QuickFacts :: Introduction to Antiquities

The hundred-year rule of thumb no longer applies when it comes to present-day collecting – and anything goes. Whether you’re a fan of the big screen, Beanie babies or just sporting mad, there’s something to suit every budget.

Antiquities

If you’ve always assumed objects from ancient cultures are prohibitively expensive, you’ll be surprised to discover that auctions of antiquities usually include many items priced at a few hundred pounds. Nonetheless, antiquities have long attracted collectors and faking in one form or another has existed throughout the centuries. There’s the added complication of the export laws of countries where antiquities originate. Collectors should always make sure the piece is being sold legally.

Egyptian antiquities

Egyptian antiquities can be extremely valuable but there are exceptions. The redware vase above dates from between 3500BC and 3200BC and is worth about £200.

Greek pottery

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Valuable Greek pottery is often decorated with scenes from mythology. This Attic black-figure amphora, or two-handled urn, shows Peleus chasing Thetis. It dates from about 510BC to 500BC and is worth around £8,000 to £12,000. Attic (from Athens) vases with reversed colours, where the background is black and the figures are red, are known as red-figure vases.

Affordable items

  • small Egyptian limestone carvings
  • Roman terracotta oil lamps
  • small examples of Cypriot pottery

Roman glass

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It might seem inconceivable that glass from the second century can be no more expensive than that of the 18th century, but this is often the case. These vases illustrate the subtle colours and iridescence typical of much Roman glass and are worth between £300 and £800 each.

Points to remember

  • Antiquities are fragile and condition affects value, but some damage is to be expected – be suspicious of anything that seems too perfect.
  • Avoid objects with heavy restoration – particularly if it’s on the face of a piece of sculpture or a painting.
  • Avoid bronzes that have become badly corroded – their detail may have been irreparably damaged.

Beware

If you have any doubts about the legality or authenticity of a piece consult museum experts.

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