Prove­nance is key to sal­vaging the rep­u­ta­tion of bar­gain finds

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY - Sally Coulthard

PROVE­NANCE sep­a­rates the or­di­nary from the ex­tra­or­di­nary. Whether it’s a paint­ing or an old pot, it gives you the his­tory of an arte­fact’s jour­ney through his­tory; who made it, who owned it, what it was used for and whether it’s had an as­so­ci­a­tion with any­where or any­one fa­mous.

Know­ing the source and date of an ob­ject can add sig­nif­i­cant value to it and is also im­por­tant in the fight against thefts and forg­eries.

This is es­pe­cially when it comes to il­le­gally ob­tained ar­chi­tec­tural an­tiques (or sal­vage as it’s more com­monly known). Sadly, these are all too of­ten stolen, then sold to clients who choose to ask not too many ques­tions.

With the cur­rent eco­nomic cli­mate, an in­creas­ing num­ber of peo­ple are turn­ing to sal­vage as a cost ef­fec­tive way of re­pair­ing their pe­riod home or adding a bit of char­ac­ter to their gar­den. I’m a huge fan of sal­vage and use it widely in my restora­tion projects. But, and this is a big but, un­less you want to come a crop­per you have to be ab­so­lutely clear about where your finds have orig­i­nated. Most peo­ple are un­aware that if an item they have bought turns out to be stolen, they will lose the item with­out com­pen­sa­tion and could even be pros­e­cuted for re­ceiv­ing stolen goods.

The vast ma­jor­ity of sal­vage is bona fide, es­pe­cially if you buy from deal­ers who have signed up to the Salvo Code – guide­lines which aim to give buy­ers con­fi­dence that items they buy have not been stolen or re­moved from listed or pro­tected build­ings with­out per­mis­sion.

Many deal­ers have al­ready es­tab­lished a sen­si­ble buy­ing pro­ce­dure but the Salvo Code makes this for­mal, un­der­stand­able and ob­vi­ous to the buy­ing pub­lic.

To find out more about the Salvo Code and find­ing rep­utable deal­ers, visit

Re­pro­duc­tions are also com­mon in the sal­vage busi­ness. Mod­ern copies al­low a buyer to pur­chase items such as mar­ble gar­den stat­ues which, if made from the orig­i­nal ma­te­rial, would be very ex­pen­sive. Some­times re­pro­duc­tions are used when an orig­i­nal would be im­prac­ti­cal; some fan­tas­tic pieces of Vic­to­rian san­i­tary­ware, for ex­am­ple, have been faith­fully copied and then tweaked to com­ply with mod­ern plumb­ing re­quire­ments.

But most of the time, re­pro­duc­tions sim­ply ex­ist be­cause de­mand for cer­tain types of ar­chi­tec­tural or­na­ment – fire­places, sinks, gar­den stat­u­ary – is so high.

The qual­ity of re­pro­duc­tions can vary wildly. At the top end of the mar­ket you will find ex­cel­lent copies, made with gen­uine care and crafts­man­ship, us­ing ma­te­ri­als and con­struc­tion meth­ods faith­ful to the orig­i­nal process.

Re­ally high qual­ity re­pro­duc­tions can even be­come col­lectible in their own right.

At the bot­tom end, you can end up with cheap im­i­ta­tions that of­ten aren’t even fit for pur­pose.

The buy­ing and sell­ing of ar­chi­tec­tural an­tiques is pro­tected by the Trades De­scrip­tions Act and if you’ve been sold a re­pro when you were as­sured it was an orig­i­nal, you have a le­gal right to get your money back.

If an auc­tion cat­a­logue or price tag de­scribes some­thing in writ­ing as “an orig­i­nal”, for ex­am­ple, and it turns out to be a copy, you have writ­ten proof that sup­ports any at­tempt to re­coup your money.

To safe­guard against fake or stolen sal­vage al­ways try to es­tab­lish prove­nance. If you can get doc­u­men­ta­tion or pho­to­graphs sup­port­ing this, even bet­ter.

Don’t be afraid to ask where an item comes from. Al­ways get a re­ceipt for your pur­chase, with the name and ad­dress of the dealer.

Pay by cheque or credit card if you can: this leaves a paper trail of pay­ments made. And if you sus­pect an item is stolen, con­tact your lo­cal po­lice. Chances are if a dodgy look­ing bloke of­fers you a nice stone urn for your gar­den, there’ll be an­other home­owner wak­ing up to find his favourite gar­den or­na­ment has van­ished into thin air.

Sally Coulthard is a writer spe­cial­is­ing in pe­riod prop­erty.

SOLD: Ar­chi­tec­tural an­tiques come un­der the Trades De­scrip­tions Act.

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