There's a pleasure in visiting an antiques shop, shuffling carefully around items sometimes hundreds of years old, glimpsing perfectly hand-painted tableware or a rare emerald green corner cupboard from a faraway place and time.

Then people discovered they could get the same pleasure from watching a television show about antiques and now Murdoch McLennan is shutting his Parnell shop after half a century in the antiques dealing business.

"I'm a finished, washed-up antique dealer," McLennan told the Herald before Murdoch McLennan Antiques closes its doors on March 31.

It's no pity plea, the 69-year-old is happy to be going — he wanted to go while he was still smiling, and he is.

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"I've hung in as well as I can, and 69 is a good age for someone whose been basically in the business 50 years. I've had a wonderful career."

But he's also watched the business of dealing in antiques "slowly diminish", something he said was due, in large part, to the influence of popular TV series Antiques Roadshow.

"I think it started the death knell, because people could get the same vicarious pleasure watching that, sitting on their bums at home, rather than coming and being bored by an old fart in an antique shop."

Parnell antique dealer Murdoch McLennan is closing his doors after 50 years in the business. Photo / Michael Craig
Parnell antique dealer Murdoch McLennan is closing his doors after 50 years in the business. Photo / Michael Craig

The show, in which travelling antique valuers appraised items from local residents, had also given sellers more chutzpah.

"You've also got people coming in with a lot more attitude, because they'd seen something on the Antiques Roadshow and they 'knew theirs was better and worth more'. My job was to disillusion them as politely as possible; just because it's old doesn't mean to say it's valuable.

"I've learned a thousand ways of saying no. As I've got older, people take me more seriously. When I was younger it was just like, 'Oh what would you know?'"

McLennan does know. An antiques dealer and valuer, he started in the business aged 18, when he asked the owner of an antique shop for a job.

He'd walked past the shop every day on his way to school. He also desperately didn't want to go to university.

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By 29, the Dunedin native had opened his own shop - which, ironically, put his own kids through university - and since then he has valued, bought and sold thousands of antiques.

He'd always been interested in what he described as "serious antiques", mostly from the United Kingdom, rather than collectables such as stamps and bottles.

Just hearing the word bric-a-brac stirred a pained response.

"Ugh, don't. I can't even stand the word."

But times have changed and the shift to mid-century modern furniture styles, as popularised by hit TV shows such as Mad Men, had wooed many.

Original items had survived, not so much because they were good quality but rather because "parents had the best room for it and kids weren't allowed on it".

Either way, McLennan wasn't a fan of the fashion, which had affected interest in items such as those in his shop.

"Because the retro look is very much what people have convinced themselves they love."

Murdoch McLennan got his first job in an antique shop so he wouldn't have to go to university. Photo / Michael Craig
Murdoch McLennan got his first job in an antique shop so he wouldn't have to go to university. Photo / Michael Craig

A more mobile and more-mortgaged population had also had an impact.

"They'll sell a house in five years' time so they're not actually nesting, and to be honest, I think a lot of people have huge mortgages and a $15-a-day coffee habit. There's a lot of people whose lifestyles cost a fortune.

"I think people don't really have the ability to settle and them accumulate things which become heirlooms for them."

But there was one opportunity the downturn in antiques had meant, McLennan said.

Where an antique chest of drawers might once have cost $6000, now buyers might only pay $2500.

"I hope, and I've seen it in England, that people are using antiques now as competitively-priced furniture.

"At those sort of prices they're competitive with the new stuff."