As with so many small enterprises…
…mine started by happy accident. After leaving Exeter University in the early 1970’s
I spent some time touring the country performing in folk clubs. At that time I was interested in ragtime and the blues, and my travels allowed me to visit antique shops in all parts to seek out 78 records of that material. Naturally, I needed machines on which to play the records and at that time neither held much if any value. I was able to build a large personal collection often obtained from the very people who had bought them new. Many items were literally given to me rather than being destroyed or dumped. I learned a huge amount from these original owners as well as gaining access to all sorts of material which is now almost unfindable. By 1975 my Devon cottage was full to bursting with finds...
My French degree encouraged me to go buying in France where I often took my Morris Traveller after graduating. I became known as the Mad Englishman who bought gramophones and French dealers at times literally chased me down the streets of Clignancourt (Paris’s monster weekend antiques market) demanding that I come to see their stock.
In 1976 I opened my first shop in Battersea ‘The Collector on Lavender Hill’ in partnership with the toy specialist Stuart Cropper. Despite its south-of-the-Thames location the shop became well known worldwide with many visitors from America and the Far East. 1977 saw the Centenary of Edison’s invention of the phonograph which triggered fresh interest in the hobby.
In 1981 Stuart and I moved to Gray’s Market off Oxford Street and rented separate units.
Grays Market circa 1985
Tiring travel into London and increasing parking restrictions for would-be customers encouraged me to risk deserting London and opt for a shop close to my home. In 1988 I found one in Bridge Road, East Molesey, opposite Hampton Court Palace.
From then into the 1990’s I crossed the Atlantic dozens of times, attending all the American specialist fairs held in New Jersey, Chicago Florida and California; exporting two air-containers of good Americana to London on every trip. These visits brought me into contact with all the major U.S. collectors. In the late 90’s I added the German Fair at Rudesheim near Bingen to my annual itinerary, taking stalls for several years to both buy and sell.
I ran the Bridge Road shop for an unbelievable fourteen years until 2002 when the business of working every Saturday began to wear thin. The internet now made long-distance selling by photography easy for the first time. I took my business home to Thames Ditton just one mile down the road.
1998 The centenary of HMV brings some nice publicity
One thing I can promise you is that I have a lifetime of knowledge and experience- around thirty five years from my earliest collecting days- handling just about everything that the hobby embraces and can almost certainly help you locate whatever you seek or sell whatever you wish to dispose of. I now spend a great deal of time driving around the country visiting collectors and picking up new stock... back to the future!