The do’s and don’ts of antique shopping

One of Australia’s leading antique dealers, Trevor Handcock, explains why it's best to go for sentimental at Christmas.

Not everyone races into the large department store and heads for the well known perfume counter or has the door of an international retailer opened which leads to an attendant offering one of several hundred copies of their “exclusive” gift ideas.

The ‘thinking person’ looks for something special or unique. They want something that enhances their relationship with a child, a mother, a father or a close friend. They want something that exists because some one cared for it and it was beautifully made; it is special. You want your gift to be “SPECIAL” and you want the enjoyment of finding it. 

The thinking person heads for a quality Antique store where you could well leave with something you never imagined existed. 

Every Grandparent will enjoy an antique silver frame with a family photo in it of a special gathering. You might find one made in the year of Grandpa’s birth or one shaped in the form of a heart. The warmth of old silver will tell a story of its construction in London just when trams were still operating in Perth or you took the train to Brighton for a day’s swimming.


For Dad you will find a special little table that he can put by his favourite chair. Just the thing for his glass of wine which he likes to finish after dinner. Don’t forget that dads were also boys and their love of small mechanical things, model boats, an antique lamp for the desk or a brilliant image of an early motor racing car can really add life to their office. A gold pocket watch is every man’s dream. 

Why not take your child or grandchild to the living museum and art gallery that is a good antique shop. You can smell, feel and try history and enjoy the stories that come with a piece that you can take home. A beautiful bonding and educational experience for both you and the child. The dealer will be your personal guide to hidden treasures.

For ladies of all ages it’s “BLING”. Diamonds, pearls, earrings, rings of unimagined design. Jewellery made 200 years ago or just 50 years ago will allow you to relive glamorous evenings under candle light with “Mr Darcy” or dancing in a jazz club with “Al Capon”. There is something comforting to know the piece of antique jewellery you are wearing can be found nowhere else in the world.

antique jewels

You thought you didn’t like sapphires until you saw the colour of a natural sapphire set in an antique ring. You didn’t know that delicate Edwardian pendants of seed pearls were made in Flinders Lane Melbourne in 1900. 

Some quick tips to remember before embarking on an antiques shopping spree:

  • Do Your Research: Find out what the person you are buying is interested in, or think about a time or place that means a lot them. For example, if they are an old school movie buff, hunt down an original poster printing of their favourite movie, Jaws, Blade Runner, Star Wars, Casablanca, The Good The Bad The Ugly have been popular buys in my time
  • Invest in the Story: When you’re buying a sentimental piece from a dealer, it’s always great to enquire about the history/origin of the piece, why it’s special, so that you can share the story when the receiver opens it. 
  • Buy from Established dealers: It makes sense – if you want a certain breed of dog, you do your research and opt for someone who can demonstrate their pedigree. Similarly, if you want ‘the real deal’ you need to buy from fully vetted AAADA members.

Members of the Australian Art and Antique Dealers Association (AAADA) can open the door to an exciting new world to “Thinking People” of all ages and show how history still lives today and bring happiness to a new generation.

Antique dealer, Trevor Handcock

Related stories