The Art & Antiques for Everyone (AAfE) fair took place on November 25-28 at the NEC Birmingham for the first time since the venue was forced to close its doors due to the coronavirus outbreak in early 2020.
The atmosphere was buzzing with anticipation and a little bit of trepidation, due to the occasionally mixed results at some antiques fairs that had occurred since the easing of restrictions.
However, the dealers that signed up were pleasantly surprised, with some even saying it was the best opening day they have ever had at an antiques fair.
On Thursday more than 2000 people attended, many with the intention to make purchases, leading to an exceptionally busy sale day. The rest of the weekend, while quieter than the Thursday, still attracted a steady stream of buyers and significant sales continued throughout all four days.
Noticeably, the buyers seemed to be both a mix of international and home-grown collectors, with people having travelled from China, the US and Germany among others.
Several new clients attended as well as returning ones, leading to business relationships being both forged and strengthened.
Michael Lines from John Newton Antiques was initially concerned that the latest Covid restrictions would be too much hassle for people to come, as the NEC was checking vaccine status on the door, but this did not seem to deter any customers.
He personally had around 49 sales, including two studio pottery figures, a Ram and a Giraffe by Elfriede Balzar-Kopp (1904-83), bought by the same customer for a total of £1790.
Other dealers with a considerable number of sales included Julian Eade, Art of the Imagination and Cooper & Castell.
Cooper & Castell sold 30 pieces on the first day and Eade did similarly well with 25 sold by Thursday evening. Mike Emeny of Art of the Imagination recorded more than £20,000 worth of sculptures sold over the four days, with flat art and books sales also impressing.
Although not all dealers had a great start to the fair, almost all of them ended on a positive experience.
Mark Goodger was one of those, with his most significant sales occurring on the Saturday and Sunday from both new and returning clients. One new customer purchased around £15,000 worth of pieces, including two René Lalique car mascots and a trio of sterling silver condiment urns.
Furniture was also flying off the stands of Melody Antiques and Jeroen Markies, with multiple large pieces being snapped up.
Callum Jackson from Jacksons Antique in Grantham, Lincolnshire, revelled in the opportunity to stand at his first in-person fair, having begun the business in 2019.
He was nervous to start with, having done only online marketing and selling previously, but the fair proved to be a resounding success for him. One of the most sought-after pieces on Jackson’s stand was a 20th century original enamel Pickfords sign that he had originally bought for his own home but ended up bringing with him as an eye-catching item for the stand. After fielding a number of interested buyers, this sold to a very happy new client for £1300.
With an 80% immediate re-book from the standing dealers, as well as several new bookings, AAfE organiser Dan Leyland from Mad Events is optimistic about the future of antique fairs after the pandemic eventually eases properly.
The next AAfE will take place from April 7-10, 2022, at the NEC Birmingham, and both organisers and dealers will be hoping for a similarly successful event.