Antiques questions answered

Jenni Meldrum, the owner of Sea Kist in South Queensferry, answers some frequent questions about the antiques’ world and what her business offers. Got a question? Please get in touch!

Are antiques a good investment?

They can be, but personally I don’t think that should be the main reason for buying antiques. While it’s always good to get a healthy return for an investment, the antiques world is very unpredictable, so it’s probably more important to buy something because you like it or it has a particular significance to you. Antiques – like many other things – can go in and out of fashion. For example: big, ornate, dark wood Victorian furniture. It was often very well made and good quality. For a few years it was very sought after and making good prices, but is now regarded as too big and dark for modern homes – and prices have plummeted!

The centenary of the outbreak of World War One saw a renewed interest and demand for militaria and memorabilia from the war years – and the prices reflected this.           

Do you have to pay VAT when you buy antiques from Sea Kist?

No. You don’t pay VAT when buying antiques from Sea Kist.

Do you sell antiques on eBay?

More on a personal basis rather than as a business – at the moment!

What antiques are growing in value?

Celebrity related items and recently some collections have been sold for very healthy prices – naturally it depends on the celebrity – some are more popular than others!

Chinese and oriental antiques. Many of these items were distributed all over the world by tourists and travellers throughout the ages. Naturally, Chinese people now want representations of their culture and heritage back. China is a rapidly growing economy, with some very wealthy people – who will pay high prices; this drives the value of such items up.

Those mentioned above, as well as genuine Art Deco pieces. Art Deco was a classic design style which can look particularly good in any setting. There are a lot of reproductions on the market, which is fine for creating the look – but value-wise, reproduction pieces will not hold their price.

Scandanavian glass also seems to be doing well at present, probably due to the design and quality of the pieces.

Iconic style items from the 1950s and 1960s are becoming increasingly popular. For example, designers such as Mary Quant, Terence Conran, etc.

TV, films and social media can influence what makes certain antiques popular. Examples are costume dramas, where people are transported back into history and then want certain items to recreate their own interpretation or association with this. I have to mention “The Outlander” effect!

The American series “Mad Men” showcased fabulous examples of costume jewellery from the 1950s and this saw a resurgence in the popularity of such pieces.

Are antiques expensive? What kind of prices do you charge at Sea Kist?

They don’t have to be. I tend to stock what I consider to be affordable items, mostly priced at under £100.

I see people on TV haggling over the price of antiques. Should I ask for discount? Is it fair?

Before the present situation with the pandemic, this was pretty much expected. However, people should remember that this is how most antique dealers earn their living and many businesses will have been drastically affected this year – so beating down the price has now taken on a greater significance. It has to be said that most antique dealers expect some element of haggling, but what happens on TV is somewhat different from real life.  Also worth mentioning is the fact presenters/celebrities are on healthy fees/salaries and any profits from the sale of items go to charity . . . . so the antique dealers are in reality the most generous ones in the whole process. Always worth asking, would people do the same with any other business – for example, restaurants, pubs etc.?

Do you buy antiques from customers? What kind of things are you interested in?

Sometimes – and to be able to do this I have to pay for a licence from the local authority. It means if I do buy items from customers I am required to ask for identification and full address and contact number.

Buying antiques from customers depends on what stock I already have in the shop and what the items being offered are. General rule of thumb – if I saw such an item at an auction/antique fair would I buy it?

The kind of items I tend to be interested in are nautical items, Scottish items and things that are unusual and different, even quirky!

What are some of your best-selling antiques at Sea Kist?

Nautical related items always seem to be popular, and this can range from model ships to exotic shells.

Scottish antiques are also good sellers, particularly with visitors and tourists.

Costume jewellery always gets a fair amount of interest too.

You were on “Antiques Road Trip” on the BBC. How is it made?

People would probably be surprised to know that the filming process takes quite a long time, usually a whole morning or afternoon in the shop for just a few minutes on screen! It usually starts with a phone call or email asking about taking part in the programme on a particular date. Once agreed, on the day itself it tends to be a waiting game until the crew and antique expert arrive. Introductions and instructions over, the expert looks around the shop for interesting items to buy. There is no set up! The discussions and haggling are all unscripted and genuine! Usually there are a few “takes” followed by a lot of still shots – and in between all of that there is plenty time for discussion!

I don’t get paid at all for my appearance! Or get any fees from repeated episodes!

When is “Antiques Road Trip” on TV?

The BBC has a special page promoting the series, giving the next times to see the programme. There are also links to past programmes on iPlayer and clips from the series. See

There also seem to be quite a lot of repeats etc. on Freeview channels

Have you been on any other antiques programmes on TV or radio? Tell us about them.

I was featured on “The Antiques Roadshow”, not talking about the shop/antiques in general but specifically discussing my other interest – all things related to the Forth Rail Bridge.

I was also on “Bargain Hunt” – again this focused on my research and interest in the Forth Bridge.

Who’s your favourite antiques presenter on TV? Name names!

Every single one of the antique experts who have visited the shop have been lovely people, but two stand out. Firstly Charlie Ross – who is an absolute gentleman but also very funny and charming and was in no hurry to leave the shop so I had a great afternoon in his company.

I was seriously nervous when I was told Paul Laidlaw was going to visit the shop as I have so much respect for his vast knowledge about antiques. He turned out to be such a friendly and interesting man it was a pleasure to have him look round the shop and he was more than happy to have his photograph taken with a local fan!

Jenni Meldrum from Sea Kist with antiques expert Charlie Ross outside her shop in South Queensferry.
Jenni Meldrum from Sea Kist with antiques expert Charlie Ross outside her shop in South Queensferry.
From things at home, what’s your favourite antique piece – and why?

My granny’s old kettle, for the memories it invokes. It has virtually no monetary value but it was always on the old range in her tenement flat. When she moved house I asked her if I could have the kettle and she was completely mystified as to why a child would want such a thing!

Finally, why did you get into the business of selling antiques?

Probably from always having an interest in social history. For me antiques isn’t just about objects it’s also about people and that’s what makes them interesting. For example, why do people collect certain things?  Also, when an item was made, the style etc. What was going on for the people at that time in history? Why did people want to have certain items, what did they mean to them and why were they passed down the generations. I love the way items have survived through the years and often through troubled times and now they are ready to be appreciated all over again.

Published by Sea Kist Antiques

Owner of Sea Kist in South Queensferry.

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