Dial ‘B’ for Baragin!

What’s hot and what’s not at the auctions in 2014? Jeremy Thornton has the answers

At the start of every new year I’m always asked to predict what I think will be the ‘surprise stars’ of the auction room over the coming months. It’s a tricky question because I believe that the most important piece of advice to give anyone looking to add a piece to their home or collection is: “Buy what interests and stimulates you.” That said, there are some definite trends happening in the market for 2014. The demand for smaller items will continue, not just as seen in furniture but across the spectrum into other areas, including silver and pictures – the latter in particular appealing to a much wider audience. A good miniature is an exquisite example of the finest work of a portrait artist, relying more on technique to capture the sitter’s character than the scale of a full sized portrait.

HOUSEHOLD HUNCH

I also have a hunch that 2014 will see a big surge in the popularity of items many would think to be a little mundane. Throwbacks such as Bakelite and early plastic will, I am sure, start to command the prices these originally innovative and ground-breaking items deserve. I see some really well-designed household and kitchen items coming under the hammer that would grace any modern home. It is a real surprise to me that despite the growing appreciation of good design, auction prices for many kitchen or basic household items from the 1930s and 1950s are still exceptionally good value. I am sure these values will rise, perhaps as the housing market improves – so start looking for the bargains now.

NEW DISCOVERIES

This year will undoubtedly see auction events commemorating the start of the First World War. We will see a large number of new discoveries, with auctions offering medals, trench art, letters from the front and similar artefacts. This market has been expanding rapidly over the last decade and prices are likely to continue to rise. The three medals awarded to most of the British servicemen that served from 1914 or 1915 are the British War Medal, the British Victory Medal and either the 1914 Star or the 1914-15 Star. They were irreverently referred to as Pip, Squeak, and Wilfred and the trio set will, I hope, inspire collectors to look into the history and stories behind these mementos of heroic actions and sacrifices.

Jeremy Thornton is an auctioneer at Biddle & Webb, which has been established in Birmingham for more than 50 years. www.biddleandwebb.co.uk