It used to be the prerogative of students, retirees and new parents.
However, now that many more of us are working from home, the cult daytime TV show that is Bargain Hunt has gotten a boost, as we tune in with our lunchtime sandwiches.
Not that he needed it. Even before confinement, they produced 96 programs a year, with around two million viewers per episode.
For those who dream of winning a golden hammer, they have just launched the first official book based on the series, Bargain Hunt: Spotter’s Guide to Antiques by Karen Farrington.
The author, who has written 40 books, including accompaniments to TV series, Springwatch Almanac and The Repair Shop, agrees the past two years have seen a broader demographic.
“I think Bargain Hunt has gathered more fans during lockdown, with a lot more people spending time at home than ever before. It gave young viewers the opportunity to experience a program they might have once watched on their grandparents’ lap,” says Farrington. “At that time, it probably seemed like the contestants and the items they were choosing belonged to a bygone era. Now the program has a much younger vibe, not least for the sheer amount of energy expended in just an hour of shopping. It there is a long way to go for those who want to give themselves the best chance of winning”.
Incredibly, this comfort series has been on the air since 2000, when it first aired on BBC One with the inventor of the ‘cheap as chips’ slogan and permanent tanned presenter, David Dickinson, at the helm.
Since then, the format has been changed a few times, with Tim Wonnacott, the presenter from 2003 to 2015, guilty of introducing the end-of-episode kick.
Farrington’s book is designed to help those who want to hunt bobby dazzlers and maybe do some bartering themselves. However, we imagine that when the cameras aren’t around, stall owners might not be as willing to lower prices as they seem to gladly do in the program.
As well as covering the history of Bargain Hunt and with an introduction by Scottish presenter, Natasha Raskin Sharp, the book contains plenty of advice and stories.
These are divided into 17 chapters which include Militaria, Victoriana, Christmas, Jewelry, Glass, Furniture and Toys.
It starts with the ceramics, which is appropriate as the book reveals Bargain Hunt’s very first purchase was a 1950s Art Deco Everhot tea set bought for £34, and is, as Farrington puts it, an “equally likely to attract interest today”. It also covers, supported by interviews with various presenters, how to spot valuable Chinese porcelain, as well as pieces from Clarice Cliff, Poole Pottery and Royal Derby. Also, you can even find out how to find a decent Toby jug.
Maybe some of the future Bargain Hunt competitors would do well to read a copy of this book, as it seems they almost never turn a profit.
Not that it matters. It’s part of the fun when you see someone spend their allotted £300 on random items that include something you might have picked up at Au Naturale ten years ago.
“Personally, I think BH retains its appeal because it rarely involves large sums of money. The delight of the viewers lies in the objects chosen by the competitors. In our home, purchases are always followed by heated debate about whether too much has been paid, potentially followed by speculation that such an item resides in the back of the loft,” says Farrington. “It’s always a joy to be right, that far too much has been spent on what you perceive to be an ugly object. But there’s just as much joy in seeing a small, seemingly insignificant object fly away at a high price. at auction. And it’s a good lesson in life, to know that you can come out a winner, even when you’ve lost money. It’s the journey that counts”.
The Bargain Hunt teams always seem to perform best when it comes to the last “bonus buy” optional item chosen by one of their 22 experts. They include Caroline Hawley, Charles Hanson, Danny Sebastian, Gary Pe and Anita Manning, who runs Glasgow’s Great Western Auctions.
According to the book, Philip Serrell once did well with a Royal Worcester vase, which he bought for £170 and sold for £780. He’s the expert we want on our team.
However, Farrington is diplomatic when it comes to his favorite presenters.
“It’s impossible to choose because not only are they all great and genuinely helpful, but they have a vast array of knowledge hidden in their heads that they so generously and enthusiastically share with contestants and viewers alike,” she says. “Honestly, it’s mind-blowing how they speak so well of a random item from a stall.”
While writing the book, the author had a hotline with the presenters of Bargain Hunt, and the information proved useful.
“Inspired by writing the BH book, I bought Christmas presents for my three adult children from a shop full of old curios,” Farrington says. “I found brass boxes once used for cigarettes (the brand was Standard) that now fit two packs of playing cards perfectly. I am happy to announce that they have been voted the best gifts under the tree”.
Bargain Hunt: The Spotter’s Guide to Antiques, £16.99, BBC Books, available now