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The small North London antiques dealer which is the go-to for Game of Thrones actors

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Serkan Yumakci isn’t your typical-looking suited and booted, cleancut antiques collector. You won’t find him at auctions bidding the highest price for rare, highly sought-after historic gems.

He’s more likely to be found rummaging through boxes of discarded wires, glass and metal in a dusty attic or basement, or bargaining at a flea market for an old wall clock or lamp.

The bearded 45-year-old from Tottenham is the co-owner of a small antiques shop in Palmers Green, Enfield. Together with his brother Cuneyt, he set up a business called Rag & Bone Bros around eight years ago.

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Their business has since become a favourite for several celebrities, including a number of Game of Thrones actors.

Rag & Bone Bros co-owner Cuneyt Yumakci does a lot of the restoration work the vintage interiors himself

“We used to have a stall every Thursday at Spitalfields Market,” explains Serkan. “Tracey Emin used to buy from us, and we’ve even become good friends with Jason Momoa.

“Gary Oldman was a regular customer, and so was Jonathan Pryce,” he says, adding that his business also provides antiques and vintage interiors to high-end shops in Kensington.

“Our customers don’t just buy off us, they also ask us to find certain items for them”.

Serkan and his brother Cuneyt own a van. Before the pandemic hit in early 2020, they spent much of their time on the road, travelling across Europe and filling their van up with whatever vintage collectables they could find on their journeys.

Serkan says that their business was hit quite hard by the pandemic, especially at the height of it during the lockdown, as a large proportion of their antiques are sourced from flea markets which were shut down.

Their clients in Europe also faced difficulties getting their hands on items that they could sell to the brothers, who in turn would have usually set up stalls at events around the UK and sell to other collectors for a profit.

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Although the brothers no longer have their stall in Spitalfields Market, they have managed to stay afloat by carrying out most of their transactions online, and with Covid restrictions gradually easing up, the pair have been able to resume their road trips across the Channel Tunnel.

“We’ve just returned from Berlin,” says Serkan. “In the past we’ve been to many countries including Hungary, Czech Republic and Poland. We’ve even gone as far as Kiev in Ukraine

“At first we tried our luck in France but we found the market there quite difficult to penetrate. We found it much easier to communicate with people and make contacts with dealers in Germany.

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“We managed to salvage some beautifully decorated communist-era lights from East Germany, and also got our hands on some clocks from the old Trabant factory.

“Surprisingly, the Romani dealers in Hungary turned out to be a real asset to us, even though in a business-sense they are known to be quite shrewd. We recently bought some old communist propaganda posters from them.

“We sleep in the back of the van until it’s full. Only then do we start looking at hotels. Wherever we go, we look for something we can buy and sell. It’s an instinct.”

Rag & Bone Bros often feature on Discovery Quest's Salvage Hunters: The Restorers

Rag & Bone Bros often feature on Discovery Quest’s Salvage Hunters: The Restorers

But travelling through Europe doesn’t come without occasional complications, especially after Brexit, Serkan says.

“We were stopped by heavily-armed gendarmerie forces in France,” Serkan explains.

“Another time we were surrounded by police in the Czech Republic. My brother put his hand in his pocket to get something and the police suddenly all raised their guns and pointed them at him. They ordered him to take his hand out”.

However, not everything the brothers sell is sourced from the European mainland. Serkan says that there are many valuable items they’ve found in the UK, including some disused lighting from Castle Bromwich, which is where the game-changing Vickers Supermarine Spitfire Fighter and the Avro Lancaster Bomber were built during World War II.

The brothers were also fortunate to find some 120-year-old gas-powered lamps, complete with beautiful hand-made glass. But the most interesting thing they managed to sell was an old portrait found in south London.

Brothers Serkan and Cuneyt Yumakci set up the Rag & Bone Bros antiques shop around eight years ago

Brothers Serkan and Cuneyt Yumakci set up the Rag & Bone Bros antiques shop around eight years ago

“We found a portrait of an Ottoman general in a house cleaner’s van in south London,” Serkan says.

“The house cleaner had just cleared a house out in Manchester, where he found a metal trunk. Inside the trunk was an oil painting of who we later came to know as being Celebi Mahmud Pasha, who was a general in the Crimean war. We’re assuming he was exiled from Turkey in the 1920s and came to England.

“Along with his portrait was his embroidered uniform and his sword. The only thing missing was his fez.

“We paid a grand for the whole lot and sold it for a lot more to an anonymous collector in the Netherlands. It was difficult to part with”.

Despite the challenges they’ve had to overcome during the pandemic, the brothers have remained active on TV screens, regularly featuring in Discovery Quest’s Salvage Hunters: The Restorers with presenter Drew Pritchard.

Cuneyt, who studied furniture design in Westminster Kingsway College, has a “knack for restoration”, Serkan says.

“Our shop in Palmers Green has a showroom, and my brother Cuneyt does the restoration in another part of the shop.

“We have customers from all walks of life. People are really into what we do”.

You can find Rag & Bone Bros at the rear of 90 Aldermans Hill, in Palmers Green, N13 4PP

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https://www.mylondon.news/news/celebs/small-north-london-antiques-dealer-21924203