Opportunities in the Middle Market

Fellow appraiser Soodie Beasley sent me an interesting article from Apollo Magazine about current market trends of English furniture.  While there are really no surprises, the article is stating that the upper market of English furniture has fared rather well, while the lower and middle markets have struggled mightily.  The article points out there are good opportunities to buy with the lower prices in the middle markets, while the upper end remains a "trophy market".

As a seller of middle market English furniture and I could not agree more with the Apollo article.  In general, it is a recent and good article to show clients when justifying the lower price levels of middle market English furniture, as well as good source material for market trend analysis.

The article states, in part
While the bottom and middle of the market  are in the severe doldrums, prices for outstanding pieces have held up well. This is demonstrated by  a Regency japanned chinoiserie side cabinet, from  a design attributed to George IV’s favourite interior decorator, Frederick Crace. Dated to around 1810,  it achieved £127,250 on an estimate of £20,000–£30,000 at Sotheby’s Attic Sale at Chatsworth House in October 2010 (Fig. 1). ‘The furniture market has become a trophy market,’ states Mr Horwood. ‘People are more inclined to have one really good piece as a talking point than a 19th-century dining room.’

As ever, when only the very top end of a market is performing well there remain good opportunities at a secondary level for collectors: the 19th century was a period in which cabinetmaking was at its peak and the availability of fine woods at its height.

The market falls into at least three categories: Regency up to 1840; Pugin and Victorian Gothic; the Aesthetic Movement and Arts and Crafts. The more traditional antiques market is the Regency market. ‘This is a very expressive, very strong period, with boldly executed compositions, ornament, gilding and carving, stripey and coloured timbers,’ states Jonathan Coulborn of the West Midlands-based antique furniture and fine art dealer Thomas Coulborn & Sons. ‘You have identifiable designers – Thomas Hope, George Bullock and George Smith, with well-known manufacturers like Gillows and excellent documentation. The amazing thing about the Regency period is its variety – you also get wonderful pre-Puginesque oak Gothic pieces.’

Richard Coles of Godson & Coles comments: ‘Clients are looking for an element of the spirit in which the furniture was conceived. The period was very influenced by the Grand Tour, so you get a lot of Egyptian, Roman and Greek motifs. A high Regency piece which has its original colour and water gilding has a wonderful atmosphere. The individual quality of the piece is of paramount importance. In the last 10 years, however, the market has changed beyond any recognition. The number of exceptional examples coming on to the market has shrunk dramatically, though the values have not dropped.’ Two years ago, Mr Coles sold a magnificent Regency mahogany, crossbanded and ebony-inlaid four-sided partners desk. Once owned by Lord Palmerston and attributed to Marsh & Tatham, the same makers as the Anglesey Desk, it sold for £240,000.
Source: Apollo Magazine 

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