Fairs vary greatly from local markets and church fairs to organised, vetted antiques fairs. The following is a guide to the various different types of fairs and some tips to use before buying.
 
Different Types Of Fairs
 
Permanent Antiques Markets
Throughout Britain and many other countries, there are many permanent antiques markets where several traders have stalls under one roof or in a particular street. The market in Portobello Road in London is now a famous tourist attraction as well as a busy antiques market.
 
Weekly Markets
Many areas offer weekly markets. Here traders buy and sell to one another, as well as to private collectors. Provided you are confident enough in your particular field of interest, such markets can be a wonderful source of bargains.
 
Vetted Fairs
Large, vetted fairs usually feature a wide variety of different types of collectables, so you will find furniture, silver, ceramics, jewellery, textiles and much more under one roof. There are also annual specialist fairs that focus on one particular collecting area: silver, ceramics, and even dolls all have their specialist fairs. Vetting means that a team of specialists have examined every item for sale at the fair for authenticity and an accurate description. Datelines means that nothing made after a certain date will be allowed in the fair.
 
Other Fairs
Many large fairs are held across the country, some with up to 4,000 stall holders. An entrance fee is generally charged and wide selections of antiques are on display. Smaller 'antiques' fairs are held in church halls, schools and other similar venues. These fairs are unlikely to have a catalogue, dateline or vetting of their antiques.
 
Buying Tips
 
Arrive Early To Find The Best Buys
When visiting fairs and weekly markets, get there early before the best bargains have been snapped up.
 
For Specialist Items Visit Specialist Dealers
Many antique dealers are members of professional trade associations. Membership is vetted and usually adheres to a strict code of practice. They often exhibit at fairs and many hold selling exhibitions. Visiting such fairs can be a good way of discovering dealers who specialise in particularly unusual types of collectables. The goods on offer will usually be fairly priced as a specialist will know precisely what it is worth and will be competitive with other local traders.
 
Specialist Fairs Are A Good Place To Meet Leading Authorities
If you're a keen collector, specialist fairs can offer a good opportunity to meet experts in their field who may have travelled some distance to attend.
 
Discuss Your Interest With The Dealer
It's an opportunity to find out more about the antiques you want to collect. They will be able to tell you the history, maker and condition of a piece. You can always ask for the dealer's card and arrange to visit them to see more of their stock or find out which fair they will be exhibiting at next.
 
Authenticity
At vetted antiques markets you know you're getting the genuine article. At other fairs, many of the objects for sale may be better described as second-hand rather than antique. Provided you realise that you must satisfy yourself of the authenticity of anything you buy, such events can prove entertaining for a browse, are sometimes a good place to buy inexpensive bric-a-brac and decorative items, and you may even find a bargain.
 
Always Make Sure You Get A Written Receipt
It is essential to get a written receipt with the dealer's name and address, and a description of your purchase on it for insurance purposes.