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In Quest of the Antique: The Bazaar, Exchange and Mart and the Democratization of Collecting, 1926–42

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Egginton, Heidi 


The popularization of antique collecting is typically located in the second half of the twentieth century, with the rise of ‘retrochic’ and the emergence of new markets and online trading websites for anonymously exchanging second-hand goods. Close study of the printed literature connected with the inter-war second-hand trade, however, challenges conventional chronologies in the history of consumer culture, and can provide a new perspective on the role of collecting in British social and cultural life. This article examines the period, after the late 1920s, during which The Bazaar, Exchange and Mart reinvented itself as a forum for antique and decorative art enthusiasts. It argues that, in speaking to and publishing contributions from so-called ‘small collectors’, this ‘Popular Weekly for Collectors and Connoisseurs’ helped shape a modern and democratic culture of art appreciation in which ordinary people were actively invited to participate. The private correspondence archive of a Buckinghamshire subscriber who used the Exchange and Mart to sell his collection of ‘Egyptian, Greek, and Roman Antiquities’ to readers across the country during the 1930s reveals an intimate portrait of the desires, fantasies, and pleasures associated with the popular experience of collecting in pre-war Britain.


This is the final version of the article. It first appeared from Oxford University Press via


4303 Historical Studies, 43 History, Heritage and Archaeology

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20th Century British History

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Oxford University Press
The PhD research on which this article is based was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (grant number 1227947).