Gavin Wilson, antiques dealer

Age: 57

Where are you from? Originally Alloa, Scotland.

Where do you live now? Branthwaite, Cumbria.

Where do you work? From home, at fairs and markets, out and about and as part of the recently opened Fairfield House Antiques Centre, Station Road, Cockermouth.

How long have you done this job? On either a full or part time basis, and either online or in the real world it must be getting on for 30 years. Once you are hooked, you can never give up. I got into it purely by chance when I was asked to look after a shop in Glasgow many years ago, when the usual worker was off sick. After that few days I could not stop myself popping into every antique shop and market I passed, looking for bargains and treasures. When I started, there was no such thing as the internet. It has changed the job completely, not always in a good way, but now it can connect buyers and sellers who would previously never have crossed paths.

Take us through a typical day: While there are no typical days, it often starts with a look at various auctions, either online, or in person. There is nothing quite like seeing items up close and handling them to check condition, or even to see if they are how they are described by the seller or auctioneer. Then it’s a case of leaving bids, or even better, attending the auction in person and trying to get that elusive bargain.

Most auctions are online now, which makes them much more accessible, but it also increases competition from all across the globe. Other days it’s picking up stock, getting it home, cleaning, pricing and in some cases researching it, before it can go on sale.

Some days it’s great just to go off looking around other shops and markets to see what turns up. A lot depends on your specialist knowledge and the field that you have the most interest in. In my case it’s 20th Century Decorative Arts, which covers anything from around 1860 to present day.

What do you like most about the job? There are so many different areas it’s impossible to be an expert in them all. Much better sticking to what you know about and enjoy most. Then it’s finding that elusive mystery object and researching, it, until you can track down who made or designed it, and then working out a fair and reasonable market value for it. Even better is knowing there is a particular customer out there looking for that item. Also speaking to other dealers about current prices, trends and fashions that are constantly challenging the antiques trade.

What do you like least? TV programmes that make it seem like the easiest job in the world to buy and sell making a quick profit every time. Behind the scenes they have researchers doing a lot of the work for them. Also, everyone at some point regrets something they have bought, either because of damage, wrong attribution or just a case of getting it wrong completely.

Why did you want to do this job? I have a fascination for finding out when and how things were made, and who designed them. After studying design and illustration at college in Glasgow, I was employed in a factory that made Rennie Mackintosh furniture, just getting up close to his original furniture sparked an interest in the origins of modern design and its development. That coupled with a short stint in the antique shop was enough for me to be completely hooked.

What jobs have you done previously? Painter, labourer, furniture manufacturer and designer, photographer, property developer, van driver all mixed in with dealing in antiques.

What qualifications or experience do you need? Not so much about qualifications, much more about enthusiasm and passion for the subject. Although there are general courses on valuations.

What is a typical salary for this job? Infinitely variable, but usually never quite enough.

Any advice for people wanting to get into your profession? Collect together what interests you and start learning everything you can about it, the prices it achieves and why. Then do some antique fairs or rent a little cabinet in an antique centre and see if you are right about it, talk to other collectors and enthusiasts, become an expert in your particular area.

Alternatively, attend auctions or even start work in an auctioneers and watch how it all works, maybe as an assistant and work your way up, possibly moving on to a degree in decorative arts, followed by professional qualifications.