Weekend: Antiques: Toast the Collecting Boom; Harry Hawkes, the Post's Collecting Correspondent, Looks at Some of the Recent Books Which Are Essential Reference Works for Enthusiasts

Article excerpt

Byline: Harry Hawkes

With an estimated one in three of the population in the United Kingdom claiming that their favourite pastime is collecting, there is little wonder that there is a demand for a steady flow of information about the subjects in which they are interested.

Without doubt television has picked up on this with an unprecedented flurry of programmes: The Antiques Roadshow, Cash in the Attic, Bargain Hunt and FlogIt. Even car boot sales have been given an airing on the small screen recently.

Recently, at one of the Big Brum antiques and collectible fair in the rebuilt Bullring, I overheard two of the dealers discussing the situation brought about by television.

'The trouble is the viewers have seen how much money the contestants lose each and suddenly everyone wants to be a dealer!' he quipped.

It is difficult to assess whether this tremendous increased interest in collecting is a phenomenon, the result of, or the reason for, vastly increased television exposure.

However, it is worth noting that it has all the hallmarks of being more than a passing fad. Attendances at antiques and collectables' fairs and, of course, car boot sales have never been better.

Furthermore, it is not just here in the UK that it is enjoying a boom time. Collectors from as far as South Africa, the USA, Germany, France, Holland and Spain are arranging sightseeing tours to Britain with itineraries which make provision for visiting the huge mega fairs which are held here.

The two-monthly International Antiques and Collectors Fair held at the Newark and Nottinghamshire Showground at Newark is the biggest fair of its kind in Europe with as many as 4,000 sellers' pitches.

'It is our proud boast that given the time to search, there is nothing, absolutely nothing - providing it is legal - that you cannot find here,' Caroline Cleary from DMG Antiques Fairs at Newark told me. 'We even had a Russian tank for sale here at one fair.'

And as I watched the huge articulated container lorries being crammed with furniture, lamps and other furnishings, ready for resale to our Euro-neighbour collectors, I felt relief that I was not undertaking that journey.

Mind you, there are many British collectors who are keen to do exactly that. Well, almost. For there is a good deal more comfort in the coaches taking British collectors on tours to any Brocantes inBeziers, Paris, Lille, Reims, Nancy. Already, it is possible to find the occasional coach firm which has specialised drivers and couriers familiar with the routes, refreshment stops and bed and breakfast accommodation and anything else you want to know.

For further information ring James Edwards, Antiques Tour Specialist, on 01732 842 074.

He is running his next Antiques Safari Tour weekend on October 2 and 3. He is contactable at www.antiques-safari.co.uk or on email: jcetravel@aol.com Incidentally, Mr Edwards' next antiques safari tour is an 'Amazing Amiens' weekend on October 2 and 3 with such an early start at the fair that bargain hunters should take a torch with them. …