Interview With A Dealer

Thursday 4th October 2018 at 14:00

She is a celebrity antique journalist, and presenter. Judith Miller has written 100s of inspirational books on antiques and interior trends including the infamous Millers Antique price guides, books which are recognised international benchmarks for pricing in the antique industry. Judith is the world's leading expert and a household name across the globe for antiques dealers and enthusiasts, plus a recognised expert on the BBC's Antiques Roadshow. We are honored to interview this awesome lady. 

1.  What was your most challenging and memorable find?

I don't know about 'challenging', but my most memorable 'find' wasn't something acquired for myself, but rather some things discovered by a man when he was a young boy back in the early 1970s. The man approached me on the BBC Antiques Roadshow 4-5 years ago with a wonderful story of how as a young lad he had accompanied his mother to a local house sale and discovered in some boxes under a dining table 100 advertising posters. He asked his mum if they could buy them, but she said no as the 'lot' was everything – furnishings, artefacts, etc – in that room... an hour or so later at the auction the entire lot went for the grand sum of £13, at which point the boy went up on his own to the woman who'd acquired it and asked if she really wanted the old posters in the boxes under the dining table. She replied 'no, not really'. He asked if he could buy them, and if so how much did she want? She looked down at him as said '50p would be alright young man'. He had 50p, just, so they were his. Now he only brought along 4 of the 100 to show me at the Roadshow, so I can't speak for the other 96, but I conservatively valued the 4 I saw – British Art Deco period transport posters by Jean Dupas – at £40,000!

 

2.  What is your most cherished piece that you personally own (and would never part with, sell)?

Without a shadow of a doubt my great aunt Lizzie's silver plate and cranberry glass claret jug of c.1890. On leaving school she went 'into service' in a grand house in the Scottish Borders and, when she became engaged to be married, the lady of the house invited her 'upstairs' and said she could choose any piece of glass or pottery from the reception rooms as a wedding present. She chose the claret jug, and it came down to me via my mother. I'd never ever sell it.

 
3.  With the recent trend of instant investment opportunities with crypto currency, forex and multi-level-marketing. What investment antiques would you recommend to this young demographic?
None. I don't believe in buying antiques for investment. I believe you should buy them if you need them (on a practical level), or love the look of them - and preferably both of those. In other words, only buy what you like, and if it appreciates in value then that's a bonus. To put that in perspective, imagine buying something you don't like purely in the hope it will increase in value... and then it doesn't or, worse, depreciates.
 
 
4.  With your books do you believe that you ‘communicate’ or ‘set’ the trends in antique purchasing behaviour? And how are the trends monitored?
I don't set trends, I communicate them. Trends, especially price-wise, but also the volume of sales, are monitored internationally by an almost 24/7 influx of auction catalogues and subsequent sales results, plus dealer websites. Also, and importantly, by my 'getting out there' – fairs/exhibitions/dealers' shops/etc – looking around, chatting to people and, basically, seeing which the winds are blowing.
 

5.  What was the last creative exhibition or public fair you attended?

'Masterpiece London' fair (28th June – 4th July, Royal Hospital, Chelsea) – high-end art, design, furniture, jewellery, from antiquity to present day. The last exhibition I attended, recently, was the permanent display at the Guggenheim in Venice, where I had a mini-guided tour of the Picasso's.
 

6.  Some of us hold onto many reference books including your price guides. Now we have instant accessible information on the internet, how are you going to maintain the future of these guides?

It's a good question: one we began addressing a long time ago, and one we regularly re-address. First and foremost, we try to ensue that the items we include are representative (of what's happening in the markets), rather than aberrational/misleading – in other words, we're using our experience and expertise to 'curate the content' from the vast volume of raw data that's out there. Second, we include lots of extra information throughout all the different section of the guides – ranging from observations on specific market trends, to useful background info on different collecting fields (when it comes to buying or selling, knowledge is power!). Thirdly (and we can claim no credit for this, it's the nature of the beast): if you type, for example, Royal Worcester, into a search engine you'll get hundreds (maybe thousands) of Royal Worcester entries up on your screen; but that's all you'll get. In contrast, if you turn the pages of the Antiques or Collectables Guides to get to Royal Worcester, lots of other stuff (eg. Royal Doulton, etc, etc) will come into your field of vision en route, stuff which may (or may not) stimulate further interest. That's in the nature of reference books, and 'hard copy', and although it's rather difficult to pin down the touchy/feely concept, it's one that consistently gets very favourable feedback from focus groups. 

7.  What are your most ‘Used’ antiques items? For example, our brand encourages you to use teapots as flower vessels and sugar bowls for plants and succulents.

Oh, for certain a pair of very plain, 18th century Wedgwood creamware salts. They're on the breakfast and dining table just about all the time, and they're in constant use for what they were always intended for: salt and pepper.

 

8.  What type of antique or vintage products would you give as a wedding gift? 

Usually antique glass. My husband and I recently gave two friends getting married a pair of 'Sheringham' 3-disc candlesticks (in amethyst glass), designed in the 1960s by Stennet-Wilson for Wedgwood.
 

9.  What was your last antique purchase? 

An early 1960s Murano glass bird designed by Alessandro Pianon for Vistosi. It's one of five, highly stylised birds Pianon designed for Vistosi. Each is individually hand-blown, so none are ever exactly alike. I now have 3 of the 5, but whether or not I 'capture' the other two is becoming increasingly unlikely, as they are becoming more and more expensive.

 
Follow Judith and her team on Twitter @milleraantiques
 
We enjoyed this opportunity to interview Judith and are now keen to speak to some more antique celebs. I would love to hear from you, who should I interview next?
 
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