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A first-timer's guide to antiques fairs

A first-timer's guide to antiques fairs


Old Blighty has a penchant for fairs. From ferret racing to bonny babies to massive cabbages in big white tents, British country shows are a door to our charming and slower-paced past. For fairs selling antiques, UK cities, towns and villages are treasure troves. We’re incredibly lucky to have so many.

Dab hands in the industry can navigate antiques fairs breezily. But for beginners, the vast variety and sheer number of antiques UK fairs have on offer can be overwhelming. Hemswell are the largest seller of antiques Lincoln (and the entirety of Europe) has on offer. With over three decades of expertise, we’re full of tips to help you experience all the fun of the fair - and find a bargain or two.

Tips for buying antiques: UK fairs

1. Come with cash

Some fairs will have cash points close by, but don’t risk it. There’s nothing worse than missing out on a piece you adore, simply because the dealer doesn’t take card transactions. Take cash out before you head to an antiques fair - this can also help limit overspending if you’re on a budget.

2. Beware of fakes

Fakes can sneak in anywhere, even fairs. Make sure a fair is vetted by authoritative experts to ensure authenticity. Restoration and replacements are plentiful, which is fine - as long as it’s declared. Some sellers can try and deceive buyers, especially beginners. Watch out for artificial distressing in furniture, or certain shades that look too bright (especially blue) in porcelain. If the condition of a centuries-old piece looks too good to be true, it probably is.

3. Haggle with a smile

When it comes to haggling for antiques, UK-based dealers probably won’t be as in-your-face as sellers in some countries. There’s a fine (and subtle) art to British haggling. Firstly, smile. Your attitude will play a major deciding factor for dealers wanting their stock to go to a good home - so show a genuine love for the piece and be polite.

4. Don’t overthink antiques you love

If you ponder for too long or too hard over something you really want, there’s a chance others will be doing the same. There may be hundreds and thousands of antiques UK fairs have up for grabs, but there are also hundreds and thousands of antique lovers ready to grab them.

5. Be realistic with offers

Unless you’re at a smaller, car-boot-style fair, the unspoken rule is to avoid haggling for items under £20. Fixating on a low price can be insulting to dealers trying to earn a living. On larger antiques, negotiations of up to 15% is reasonable. Try and explain to dealers why you want the discount - are there any scratches, fading or other imperfections? 

6. Buy more than one item from one dealer

You can grab yourself some brilliant deals by multi-buying from antiques dealers. Batch buys will normally prompt dealers to upsell and get rid of a load of stock. Everyone’s a winner.

You don’t always have to visit a fair to find a world of antique treasures. Over 400 dealers exhibit everything from pottery to paintings in our four buildings at Hemswell Antique Centres. We are open every day of the year from 10am until 5pm. Apart from Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day (Christmas Eve & New Year’s Eve 10am- 2.30pm). We are open all over Easter.

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