Ben Cooper

How do you find life on the road?

I spend much of my time travelling, but there are fortunately more positive sides than negative. One, I get to travel across the country and see beautiful countryside, great cities and pretty market towns, all with the mission to find, buy and sell antiques. The downsides are the long wet days on motorways and trudging around the less than glamorous showgrounds! But, as I say to my friends, I have chosen a wonderful lifestyle, not a job!

What is your favourite part of your role?

There are various roles of being an expert on Bargain Hunt that I love, but I think my favourite is meeting, getting to know and putting the teams at ease so that they can enjoy their day hunting out those bargains!

Why did you choose a career in antiques?

I don’t know if I chose the career or it chose me! I am the youngest of four boys, and when I was growing up my parents always encouraged us to learn, and within that learning was antiques. As boys we would be taken to antiques shops and fairs. At the age of 8 I was given my first antique, a fob seal which had belonged to my grandmother. From then on I was encouraged to collect more (and given many by my dad). From that point my love of antiques began.

What would you do for a living if you weren’t working in the antiques trade?

Now there’s a question! When I left school I decided I had a choice – antiques or music. I chose antiques as music is my true escape. Now, I suppose I would help my mother with her catering and B&B business… believe it or not, I’m quite a good cook!

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to work in antiques?

First of all auctioneering or dealing?! In my case I’m a dealer so from my experience I would remind anyone wanting to join the antiques trade that life as a dealer is a lifestyle, not just a job. You have to be prepared for long days, and be prepared to have an open mind to learn.

How did you get involved in Bargain Hunt?

I first sold to Bargain Hunt in its early days, (also my early days as a dealer) when I had a stand at the Malvern Antiques Fair. I had no idea that one day I would be an expert on the show. In about 2012, Bargain Hunt came to Leominster to film at the antiques centre I help to manage; it was then that I first met members of the crew. To my surprise I was asked for a screen test and was invited to join the team of experts in September 2014.

Which fairs do you particularly like shopping at when bargain hunting?

Builth Wells is always a favourite. For sheer size and choice, it has to be Newark… but then again there’s Malvern…

What’s the most profit / greatest loss you’ve made at auction?

Within Bargain Hunt, I have made many losses and fewer profits! The most surprising profit was a deck chair but financially it was the Charles Horner brooch. Loss? I never remember those figures, but a few have been a little embarrassing!

What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

Guilty pleasure: a fine glass of tawny port with a good chunk of stilton!

How do you spend your free time?

For me it’s music. I sing in various choirs. Singing is my true release. Some use a squash court to release pent up energy, I use my voice. I sing with the Worcester Festival Choral Society, The Three Choirs Festival and The City of London Chamber Choir. Did you know that the Three Choirs Festival is over 300 years old? It is a venerable antique and institution in its own right! I also sing in an acapella group called ‘Men in General’, just four blokes who have a lot of fun singing arrangements of well-known songs, coupled with a spot of silliness!

Do you collect anything?

I don’t collect anything in particular, but sometimes see something I just have to own, whether it’s early Chinese ceramics or Whitefriars glass. At the end of the day I love to handle and enjoy objects of great quality made by real craftsmen and women.

Why do you think Bargain Hunt has such appeal?

Bargain Hunt endures by the nature of the format. With the fantastic large team of experts, and the varying presenters, let alone new contestants featuring in each programme, no two shows can be the same! The show tours the UK, everyone has a ‘local’ venue to look out for, and nothing can rival the excitement of an auction!

Why would you encourage anyone to appear on Bargain Hunt?

When anyone asks me about the show, I say “do it”. It is fun! The crew and experts are all such lovely people. I have met so many lovely people through the show – these are the reasons it has become part of our daytime heritage!