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antiques advice from John Bly


A Family Business

The Bly family have been dealers in Tring, Hertfordshire, since the beginning of the 19 th century. An ancient letterhead proclaimed “John Bly – Antique Dealers since the reign of William IV”. The grandfather of the present John Bly first established his own business in the centre of Tring in 1891.

The present John Bly worked for four years at Sotheby's before joining the family firm. He is resident furniture expert on BBC Television's ‘Antiques Roadshow' since it started in 1978, and has his own ITV programme ‘Heirloom'. John Bly lectures in Britain , Europe and North America and writes for a variety of specialist magazines.

He has written and edited 14 books related to antiques including ‘Discovering English Furniture', ‘Discovering Hallmarks on English Silver' ‘Is It Genuine?' and ‘Miller's Silver and Sheffield Plate Marks'. His most recent is also for Miller's and is entitled ‘John Bly's Antiques Masterclass' . In recent years John Bly has become an acclaimed and highly successful Charity Auctioneer achieving thousands of pounds -or dollars- more than expected for national and international charities with his warmth and quick wit.

From a background of naval seamen, pottery decorators, horse traders, fellmongers, American Civil War soldiers, priests, architects and antique dealers, John Bly's life has been as entertaining and varied as his ancestry. His in-depth knowledge, his enthusiasm and ability to draw has made him a popular and engaging speaker and raconteur.

John Bly is a Liveryman of The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and was made Chairman of the British Antique Dealers Association (BADA) in July 1999. John has two sons, the fifth generation, in the business; Julian is an interior designer and consultant, and James manages John Bly Valuations and overseas operations.


Over the past 30 years Mr Bly has made appearances on numerous television and radio broadcasts, amongst which is his own programme "Heirloom", made at Anglia TV and broadcast on ITV. For over 30 years Mr. Bly has also been a regular guest on BBC's "The Antiques Roadshow" which airs on Sunday evenings. His featured expertise has been in three different categories; Miscellanea, Silver and Furniture. In addition to various TV interviews he has contributed to programmes such as "The Great Antiques Hunt" and " Going for a Song", both BBC productions. Mr Bly has also done a number of radio broadcasts in the way of "phone- ins" on BBC and  LBC in the UK and on local radio stations in North America . John Bly would be pleased to answer your questions in regard to antiques at any of the forthcoming shows.



My family have been members of the BADA since 1928 with my father being Vice-President in the 1970s and myself Chairman for the first two years of the millennium. We are extremely fortunate in having Peter Brooke as our President, and the fact that he is also President of the British Art Market Federation gives us a voice at Government level unprecedented for our trade. I feel it is extremely important for the membership to recognise that the world has become a very professional place in which to do business. Dealers now have to be businessmen as well as dealers. Goods have to be accurately described when being sold and when being purchased one has to be sure that the person selling has "good title".

John Bly

Five generations