“People who used to do their research would go round antique shops, ask questions, look at things and perhaps go away and think about it.
“Now it would appear that all that research is done sitting in an office or at home in front of a computer. They search for ‘breakfast table’, ‘chandelier’, or whatever it is and all the information comes to them – which means that we can’t afford not to be accessible online.”
And this opening up of antiques market is growing apace. Figures from thesaleroom.com, which describes itself as the world’s premiere online auction site for art and antiques, show that £128m worth of items were sold through its platform in 2017 – a rise of 21% on the previous year.
The increase in international competition means, for example, that a Maori flute valued at £50-100 last year, actually sold on thesaleroom.com for £140,000 as a result of a buyer in Paris bidding against an Australian collector.
Click here to listen to Radio 4’s program The rise and Fall of the Antique