Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Hunting Expedition

It's not easy to motivate me to be up and out of the house by 6:15 am, but the opportunity to visit the largest antiques fair in Europe proved to be a strong enough incentive.  The Newark Antiques & Collectors Fair is held several times a year about two hours north of London. 

A group of about 30 women from the AWC boarded a bus in Kensington at 7 am Thursday morning and headed out for a full day of bargain-hunting.  We were well-armed with tote bags, tape measures, shopping trolleys, and of course snacks and drinks for the ride home.  As we passed a small aviation museum on the way in, the bus driver warned us, "Don't buy an old airplane.  It won't fit on the bus on the way back!"  Uh, OK...

I was astonished that they would hold an antiques fair outdoors in England, but we were blessed with lovely weather -- blue skies and sunshine are a rare treat! I'm not sure what this area is generally used for, but it reminded me of a county fairground.
Which one should I get?
I sent this photo to Josh to ask whether he would prefer the 10-foot-tall gold amazon, or the animatronic hip-hop teddy bear.  Sadly, I did not get a response, so I didn't buy either one.

With approximately 2500 stalls, there truly was a little something for everyone.  People were selling furniture, rugs, art, ceramics, glassware, china, silver, jewelry, clothing, and just about anything else that someone might collect.  Most of them were set up outdoors...
This horse would look nice in the garden...
But there were also several large pavilions where vendors selling more expensive or delicate items had tables set up.
Just one of several indoor shopping areas.
There were also a few food trucks and cafes scattered around; and since we are Americans, we were invited to take a break in the Overseas Buyers Lounge, where they had tea, coffee, fruit, and biscuits.  Even though we were there for 6 hours, we had a lot of ground to cover, so it was nice to be able to grab a bite on the go. 

I didn't take many photos because I didn't think the vendors would appreciate it, but I had to get a photo of this. Too bad the bus driver warned me not to buy it, because it would have made a great anniversary gift for Josh...
Old airplane for sale, in terrible condition...
So now that you know what I DIDN'T buy, here's what I brought home with me...  I bought these three little dishes from three different vendors.  The blue floral one in the back is ceramic, and the one with the yellow and pink chrysanthemums is cloisonne.  The bowl in the foreground is ceramic wrapped in pewter, and is very similar to one I bought in Richmond, VA several years ago, which is wrapped in brass.  That one is full of British coins, so I filled this one with American coins.
My Asian collection (coins not included)
My best find were two pieces of Moorcroft pottery.  (Can you tell I have a thing for ceramics?)  Moorcroft is a brand of art pottery that has been made in England for over 100 years.  The antique pieces sell for over £1000, and the new ones generally cost at least £150, so I wasn't really expecting to find any bargains here, but I did stop to admire the pieces I saw for sale.  Towards the end of the day, I came across a guy selling some cute ceramic items, and was about to ask about the price of something when I noticed an assortment of Moorcroft in the back of his stall.  Factory seconds! 

I ended up buying a "Moon Valley" vase and a "Dames Pansy" bowl (both dated 2010), each with a teeny tiny flaw in the glaze, for a fraction of the "Best Quality" price.  And, being the expert haggler that I am, I convinced the guy to take an additional £25 off the price and throw in the other small item (which I bought as a gift for someone who might read this) essentially for free. 
The trophies from my successful bargain-hunting expedition
If I had bought these two items in perfect condition at a shop, they would have cost about $890!  (And there's no way I'd ever spend that much money.)  Yes, I still ended up spending more than I originally intended to, but I think I got a great deal!

We had fun sharing our finds (and our drinks and snacks) on the bus on the way home.  Some of the other ladies even bought furniture -- mostly small items like bar stools and a chair.  At least they were guaranteed a seat on the Tube on the way home!

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