Antiques from Africa # 34

The old saying ‘Knowledge is power’ is especially true in the antiques and art industry.

The old saying ‘Knowledge is power’ is especially true in the antiques and art industry. Being able to recognise something more in any item gives you the edge when buying as a dealer. I have many visitors to the shop who ask the same question every time, “Where does all of your knowledge come from?”

The short answer is books, museums and people more knowledgeable than yourself. Under books there is one that shines through, known as the ‘Bible of the Antiques trade’. Started by Judith Miller in 1979 along with her first husband Martin Miller, the Miller’s guides have grown to cover all areas of collecting and have been a tremendous asset in building my own business.


The latest edition by Judith Miller the ‘Miller’s Antiques Handbook & Price Guide 2014-2015’ follows the same formula as before but also focusses more on areas of current growth and international interest. Having the jump on what trends are likely to emerge is a boon for all dealers and many collectors. The emergence of the Chinese market and subsequent price rise, as well as the area of twentieth century design is a case in point. With good full colour pictures and concise detailed descriptions this series of books allows you to follow trends year on year. As so often in our business we will turn up something seemingly unique, made a hundred years ago and the ability to compare and judge its attributes helps in pegging a value. This information can literally make you rich.

Judith miller

I remember in 2002 when Judith Miller came out to South Africa to promote her books. As a dealer who had grown up in awe of the Millers guides, her relaxed manner and personable touch made an indelible impression not only on me but on all who met her. I was lucky enough to have her sign my copy of the 2003 guide which I still cherish today. While we were chatting I remember thinking that one day I would handle or even own some of the top end pieces highlighted in the Millers guides. As I sit and go through the latest edition I can find a few that have passed through our shop- progress indeed!