1930s Chokwe basket – £250 from Tribal Art & Textiles at the Bath Decorative Antiques Fair.

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New clients often come onto a stand not knowing exactly what they are looking for and, spotting something that takes their fancy, chat with the dealer before making an impulse purchase there and then.

Here are three such sales from the Bath Decorative Antiques Fair on April 2:

Basket case

Ian Shaw from Tribal Art & Textiles sold a 1930s Chokwe basket to a new client for £250.

Ian originally had bought it from a family in Bruges because it was in perfect condition which was quite unusual for an item of this type and age.

On display at the Bath fair it caught the eye of a buyer who was just browsing. It turned out that this purchaser was an avid collector of south-east Asian baskets and thought that this one was from the same region.

He was surprised when Ian told him that it came from Angola which put it more than 6000 miles away from his preferred area. However, he appreciated the condition and quality of the basket which also showed how intricate techniques in weaving differ around the world. He decided to buy it, thrilled to be able to add this item to his personal collection and he took it home that day.

The little mermaid


A folk-art mermaid – £700 from Cunningham White at the Bath Decorative Antiques Fair.

On the stand of country house expert Cunningham White’s a new potential new client was browsing and came across a folk-art relief mermaid made from a very light wood (possibly driftwood).

Given the nature of these items, dating them is very difficult but it had good age; Sam White from Cunningham White’s estimated that it was from around the 1900s. The visitor liked the piece and made up his mind to buy it.

However, he had not yet consulted with his wife and a short argument ensued during which he emphasised why he “just had to have it” as it was such an unusual item. Despite her not being keen on it, he won the day and picked it up for £700.

Telling tails


A pair of faience and ormolu parrots from House of Hummingbird – £820 at the Bath Decorative Antiques Fair.

A pair of faience and ormolu parrots from House of Hummingbird caused no such controversy. They sold on the first day of the fair but the buyer was happy to leave them on the stand until the end of the event as they were attracting a lot of attention.

Most similar pieces featuring parrots have stands whereas these ones were wall mounted. As such their tails could be made long and straight whereas for birds on a stand they have to be short or curled. Putting a long candle in each one to match the colour scheme of the rest of the House of Hummingbird stand, and attaching them to the wall facing each other but set at different heights, showed them off to their elegant best and drew in more visitors during the rest of the fair.

The dealers had bought them from auction because they “really like birds – we’re magnets to them”. Due to the nature of the hand-painting, they are difficult to date but the dealers believed they would be either late 19th or early 20th century.

A bit of post-event research by ATG using the Price Guide on revealed the pair was bought in December last year for a hammer price of £380 (or £475 with 25% buyer’s premium).

At the fair the buyer was a new client who just happened to see the parrots, fell in love with them and parted with £820 to get them before anyone else. By leaving them on the stand for the rest of the event, the dealers now have a waiting list of other buyers who want the same items if they can find more.

If you think that the dealers made a decent price compared with what they paid at auction and are enjoying their £345 profit, consider: the time spent looking for good objects; delivery, insurance and storage costs; the all-in cost of exhibiting at a fair including stand fees and travel to and from the event – and so on.

Then consider how many pairs of parrots (and other items under £1000) you would need to sell before you could make enough money to live on. Dealers at this end of the market who are able to eke out a reasonable living year after year deserve our respect.