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This Month: The Europe and US columns from the Summer 2015/16 issue of Antiques and Collectables for Pleasure & Profit.

Australia's Most Informative & Entertaining Antiques Magazine
Ivor Hughes

The UK Column
Ivor Hughes reports shifts and trends on the UK antiques and collectables scene.

IACF Newark back-tracks on architectural salvage initiative

IACF Newark introduced a designated architectural, decorative and industrial reclamation area at their August fair. That was in response to continuing growth in the market and intended to create a dedicated event within the gigantic trade fair - perhaps a more attractive proposition for the buying public. But take-up and potential proved so low that it was scrapped in October.

It was always going to struggle on the Thursday/Friday - not a weekend event with which the buying public are more comfortable. Nor are they used to paying a $40 entry fee to a trade event. The new section would have benefited had a number of existing exhibitors vacated their regular pitches and relocated to the new designated area, but they didn't.

Longstanding fairs exhibitors invariably resist sudden change. Although IACF's initiative failed, they should be applauded for conceiving and testing something new, though all organisers would be well advised to conduct a little more exhibitor/visitor consultation than some seem to do at present.

BADA relocation may fund modernisation

The British Antiques Dealers' Association recently sold its multi-million pound headquarters office in Knightsbridge and is relocating, temporarily, elsewhere in London with the intention of finding permanent premises in time for their centenary in 2018.

BADA is the country's most prestigious antiques dealers' association. All 330 members remain subject to stringent conditions of membership, though what really sets it apart from other trade organisations is the quality of exhibits and standard of documentation demanded.

BADA announced an intention to move with the times in July 2014. They scrapped their longstanding 100 years dateline and allowed members to exhibit contemporary and applied art. They also opened membership to dealers in later 20th century and contemporary pieces. Since then they have appointed a new fairs manager, president and, in September, a new CEO - Marco Forgione, a marketing and communications professional with a proven track record in implementing change.

The release of the as yet undisclosed millions will enable the new team at BADA to fund more suitable premises and carry forward their intention to become better recognised as the market leading global brand. Their own fair (annual) is from 9-15 March 2016 in Duke of York Square, London. Although that may be too early for the full implementation of any new strategies, BADA and its members support other events throughout the year and will have endless opportunities to engage with the wider trade and buying public.

Successful initiatives introduced at the very top of any trade usually have a trickle-down effect on the lower orders so I hope to be able to report some positive results by Christmas 2016...

Pack & Send raises UK antiques scene profile

You might not need me to tell you that Pack & Send is a nationwide international distribution franchise in Australia and New Zealand, nor that the 120 or so depots in those countries all stem from a modest operation set up in Parramatta NSW in 1993. But it was unknown in the UK until 2010, when four new franchises opened. Subsequent growth has been slow though steady, with the twentieth UK depot to open in south London in January.

It was at IACF Newark in October that Pack & Send UK raised their profile among the wider UK and international antiques trade. Clive Jenkins, a franchisee in nearby Lincoln, already provided services to dealers, customers, auction houses and a large antiques centre in his locality and had persuaded UK marketing manager Tony Fowles that it was time to take a display to Newark.

For delivery and tracking, Pack & Send uses existing courier services such as DHL and FedEx. The key value to their customers is the quality, security and safety of the packing and materials on offer - notably bespoke foam injectors to ensure that even the most fragile items are fully protected from knocks and scrapes.

Notes Clive Jenkins: "So far, our visit to Newark has brought in new business to China, Italy, Lithuania and the USA. But it's very much a word of mouth thing. For example, we already have a core of clients in Australia who regularly combine their purchases into a single shipping consignment. Our business grows alongside theirs and others."

Pack & Send doesn't come cheap, but it's not that expensive either. Sending a 40cm cube to Australia, similar to the one pictured, would cost around $180 with UPS. Pack & Send offers the packaging, packing and safety on top "for around $300". The extra $120 isn't a lot to pay if it really has to get there in one piece, or if it tilts the scales in favour of an otherwise impracticable purchase.

Australia's Most Informative & Entertaining Antiques Magazine
Rod Labbe

The US Column
Introducing our new US Column, by collector and journalist Rod Labbe.

The Baby Boom stretched from 1946 to 1964, an 18-year period of intense social, technological and cultural advancement. Television became a mainstay in every middle-class home, economies of western countries soared, and film ascended as the 20th century's predominant Art form. The future knew no limits, it seemed. Each and every day sparkled like a brand-new penny.

Born in late 1952, I 'came to be' blissfully unaware of the rapidly changing world around me. My first coherent memories solidified in mid-1957. That's when I remember lying on the grass, counting fluffy white clouds as they passed dreamily overhead. I did a lot of daydreaming, back then... best thing is, most of those dreams came true!

Mom and Dad were Depression-era kids and understood the terrible pains of Want. They struggled to provide a better existence for their children, safe from poverty, war, and despair. Suzanne, my older sister, and I enjoyed magnificent birthdays and Christmases; we had a nice Cape Cod house in Waterville, Maine, our own bedrooms, glitzy battery-operated toys and creature comforts galore. 'Want,' to us, was only a dictionary word.

So strange to look back at our childhood playthings, now that they're commanding high prices as 'rare collectables.' What we considered disposable and temporary is now worthy of a museum!

This column, appropriately dubbed 'Big Boom,' will examine the Baby Boomer secondary market and its very interesting highs, lows and in-betweens. For our premiere installment, let's take a nostalgic glance at comic books, specifically Katy Keene, an iconic Boomer touchstone who redefined glamour for '50s girls. Do you have any of her comic books in your attic?

Collecting comics and their related material fuels a multi-billion dollar industry, placing it as one of the globe's most lucrative hobbies. Unlike sports cards and other paper ephemera, new comic books are relatively inexpensive, but beware! Once off-sale, their price tags can be hefty. Rule of thumb: collect what you like and be consistent.

A complete collection is always worth more than one missing numbers, and condition is everything! Present-day newsstand or 'direct sale' (meaning sold only in a comic book store) comics will set you back approximately $3.99, American. A tad expensive, compared to the prices we Baby Boomers paid: 10 and 12 cents! "Giants" or "annuals" (80 pages and square-bound) were a quarter. Talk about major returns on a minor investment!

The hottest and most desirable comics are from the late '50s, right up through to 1969. This is commonly referred to as the Silver Age. Most modern-day superheroes (such as Spider-Man and X-Men) were introduced or revamped (as in the case of DC's Flash) during the Silver Age.

'Funny' books, however, didn't limit themselves to just the super-hero universe. Diversity ruled!

Katy Keene, fashion model extraordinaire, was cartoonist Bill Woggon's brainchild. She first appeared in Wilbur #5 (summer 1945), published by what is now known as Archie Comics Group. Not surprisingly, Katy also showed up in the more famous Archie titles such as Laugh, Pep, Archie, Jughead, and Betty and Veronica.

Young pre-teen girls were her primary audience, a market that had been traditionally ignored by most mainstream comic companies (and still is, even in the new millennium). Raven-haired Katy immediately caught both the public's eye and its affection, and popular demand deemed that she graduate from back-up to the spotlight. Archie honchos agreed. They launched Katy Keene #1 (1949), and a phenomenon was born.

Katy Keene comics featured paper doll pages, an ingenious selling ploy that makes any existing intact copies rare gems indeed. Her outfits were designed by readers, forging an unbreakable link between character and fan. Finding an 'uncut' issue is almost impossible.

The 1950s was a perfect time to nurture a character like Katy. Mom baked cookies, Lucy hilariously stomped grapes on TV, and gorgeous single women struck poses as cover models, actresses and red-carpet starlets.

Katy herself remained blissfully bland... her only real purpose was to be a fetching clotheshorse, and in that, cartoonist Woggon had no equal. He imbued his creation with a unique look and naïve charm, winning the hearts of girls everywhere.

Alas, the 1960s saw a new fashion queen snatch away Miss Keene's glittering crown: Barbie. Katy's last original comic hit newsstands in 1961 (#62), and then she faded into pop culture limbo. Twenty years later, Archie relaunched a new Katy Keene #1, with art by John Lucas (mimicking Woggon's classic style), but the comics scene - and children - had changed. This updated version never found an audience.

The alluring mystique of Katy Keene endures, thanks to Baby Boomers who yearn for a gentler, more innocent yesterday. She, at least, has remained young, untouched by time or the ravages of age.

Australia's Most Informative & Entertaining Antiques Magazine