The best online antiques auctions and shops

A brilliant antique find could be just a click away. Discover the best auction portals and online antiques shops

The way we buy antiques is changing. These days your choice isn't only limited to your local antiques dealer (though a rummage there is never a wasted trip). The internet has opened up our eyes (and pockets) to a wealth of antiques the world over. You can buy decorative arts from Cape Town, mid-century chairs from Los Angeles and Murano glass by way of Berlin. It's even possible to watch live footage of auctions as you bid so that you really feel part of the action when the gavel goes down.

For security when buying, vouched-for online portals are a good place to start. Make sure your find is coming from a reputable dealer. They can offer evidence of authenticity, which is crucial when it's an important purchase or significant sums are at stake.

But whether it's a little flutter you fancy or if you're on the hunt for a particular piece, with more dealers turning to Instagram and more online auctions than ever, it's likely that you'll find what you're looking for. Rather than trawl hundreds of individual dealer and auction house websites, make a start at one of these easy-to-use antiques-buying platforms. They all work in subtly different ways. Read on to discover which best suits you.

For very special finds – LAPADA's online marketplace

Rare and beautiful pieces are the order of the day on LAPADA's online marketplace. Including stock from all the members of LAPADA (The Association of Art and Antique Dealers), it's an eclectic mix and eminently tempting for very special finds. There's an easy search function and, once found, the site puts you directly in contact with the dealer to finalise the purchase.

Another fun way to get a hit of antiques is to sign up for LAPADA's 'Object of the Week' e-newsletter, which showcases some of the antiques world's most interesting finds. lapada.org

For the auction house experience – Auctionata

Auctionata is a Berlin-based auction house that hosts live sales filmed in its own studio, giving you the buzz of the event without any of the travelling. It was originally set up to emulate the feel of a traditional auction house online. The auctions are overseen by licensed auctioneers and operate a policy of low starting prices.

As a bonus, Auctionata also has an online shop where you can pick up a plethora of treasures from pocket watches to classic cars. auctionata.com

For a fresh choice – Antiques Youngs Guns

Many may think that the world of antiques is not a place for young people but this collective of dealers under 40 years old proves that this is not the case. The entrepreneurial Antiques Young Guns began as a competition to name the 'Antiques Young Gun of the Year' back in 2013 but the movement has grown and the dealers, having just had a successful stand at this month's Decorative Fair and a popular pop-up shop near Alfies Antiques, are a growing number.

The online marketplace the group launched this year is a brilliant resource, as it pulls together all of the Young Guns stock in one place. You can browse by dealer and get in touch with them direct. antiquesyoungguns.co.uk

For distinguished dealers - BADA

The British Antique Dealers’ Association (BADA) is the trade association for UK dealers. All sellers listed adhere to a strict regulatory code, and are only elected for membership once having shown high business standards. This means you can shop with confidence, even online.

While the website isn't the most whizzy in design, it's clear and contains full contact details of any dealer you may want to buy from as well as links through to their websites. bada.org

For a great range – SellingAntiques

This site (and we can well believe it) claims to be the UK's largest antiques website. Effectively a busy online marketplace, sellingantiques.co.uk brings together dealers and buyers onto one bustling platform. Once browsing antiques, there are helpful suggestions of others you might like to look at for comparison (after all, who doesn't like to shop around?) and like others, it provides you with a means to contact sellers easily. Dealers don't necessarily have the LAPADA/BADA authentication however, so do make sure you check what you are buying carefully.  sellingantiques.co.uk

For bidding around the country – The Saleroom

This website draws together physical and online auctions from all over the UK onto one platform so that you can browse them all at once. It may not have the most beautiful user interface but the site is a treasure trove. It reached one million users last year and hosts over 500 auction houses' sales. You can set up free alerts if you're looking for something specific so that you will know exactly when to place a bid and you can get live help online if you have queries when buying. the-saleroom.com

For global antiques – 1stdibs

1stdibs' tagline, ‘the world’s leading online marketplace for the most beautiful things on earth’, isn't far from the truth. Originally a resource for interior decorators to find unique pieces, 1stdibs has since turned into a well-used one-stop design and antiques marketplace, bringing together a host of international dealers.

You can search by location (to save yourself whopping import costs), by piece, or by dealer and it has a dreamily inspirational blog for those in need of ideas. It has also launched an app for smartphones, making it even easier to browse the stock. 1stdibs.com

For auction enthusiasts – Barneby's

It wasn't long ago that you would have to spend hours trawling auction house catalogues and calenders to make sure you didn't miss a star lot. Barneby's is currently the largest search engine for art, antiques and collectables on the web, where auctions from salesrooms all over the world, including Sotheby's, Christie's and Phillips, are featured. All items are open for bidding and are easily searchable – there are also free auction result databases and appraisal services available if you have pieces to sell. 

Founded by auction enthusiasts in Sweden who clearly know what they are about, the clean design of the website is wonderfully easy to use. barnebys.co.uk

For decorative pieces – Decorative Collective

An exciting collection of professional UK and European dealers, the Decorative Collective is the place to head if you are searching for, as the name suggests, a decorative piece. Hundreds of items are added each week, and are all sold direct from individual dealers with no third parties or commission.

If you set up a client account you can follow and receive updates from your favourite dealers. decorativecollective.com

For inside knowledge – Mearto

A new Danish start-up, Mearto works by sending out online bots to auction house websites and pulling together past and upcoming auction lots. It's very easy to peruse and, while still embryonic (it hasn't yet reached the-saleroom.com's traffic numbers), the lovely design of the website is a treat.

It also brings together lots from different auctions into curated collections making a more thematic search very easy. Plus, there's an online magazine that provides latest news and fascinating insights into the world of art and antiques. mearto.com

For mid-century – The Modern Marketplace

Renowned for its Sunday events showcasing 20th-century furniture, The Modern Show is now selling online. Specialising in the clean lines of mid-century pieces, lighting and collectables, this is a comprehensive online database that pairs up experienced dealers with shoppers who are keen to search and buy mid-century furniture year round. themodernmarketplace.com


Image: Ben Anders for Béton Brut themodernmarketplace.com

For art enthusiasts Invaluable

Founded in 2009 in Boston, invaluable.co.uk now has an office in the UK and allows bidders to search and buy from over 160,000 auctions around the world each year. With a whole section dedicated to Asian art and a database of artists that you can search for your favourites, invaluable.co.uk is a helpful auction portal for both those new to the art world and experienced bidders. For those who'd like an instant purchase, it also has a 'Buy Now' section and a list of galleries.

If you're feeling a bit unsure but would like to place a bid, check the Invaluable 1,000 – a list of the most prominent artists organised by category – for ideas. invaluable.co.uk

And finally... Instagram

Odd though it may sound, the social media site du jour has also begun to provide a platform for antiques dealers to sell their stock. Many post new finds on Instagram with prices and one dealer recently told us that a piece was snapped up within hours of his post. Thanks to its new messaging system, its easier than ever to see a piece you like and put an offer in for it within moments. For our list of our favourite antiques inspiration on Instagram, click here. instagram.com

Are any of your favourites missing from our list? Post your comments below.

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