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This Month: The US and Euro columns from the Autumn 2017 issue of Antiques and Collectables for Pleasure & Profit.

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Ivor Hughes

The UK Column
Ivor Hughes reports significant news in the UK trade


In the last issue of ACPP I lamented the absence of any informed indication of effects that Brexit would have at any level in the art, antiques and collectables markets. With Brexit then scheduled for 31 October, HM Revenue and Customs were leaving things much too late.

Good old eBay UK came to the rescue on 4 September by giving members notice of what to do in preparation for a hard Brexit - a parting of the ways where few if any of the existing conventions on the taxation of imports would be retained. Although Brexit has since been rescheduled for 31 January, eBay's advice still stands. And stands alone until HMRC decides to join in.

Yes, of course, any changes will have the greatest impact on the UK trade and their (mainly) French counterparts. But the fallout on unprepared and non-European traders, predominantly US, could nonetheless be devastating.

Step one for UK traders - get an EORI number

EORI is a scheme whereby all goods imported to UK may be declared by schedule rather than physically, item by item. Although that will save approved traders hours at the point of declaration, it won't be much comfort for anyone in a queue behind others who haven't subscribed. EORI number or not, all goods will need to be declared.

Step two - get a TSP number

TSP is a higher level of clearance, where declaration is made online and retrospectively. Import taxes may also be paid retrospectively - monthly or even quarterly. So, with a TSP number, you won't need to join the queue. Yes, I've already got mine.

Advice to Australian/NZ buyers

1. Establish how you will be expected to declare goods moving between EU and UK. There should by then be some means of avoiding payment of import taxes and claiming refund on the grounds that the goods are destined outside those zones.

2. If you venture into Europe or the UK as a member of a mixed party, then make sure that the operator has in place any measures necessary to distinguish between those passengers liable to pay taxes on the spot and those who aren't.

3. Ditto if you use a carrier who carries multiple consignments.

4. If all else fails, seek advice from trade or shippers who ship cross-Channel and then on to the US/Japan. They are the people most likely to make sense of any post-Brexit residue.

Any or all of the above may seem irrelevant or too much like hard work. But you'll think again if everything you buy in/from Europe has an extra 20% slapped on the purchase price and you and/or your purchases are held up for hours or days.

Vintage Cash Cow - a major change in buying and selling

Antony Charman, pictured, has for twenty years been a high volume buyer and seller of lower value antiques, collectables and jewellery. Prize items do turn up, but the core of his business has always been volume. Though, as a one-man band, how was he ever going to find or manage the volumes of purchases and sales necessary to realise the full potential of his business model? Could a website help increase either?

It was back in 2016 that a mutual friend introduced Antony to internet and social media consultant David Weaver. Antony had no conception of just how smart technology might benefit his business and David was, and remains, unfamiliar with the finer points of the second hand trade. But the results are clear evidence that they were made for one another.

Since 2016 VCC has built and refined a comprehensive and interactive website and achieved an unparalleled presence on social media. A sophisticated and dedicated computer program maintains and displays up-to-the-minute data on turnover by type and volume and keeps other key business data under constant review. Current IT initiatives include developing machines with artificial intelligence smart enough to identify and sort individual worldwide coins and banknotes - including redundant patterns and currencies. Wow.

Exponential growth

What was a one-man band four years ago is now an international concern occupying a 3400 metre warehouse in Leeds city centre and employing 43 people - from just 12 in April. It has attracted significant corporate investment in both money and systems expertise from the Netherlands and is currently in the process of expanding from the Netherlands into France and Germany, using Dutch partners as the point of consolidation. They already have hundreds of high street charity shops on board and, using the ID vintagehoneypots, have as many as 1200 weekly auction listings on eBay UK - listing, for example, costume jewellery in lots of as many as thirty or more.

One major way VCC generates stock is at informal bring and sell days in community venues throughout the north. Although most days generate purchases of around $7000, repeat custom and referrals can multiply the return several times over.

Australia's Most Informative & Entertaining Antiques Magazine
Judith Dunn

The Euro Column
Judith Dunn looks at events in Europe

As ever, the European art and antiques scene kicked off after the summer break in Paris with La Biennale, Paris, running for 5 days from 18 September at the Grand Palais. This event has come a long way from the days a decade or so ago when it was very much a showcase for top of the range French antiques. The wares are still top of the range, but the emphasis has shifted to embrace global art and culture, notably modern and contemporary art and works on paper. The designer of the whole show has a much higher profile too. This year, Vincent Darré, one-time right hand man to Karl Lagerfeld, brought his surrealist touch to the venue. Exhibition guest of honour was the Kingdom of Bahrain, with a pavilion reflecting the country's heritage as well as its art and artists. Such cooperation is a feature of France's desire for wide influence abroad; in early November, President Macron's visit to China included the opening of the Shanghai Pompidou Centre, joining the Louvre Abu Dhabi on the world cultural stage.

Running alongside the Biennale was the usual clutch of gallery-based trails, including ceramics and tribal art, now fixtures in the calendar. Auction houses got in on the act too, with results reflecting the continuing popularity of single-owner sales. Artcurial had the Joseph Altounian collection, an eclectic wealth of everything from ancient art through Burgundian sculpture to stained glass, silverware, ceramics and art. Born in Armenia, Altounian was acquainted with most of the big names in early 20th century Paris before settling in Mâcon. One friend was Amedeo Modigliani, six of whose drawings found buyers. A pencil sketch of the collector did especially well, making €104,000 against a mid-estimate of €60,000. The mid-September sale totalled well over €2.5 million on the hammer for some 300 lots. As we go to press, exhibitions are being set up by Christie's in Paris, New York and Hong Kong in advance of the I.M. Pei sales. Pei was the architect responsible for the glass pyramid in the Louvre, among many other iconic works. He died in May this year and, with his wife of over 70 years, Eileen Loo, who died five years earlier, amassed a large collection of Impressionist, modern and contemporary art and sculpture.

Artcurial is in the news again in this last quarter of 2019, setting up a 200 square metre base in Marrakech and launching regular sales in the luxury La Mamounia hotel. They have held regular shows in the city since 2011, while expanding their expertise in Moroccan decorative art and antiques. Another headliner is Sotheby's, with the news that shareholders have put French-Israeli media tycoon Patrick Drahi at the head of the firm. Drahi is a knowledgeable collector and expressed his delight at the confidence shown in him by (most) voters. There may well be some loosening up of regulations governing French auctions in the not-too-distant future if a draft bill passed by the Senate is accepted by the National Assembly. Traditionally, French auctioneers need extensive training and have a quasi-judicial status. This will remain the case for judicial auctions, while voluntary sales will be regulated by auctioneers themselves, as is the case in what the French call the 'Anglo-Saxon model'. The aim is greater competitiveness and entrepreneurship and will no doubt prompt similar cries of outrage from dealers as were heard in the UK when private treaty sales became an accepted feature in auction houses.

Napoleon Bonaparte was a notorious mover and shaker, until he met his Waterloo. On his Prussian and Polish campaigns in 1806-7, he was accompanied by war artists who recorded not only battlefield and diplomatic scenes but also the carrying off of various items of booty. A set of 28 drawings and a sketchbook with 25 works were offered at Ivoire, Toulouse, in late September and all were pre-empted by the Louvre as the hammer fell, at a total cost of €208,400. Napoleon also featured in a German auction in October, when two items said to have been specially made for his sister Pauline were sold by Künker in Osnabrück. The necklace and bracelet had a total of 21 1st-2nd century gold Roman aurei. They made €90,000 and €42,000 respectively, very close to the asking price.

Autumn in Germany is Oktoberfest, Bavaria's folk and beer festival, which also sees two major fairs in Munich. The 99th Kunst und Antiquäten had 54 loyal exhibitors. Traditionally aimed at affordable art and antiques, it also moved forward to include the modern and contemporary sector. Highlights, in its 10th year, welcomed new and younger exhibitors among its 38 dealers. Another single-owner collection also came on the market in Munich in October. Rudolf Neumeister, of the eponymous auction house, died two years ago and left instructions for his sizeable collection to go back on the market. His daughter duly organised the sale and a quick trawl through the highlights shows many lots comfortably exceeding estimates, some four or five times over.

Heritage is not only about artefacts. At Versailles in September it was also about trees. During the night of 25-6 December 1999, a catastrophic storm hit northern Europe and changed the face of the Palace gardens in a few short hours. 18,500 trees were ripped out of the ground - or left so damaged and dangerous they had to be felled. Among them were a 30-metre high Virginia tulip tree, three metres round and brought to Versailles under Louis XVI, and an Atlas cedar whose stump alone weighed 17 tonnes, planted when Napoleon had the Petit Trianon renovated for Empress Josephine. A huge renovation programme has been underway ever since and a new trail, Les Arbres Admirables, celebrating the survivors, was launched to mark the 20th anniversary. The trees are indeed admirable - and well worth a visit after you have admired the Palace treasures. There is an audio-guide free to download on the Versailles website http:www.chateauversailles.fr

Australia's Most Informative & Entertaining Antiques Magazine