Jan Murphy runs a small antiques business based in Liverpool called Evans Murphy Antiques along with her father, Keith. The pair source their antiques from across the UK and internationally. With Keith specialising in naval items and pieces from WWI and WWII, Jan has more eclectic tastes and seeks out everything from antique furniture and decorative items to salvage.
What do you see as the current hot sellers?
Painted Victorian pine furniture seems to be selling extremely well right now. Distressed and industrial items are very popular, particularly with younger buyers, and also blue and white porcelain, and you’ll notice many high street shops trying to replicate all these items at the moment- but in my opinion nothing beats a genuine antique piece!
What are your favourite antiques that you have at home?
I collect old prints and have a beautiful early hand-tinted engraving of Antonio Cavalucci’s Aurora leading the Chariot of Apollo by Guido Reni and Raffaello Morghen, it’s absolutely lovely, I have it hanging in my drawing room and my guests comment on it all the time. Another favourite item is a lovely Welsh long case clock, signed ‘Griffith Davies’, Circa 1805. It was bought at auction for a mere £70. It was in three bits and in desperate need of care and repair. Thankfully, my father has a good eye and is an expert restorer so he got to work on it and brought it back to life. It now looks wonderful and keeps perfect time and chimes beautifully.
What piece would you love to find and sell?
Hmm…I have a long list. But perhaps a nice forgotten oil painting by one of the old masters would do!
What has been your most exciting find so far?
I recently came across a collection of old lithographs in a junk shop in Liverpool, each depicting a different famous battle scene by the artist A. Sutherland and published by the engraver G.W Bacon of London, Circa 1900. There were nine in the set, all glazed and framed but pretty dirty and all in need of some attention. I paid £270 for the whole set. it was only when I researched the prints later that I realised they were actually quite rare. I sold them on to a private collector and made a substantial profit. Needless to say I was very pleased with myself as it was a gut instinct buy.
Will people go to auction houses in 20 years or will sales all be online?
I sincerely hope they will. I do a lot of buying and selling online myself, but there is nothing quite like the atmosphere of an actual sale room when an auction is about to take place. I love the excitement and the anticipation- it’s wonderful. I also think that many people still like to see and touch the items they intend to bid on, I know I do. So yes, I think people will always want to visit auctions.
Tell us some trade secrets – what are your top tips for buying antiques and what should we be buying now?
I’m sure you’ve heard it before but I really believe you should just buy what you like. I buy things that I would want to have in my own home, I buy things that excite me or intrigue me. I began collecting as a young teenager, with the guidance of my father who always drummed into me to follow my passion and buy what I love. This has always been my mantra when shopping for stock and would be my best advice to someone else.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money either, there are great bargains to be had out there if you take the time to look. I always make sure I drop into every local junk shop, charity shop and op shop regularly, as you just never know what you might find.
Retro and vintage items are super trendy right now, especially lighting. I picked up a nice Herbert Terry angle-poise lamp at auction recently for just £20, a great decorative item, and I got some fabulous REVO industrial pendants for as little as £30 each, easy worth £200-plus each in today’s market.
Will brown furniture make a comeback?
It’s already making a comeback. I’ve sold a lot of brown furniture in recent months, especially oak chairs and tables, with buyers requesting a ‘heads up’ if and when I can supply more! At an auction just a few days ago I noticed brown furniture was practically flying out the door – lots of people bidding! It’s a good sign.
Where are your favourite antique hunting destinations and why?
This is a tough question for me as I lived overseas for many years and always found great hunting grounds, especially in Melbourne, Australia, and Auckland, New Zealand. However, I think England will always be my favourite as we have such a rich and ancient history here, with many treasures reflecting that. My hometown of Liverpool never disappoints me. There’s a good amount of prominent dealers based here and antique shops are not hard to find. Lark Lane is a good place to start if you’re visiting!
Young people don’t like antiques – agree or disagree?
Strongly disagree! I am 38 years old and I see heaps of people, younger than me, attending the auctions and also browsing the antique shops and markets every week, it’s really encouraging!
What’s the future for the trade?
I hope it’s bright – I feel it is. Like any industry, it will keep changing and evolving… and dealers will have to do this as well.