Why bargain hunting's great fun, even when you don't spot a bargain

Jacqui and her friend Anne sell their wares at their Junk and Disorderly bric-a-brac stall.

“Come on we have places to go, girl,” my friend said. “All the bargains will be snapped up!”

The long drive to the house was full of our chatter, then we arrived to dappled sun, golden leaves, and a long gravel drive. About a hundred or so people are milling about the manicured grounds outside, and there is a coffee marquee and a small tent where we register. 

I get No. 113, hope it’s lucky for me. 

The house is a sturdy grey building with twin pillars each side of the door, a lichen-covered beauty, built by the masters of a former age. Farm machinery stands around the yard, with farmers poking at it.

This particular event happened way back when I was just enjoying my first bit of freedom after the children grew up, so it would have been about 1982.

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Tickets at the ready, we enter through the dining room. The table is stacked with porcelain and silver, and elegant statues and carved stone busts are pushed against the walls.

‘Plenty of loot here,” Anne remarks, “Yes but too rich for my pocket,” I answer.

I am here for the flotsam and jetsam – well, the boxes left at the end. The sort of junk items that real antique buyers wouldn’t touch with a barge pole.  But I have a good eye, and have already spotted a corner where there are some boxes. Old pudding basins, and mixed up spoons stick out, a cracked jug peeks from below.

I once found a 100-year-old silver napkin-holder, and some beautiful silver teaspoons in a box such as this. 

Anne is here more for the dishy men we see, because she has delusions about becoming lady of the manor. Dressed today in a subtle tweed skirt and a lovely green jacket, all her best gold on, and a winning smile. The fact that she is married and has about as much chance of netting a lord as flying is beside the point!

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We have coffee, and perve on the gentry by the bar – why do they all look so innocuous, and apart from one or two who have a manlier stance, weak-chinned and limp-wristed. But I have more important business, so I swiftly order a gin and tonic and ask Anne if we can go upstairs.

With the drone of the auctioneer I am getting bored, though, and the day seems a wasted opportunity. Then as we reach the last bedroom with stairs to the attic, I see five boxes. I don’t have time to look, and nobody else seems interested in them.

The auctioneer has just begun. “What am I bid for lot 192?” he asks. In a mad moment, I buy all five, using all my spare cash.

Anne is richer than I am, and deals in small silver frames and jewellery, so she too has netted some bargains.  We sometimes share a stall to sell our goods. Mostly we sell at country towns, small halls, and street stalls.  I never make a vast fortune, but enjoy doing it.,

I pile my boxes into the car. Anne drags herself away from her dreams of ‘upstairs, downstairs’. Then we arrange to book a stall for the village of Nunney next week.

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Late that night I have time for a good look in the box, and I am excited.

There is a gleaming Indian silk shawl, velvet jackets, dress- up clothes for the children. A few delicate tea cups, ‘Ainsley’ is written on the bottom of one, Royal Doulton on another.  The children’s clothes delight me and I later sell them for a profit, so not bad for a day in the country.

Netting bargains like these are rare now, too many episodes of Antiques Roadshow have made some things well out of reach.

But you never know what is in the pile of treasure at Vinnies, do you?

Have you ever found a real bargain buy?