Antiques Trade Talks – Bunker 44 Antiques

15-year-old Reece Allsopp is a young man on a mission in the antiques trade. After making a good profit with his first purchase at auction, and inspired by a love of history and the various antiques shows on the television, he started Bunker 44 Antiques to sell antiques, military and vintage items . We chat to the teenage entrepreneur to find out more about his ambitions. You can also find Reece on Instgram @bunker44antiques.

How did you get started? 

After taking an interest in all things old, as well as a chance encounter with the BBC’s Bargain Hunt, I started to think ‘why not take the chance of starting my own business’ in the hopes of becoming the next David Dickinson or Bruce Crompton. After finding a foothold in the Barnsley and South Yorkshire antique trade I soon found my niche in WWll German militaria, pre-war advertising, tobacciana and collectables.

What is the unique appeal of antiques for you? 

Each item has its own story to tell, preserving a little bit of history with every purchase. The reward of days of research, blood, sweat and tears, just to find out that the item in my possession may be worth a small fortune makes it all worth while.

Vintage tobacco tin
One of Reece’s vintage tobacco tins

What attracted you to antiques and starting a business? 

I’ve always been business-minded, even from a young age, you know, the typical ‘buy it for a tenner, sell it quick for 20 and start again’ ventures.
However, after seeing the intricate work that goes into antique pieces and the stories behind them I thought that I would have much more enjoyment from buying and selling in this field. After a few purchases here and there, a fully fledged business was formed.

What items are currently selling well? 

All items relating to tobbaciana are currently selling like hot cakes all across the country. Age, condition and rarity of advertising all have a role to play in the quality of a good item, but it hasn’t taken long to build up an extensive customer base in Australia. My customers just can’t get enough of British tobbaciana.

What antiques do you collect and why? 

I have a vast collection of German Third Reich militaria ranging from coins to gas masks, daggers and much more. I have a huge interest in all things militaria but collect this for the reason of learning from the past, never forgetting the souls who fought for our tomorrows.

How do you source your antiques? 

I regularly keep an eye on auction catalogues, looking out for things that may peak my interest. This is where the majority of my items come from. Although, car boots, second hand shops, salvage yards, antique shops/fairs all have some great hidden gems.

Do you think antiques can appeal to other teenagers? 

Yes. I 100% think that they can. Being 15 myself and regularly taking items of interest into school many of the kids are either intrigued, puzzled or occasionally shocked by the pieces I take in. I know a few children who have since started collecting after seeing the joys which antiques have to offer.

How do you use digital technology in your business? 

Without access to a physical shop/sale room digital technology plays a huge role in my business. Not only am I able to sell my wares but I’m also able to reach out to potential new customers continents away in places such as Asia and Australia through social media. Without the use of digital technology I simply wouldn’t be able to fund my business.

Where are your favourite antique hunting destinations and why? 

One of my favourites and a great place to buy from is the annual military show based in Kent every August –  ‘Military Odyssey’. This show brings in hundreds of dealers every year with everything from wartime clothing to original military vehicles – it’s an excellent weekend! My home town of Barnsley is home to some great antiques shops and even greater history. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help and support of local dealers so if you’re ever in the area please do check them out – there’s some real characters!

What sources do you use to learn more? 

The Internet is a great source of information, not only bringing antiques dealers to discuss topics on forums and websites but also independent collectors who spend hours each day sharing facts about their speciality subjects. People are always happy to chat, which makes a world of difference in learning something new about a certain topic. I also look at the hammer prices in past auctions to get a better understanding of values.

What antique pieces would you buy if money were no object? 

I would buy the items which served my great grandad during the Second World War, whether that be a uniform, a weapon or even the mighty Lancaster Bomber. Furthermore, a museum of my own would be a dream! Showcasing all the things that has made this country proud.

You’re down to your last 50 quid – what would you buy? 

I would scour the earth with my last 50 quid, raiding every car boot, auction, salvage yard and antiques fair, looking for bargains.
In true Yorkshire style… ‘A penny saved is a penny earned!’

What, if any, are some of the mistakes you’ve made and what did you learn from them?

My biggest mistake was rushing in to buy 400 wartime magazines thinking that I was on to a winner and then realising that I’ll still be trying to sell them in 2033. They have since been pushed to the back of my mind, or in other words…. the loft! I would say that I’ve learnt to do my research and test the water for buyers before buying in bulk.

How helpful have you found advice and help from other dealers? 

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support and encouragement of other dealers. Bruce Crompton and Freddie Kruyer (from TV’s Combat Dealers) gave me some wise words before Bunker 44 began and they have been a huge inspiration. They drove me to give it a go, but unlike Bruce I have far less tanks and haven’t yet bathed in Churchill’s bath tub!

What advice would you give to other young people new to antiques who want to learn more? 

Be sure to get talking to people in the subjects that interest you. The majority of traders love spreading their knowledge to young people as I’ve found out myself in the past. But most importantly, do your research especially on a limited budget. You don’t want to get stuck with 400 wartime magazines!

What are your ambitions? 

In a world where history seems to have taken a back seat to modern technology we sometimes forget all the great achievments that have happened in the past. My goal is to show teens the fun which can be found in visiting local museums, events and heritage attractions – while this supports some fantastic small businesses and charities, its a great way for kids to learn other than being stuck in a classroom.
My end goal for Bunker 44 is to not only be a hub of information about ‘what’s on’ and ‘where to visit’, with great antiques and collectables for sale, but also a place where others can come for a valuation on their household treasures. Who knows… maybe ‘this time next year, they could be millionaires!’