The Things Antiques Dealers Say…

… and what they really mean.

An irreverent look at some of the trade jargon used by our esteemed antiques dealers.

‘It has a Colonial feel about it.’ ‘It looks somewhat primitive.’
‘It’s possibly North American.’ ‘It’s outrageous!’
‘It’s possibly Australian.’ ‘It’s unsophisticated.’
‘It’s possibly Continental.’ ‘Surely no Briton could have produced such tat!’
‘It’s possibly French.’ ‘The decoration is utterly ghastly!’
‘It’s possibly German.’ ‘It’s quite the ugliest piece I’ve ever handled!’
‘It’s possibly Italian/Scandinavian etc.’ ‘It’s rather unexciting.’
‘It’s a good example of Victoriana.’ ‘It suffers a tiny bit from the excesses of Victorian tastes.’[i]
‘It’s typical of the sort of conglomerate look that the Victorians loved.’[ii]
‘Ah, the unrestrainable imagination of the Victorians.’[iii]
‘I’m not sure just how old it is.’ ‘I suspect it was made last week.’
‘It’s an unusual piece, isn’t it?’ ‘It came in a job lot at auction and I haven’t a clue when or where it was made, or what it was for.’
‘It’s a unique piece.’ ‘I’ve never seen another one like it, and I hope I never shall again!’
‘It’s very much in the style of—-‘ ‘I wish it were worth as much as—-‘
‘It’s the epitome of Rococo.’ ‘You couldn’t fit another squiggly bit on it if you tried.’
‘It’s got a lot of character.’ ‘It’s very strange looking.’
‘Now here’s a fascinating piece.’ ‘I have no idea what it’s for, but bear with me and I’ll come up with something.’
‘This is a studio piece.’ ‘It was probably made by some bucolic hedge-carpenter!’ [iv]
‘It’s a signed studio piece.’ ‘There’s a scribble underneath that I can’t decipher… or is it just a scratch?’
‘This is an interesting item.’ ‘Now what can I possibly say about this?’
‘This piece is very striking.’ ‘Eventually I’ll find some punter who likes it.’
‘Notice the subtle colouration.’ ‘It’s a shame about the drab, boring colour.’
‘The palette is so vibrant.’ ‘The colours give me a headache.’
‘These are not easy to find.’ ‘I can’t imagine who would want one of these.’
‘These are much underrated.’ ‘They’re as common as muck, and cheap to pick up.’
‘They don’t make them like that anymore.’ ‘Thankfully they don’t make them like that anymore!’
‘I’m not making much at that price.’ ‘I paid too much for it and it’s been sitting around here for years.’
‘It’s got good wear to it.’ ‘It’s pretty badly beaten-up.’
‘It’s got genuine age to it.’ ‘My restorer refused to get involved with it.’
‘Just look at that wonderful patina.’ ‘I had neither the time nor the inclination to clean it.’
‘It has been professionally restored.’ ‘I glued it back together last night and I’m rather tickled by the results.’
‘It’s had some restoration.’ ‘I didn’t do quite such a good job on this one.’
‘Minor damage like that doesn’t really affect its value.’ ‘I didn’t notice the damage when I bought it.’
‘I think it adds to the character of the piece.’ ‘We tried everything to get that mark out, but it wouldn’t budge.’
‘It’s slightly distressed.’ ‘This piece should have gone straight to the dump.’
A/F (“At fault” – usually on a price tag) ‘I know it’s knackered, but surely someone will give me something for it?’
‘I can arrange to have it delivered this afternoon.’ ‘I want it out of here before you change your mind!’
‘Perhaps Madam would like to try [insert antiques shop name here] further down the street?’ ‘You might find something to suit your vulgar tastes in that second-hand emporium on the corner.’
‘That “grime”, Madam, is patina and is symptomatic of the table’s three hundred year existence.’ ‘I believe Ikea stock new furniture.’
‘No Sir, I did not mistakenly add a zero to the price tag.’ ‘Perhaps a moulded plastic chair from the charity shop might better suit your budget.’

[i] Geoffrey Munn on Antiques Roadshow.

[ii] John Bly on Antiques Roadshow.

[iii] ibid.

[iv] Hedge-carpenter. A maker of gate-post and rail fences, or other matters connected with hedges and enclosures of land.


About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
This entry was posted in Distractions. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Things Antiques Dealers Say…

  1. joel says:

    Please you forgot my personal favorite.

    [It’s] an important piece


    It’s not rare, unusual, or signed by anyone important, but I think it should sell for the high end of the estimate if not higher.


  2. Jeremy Kriewaldt (jmk89) says:

    It would be funny if it wasn’t so true – you might add “Chippendale and Sheraton influenced” which means ” reproduction but I have no idea what it’s supposed to be”!


  3. yaakov says:

    Love it! Very funny!


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