famous in the UK being Christie’s and Sotheby’s, who deal in high end art and collectables and are well worth a visit. There are of course many less upmarket auction houses throughout the country, and the further from London you travel, the lower the starting bid tends to be.
6. Collection Sales
A collection sale is when an individual or family auction off their possessions through an auction house, and the most popular ones tend to be those linked to people with celebrity status and held in their own homes. The most famous collection sale of all time was in 1848, when the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos auctioned off his possessions at Stowe House, due to the threat of bankruptcy. The sale lasted 40 days and made the equivalent of £5 million today.
7. Antique Shops
Throughout the UK, there are hundreds of brilliant independant antique shops like Nimbus Antiques in Whaley Bridge.
What is better than one antique shop though? A whole street of them! A gold mine for antique amblers, offering an afternoon rifling through treasure chest after treasure chest. Take a stroll down Pimlico road, near Sloane Square and you will find no fewer than 20 fabulous antique shops, each specialising in a different area or era. Antique shopping is contagious and you may well find yourself planning trips or holidays to destinations rife with antique shops. If that be the case, let us point you in the right direction of a few british towns and villages well worth a visit:
Battlesbridge Antiques Centre, Essex – Up to 80 antiques dealers
Hungerford, Berkshire – 18 antique shops
- Petworth, West Sussex – 35 antique shops.
Tetbury, Gloucestershire – 20 antique stores and centres
- Honiton, Devon – 85 antique dealers operating out of 17 locations.
Check out this article on the best Antique Towns and Villages in the UK for the low-down on each of these places. If you’re willing to go a little further afield, the Antiques Diva, run tours introducing you to Europe’s best kept secrets about where to buy antiques.
8. Antique Fairs
Throughout the UK there are numerous fantastic vintage fairs, which make for a great day out for all the family! They are especially useful for interior designers who have a look in mind, but want to browse from an abundance of different traders and enjoy a good haggle. Here are some of the biggest and most prestigious ones:
- Peterborough Festival of Antiques is one of the largest UK fairs
- Alexandra Palace Antiques & Collectors Fair is one of the largest in London
- The Annual Buxton Antiques Fair and the Antiques Fair at Olympia are high end fairs
- Ardingly International Antiques and Collectors Fair, is the largest in the south
- Newark International Antiques and Collectors Fair is longstanding
- The Arthur Swallow fair at Lincolnshire Showground is a bi monthly event
- Bermondsey Antique Market is one of London’s oldest Antique fairs
9. Flea Markets & Car Boot Sales
Many markets now sell new and imported goods, but if you’re up for a bit of treasure hunting, they can be a great place to find a bargain. If you’re an antique dealers looking for new stock, and know exactly how to spot an antique (sometimes before the seller ever realised it) As they say: ‘The early bird catches the worm’ – so make sure you get there in good time.
There are lots of flea markets all over London, but here are some of the best for antiques:
- The Greenwich vintage market is a traditional flea market with over 40 traders
- Portobello is the world’s largest and most famous flea market, largely thanks to the film ‘Notting Hill.’
- Camden Passage is a quirky flea market in North London.
- The Big London Flea as part of Hackney Flea, is in East London.
- Car boot sales are great for bargain hunters and . The fact that each sale brings largely a new wave of vendors, means there are always new treasures to be found.
- Wimbledon car boot sale is open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays
- Battersea car boot sale is on every Sunday
- Chiswick car boot sale is on the first Sunday of every month.
10. Bric-a-brac & Charity Shops
Last but not least- everyone’s favourite rummaging spot. Often antiques are vetted by local antique dealers before they make it into the shop window, however there are a few pieces that fall through the net. Every time you pop into a charity shop, have a glance around to see if anything jumps out at you and then consult our guide to be sure. You never know what you might find…