1. Decide on what specific period you are interested in, and locate a specialist dealer accessible in your area. Check out any that are still in business after at least 30 years. I cannot stress how important this last aspect will be in protecting your interests. Reputation resulting from long term commitment is vital to dealers in antique furniture. A long term track record in business means years of having gained, and most importantly, retained satisfied customers. It’s also worth checking for membership of the British Antique Dealers Association Ltd.
2. Do your homework first, and never hesitate to ask questions – most dealers will be only too willing to discuss the subject with you, and some will encourage you to handle items. If not, I suggest you leave immediately. Never buy on impulse, which is often the case at auctions which are only for the highly experienced, or the gambler. Careful scrutiny of catalogue ‘small print’ will tell you loads.
3. Focus on what you like, NOT on what you think may be a ‘good investment’. Remember what happened in the ‘Classic Car’ world recently (http://www.pistonheads.com/gassing/). Always try to secure the best even if the budget may become a little stretched. Remember colour and old surface patina is very important and worth paying that little extra for.
4. Read as much as you possibly can and take time out to visit Country House collections and museums, especially the Victoria and Albert Museum in Kensington and, if ever you find yourself in New York, spend time in the Metropolitan Museum.
5. Always ask for a detailed invoice for any purchase made. Including a Ca. date, measurements and details of any significant restoration.
Check out David Linley’s recent excellent article in the Daily Telegraph