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The Big Issue’s own bargain hunter shares his top antique-selling tips

On the hunt for a bargain? Star of the BBC’s Antiques Road Trip and ex-rough sleeper Simon Gravell valuates some sterling antiques picks for this week’s Big Issue

Norwich vendor Simon Gravell is used to selling a bargain when he wears his red tabard. But away from his pitch Simon is a knowledgeable and experienced antiques dealer, and has even appeared on the BBC’s Antiques Road Trip.

The 50-year-old used to sleep rough just yards from the All Saints Antiques Centre in Norwich before he began to sell The Big Issue outside Topshop in the city centre. But he has now had a cabinet at the centre for almost two years, allowing him to sell his wares and auction finds.

“I have always been interested in antiques and old things,” says Simon. “If I was buying a silver picture frame and there was one with a dent in it then I would want that one because it has a bit of character.

“I still get a buzz from the auctions. I have to control myself to make sure I’m not spending too much money.

“I have a couple of cabinets now but I’m hoping to expand further and do this full time – I’ve even stopped smoking, every penny counts to make it happen.” Here, Simon talks us through some of the items that bring him love and joy.

Bobby dazzler

Whitefriars vase by Peter Wheeler

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“It’s a very rare piece from 1969. Peter Wheeler was a former assistant of Geoffrey Baxter and this quality line was made to go up against the Scandinavians, who were bringing a lot of quality glass over in the late Sixties. It had three different types of glass that melted at different temperatures so they discontinued it after just a year.”

Simon’s valuation: £400-£500

On a plate

Biarritz plate by Clarice Cliff

“The floral pattern is hand-painted and I like Clarice Cliff a lot, although the market is not doing particularly well for her at the moment. It goes up and down between the three potters who were huge influences in the Twenties – Cliff, Susie Cooper and Charlotte Rhead. Cooper is in fashion at the moment but it changes.”

Simon’s valuation: £250

Bargain time

William Cummings silver clock

“It’s from London in 1900 and is French Movement inside – I’ve been trying to find out who the woman is in the painting on there but I’ve had no luck. She looks like a Viking goddess. How I got it is quite a good story. I saw it was on auction and fell in love with it instantly but my buying pot was empty. As luck would have it, I got an offer for three pieces of Moorcroft [pottery] so I pegged it down to the centre and managed to get the deal. It was destiny that I would get this piece.”

Simon’s valuation: £1,000-£1,250

Flower power

Moorcroft floral vase

“The artist is Rachel Bishop and the second-hand market is still quite buoyant for her stuff. When her work is in fashion it can easily fetch around £500.”

Simon’s valuation:
£225-£235

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