ME & MY MONEY: Antiques Roadshow expert Andy McConnell

Glass act: Andy McConnell of Antiques Roadshow

Antiques Roadshow expert Andy McConnell has made hundreds of thousands of pounds from antiques but says the best financial decision he ever made was investing in real estate.

The BBC show’s glass specialist tells Donna Ferguson that he bought his first house in 1979 for £2,750.

He says he much prefers working with host Fiona Bruce – “a woman with swagger” – than her predecessor Michael Aspel.

Now 70, he lives mortgage-free in Rye, East Sussex, and enjoys lecturing to raise money for charity.

What did your parents teach you about money?

Work hard for it and understand the link between money and ‘things’. My parents were part-time antique dealers. By going to antique shops with them when they were buying, I learned how to lower the price – and that cash talks.

I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. My father was the managing director of the family’s tobacco blending business, which employed about 20 people in East London. He worked hard while my mother, who is an avid Daily Mail reader, was a professional cocktail drinker.

I say that because it will make her giggle – she had au pairs and went to cocktail parties for a living. We lived in leafy Epping. There were no hardships in my childhood. I was a very happy child and I am extremely grateful for my happiness.

What do you like most about antique trading?

The thrill of the chase. Buying is so much more fun for me than selling. Selling is boring. Buying is dynamite. I remember going into an antique shop in Crystal Palace in the 1970s and finding five post-medieval glasses priced at £2 each. They were worth £5,000. I lowered the price to 8 euros.

What’s the best bargain you’ve ever discovered?

An enamelled Venetian cup of a painted horseman in armour, dating from 1510. A man had bought it in a sale. He thought it was worth £50. I put it up for auction for him and he got £25,000 for it.

Have you ever been paid stupid money?

Yes. In 2004 I wrote a book about glassware, The Decanter: An Illustrated History 1650-1950. A year later, an American who had purchased a copy of my book invited me to compile a world-class collection of decanters for him.

It turned out he was billionaire hedge fund manager Jim Pallotta, owner of the Boston Red Sox baseball team. Over a period of five years I put together this collection for him and I must say it was quite lucrative.

All the very good decanters I owned myself that I’d previously decided were too good to sell—suddenly not so good to sell to a billionaire.

In total I made £160,000 both by buying decanters on his behalf and by selling to him decanters I owned.

What’s the worst antique purchase you’ve made?

I spent £500 on a Venetian glass bowl 20 years ago which is now only worth £150. It’s utterly repulsive and I have no idea why I bought it.

In the past 40 years I have collected more glass than the V&A and the British Museum combined. The only difference between what I have and what the V&A has is that his collection is worth billions and mine is worth six pence.

What’s the best money decision you’ve made?

I bought my first house in 1979 for £2,750. It was a two-bed cottage on the river outside Rye, East Sussex. There was no running water and you had to get buckets of water from the river to flush the toilet. I’ve always been handy, so I fixed it up and made it a livable place. Ten years later I sold it for about £150,000.

Are you saving for a pension or investing in the stock market?

I get the state pension because I’m a crafty old man, but I haven’t paid enough national insurance contributions, so it’s the equivalent of a bag of chips a month. I think I earn about $80 a week. I see investing in the stock market as just a little bit removed from playing roulette – and I don’t gamble.

'A woman with swagger': Andy, left, with Fiona Bruce in the BBC1 show

‘A woman with swagger’: Andy, left, with Fiona Bruce in the BBC1 show

Do you own real estate?

I have my own home, mortgage-free. It is a two bedroom house right on the beach outside Rye. I bought it four years ago for £230,000 and it has definitely increased in value. It was a total fleapit when I bought it and not mortgageable. In fact the specifics said it was unfit for human habitation so I thought it was just right for me and got £95,000 off the asking price. All I’ve done so far is install a new bathroom and a new boiler, but I’m planning a complete renovation.

What is the little luxury you treat yourself with?

Disappears to Southeast Asia for six months every winter. It’s a luxury, but it’s also a money-saving exercise because I don’t have to pay to heat my house in the winter. Last year I went to Cambodia and Thailand, the year before that to India. I’m going because of Brexit – I’m so ashamed of my country and that decision, I feel like I have to get out.

If you were Chancellor, what would you do first?

As a smoker of 30 cigarettes a day for 50 years, I think cigarettes should cost £500 a pack. I now have emphysema. I smoked 490,000 cigarettes in my life and now I regret it.

Do you donate money to charity?

I donate my time. I am willing to give my time absolutely free to anyone who can raise £5,000 for a good cause at an event where I speak. I have a lecture that I give to rotary clubs and things like that. I don’t care which charity the money goes to – environmental or humanitarian – as long as the event is in the South of England. I talk about the most interesting topic I know: myself. It’s basically about the roadshow, how it works and how Fiona Bruce is to work with.

What does Fiona Bruce like to work with?

She is amazing. I much prefer her to Michael Aspel, her predecessor. She is a woman of swagger and intelligence.

Does the BBC pay well?

It pays more than my state pension and it’s a great pleasure to be a part of the show.

What is your first financial priority?

Staying alive – and keeping myself in Bee Gees albums.

  • Email to book Andy for a free call to raise money for a good cause.

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