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This original Antiques For Everyone event has since spawned a spring and a winter staging, but it is the original August fixture which established the formula with Section 1 in a smart standfitted area with datelines for most stock (furniture, for example pre-1914), and the more relaxed, bustling Section 2 with most items pre-1950.

However, as regular visitors to these fairs know well, the two sections each have their following and if anything it is Section 2 which attracts most business. Certainly some very good dealers who are well up to Section 1 standard choose to show in the more ‘downmarket’ section, which is the area that tends to get a rush of customers when the doors open.

But wherever they are situated, organiser Fran Foster insists that (as far as possible) every item on sale is vetted by the 180-strong vetting

The fair was initiated and is still run by Fran Foster for Centrex, the NEC’s organising arm, and she deserves credit for establishing a truly major event at a time of year previously considered a wilderness in terms of business.

With around 160 standholders, this summer’s Section 1 is smaller than usual, but the 400 stands in Section 2 is what the organisers generally claim, although I have never actually counted.

At a fair this size there is bound to be a turnover of dealers and among those making their debut are De Porcelyne Lampetkan from Delft, Peter Bunting from Bakewell with early oak (who has previously exhibited at the NEC as part
of a group stand), James Wigington from Warwickshire with arms and armour, Manhattan Transfer from Glasgow with Arts Nouveau and Deco and Louise Phillips Antiques from Harrogate with period furniture.
Well-known Hampshire marine pictures specialist John Morton Lee returns to the NEC.

A loan exhibition of auto-mata, musical boxes, barrel organs, polyphons and all manner of other mechanical music items from Keith Harding’s award-winning private museum in Gloucestershire should prove an entertaining loan exhibition.

The fair is held in Hall 5 of the NEC and admission is £8.