One step towards investment success is getting smart with investing in antiques. With enough training to build your savvy eye and trust your gut, you can learn how collectibles and memorabilia could fatten your wallet.
Below are 12 helpful tips on how to invest in antiques to give you more bang for your buck. We're always open to hear more advice, so feel free to comment on this article or post on our Facebook Page.
Like any great investor, don't go into antiques buying quickly and thoughtlessly. Figure out why you wanted to get into antiques in the first place. Are you a fan of history and love how artifacts can tell us more about our communities or other eras? Are you knowledgeable about a certain area of antiquing, like pre-war furniture, and you want to see how you can make money with that info? Or are you watching too much Antiques Roadshow and think "Why not me?!"
Determine which type of antiques draw you in, and which are a major turn-off. Write down your key areas of interest and then do some research. Don't just read Wikipedia articles; get books from the library, pore over magazine articles, and head to museums to bone up on a historical period relevant to your antique buying.
Now you have to decide where you'll find those treasures you'd like to invest in for years to come. We spoke to Antique Trader editor Karen Knapstein to get her take on this important decision: "If you know exactly what you're looking for, and have the knowledge and confidence to search and buy online, buying online through shops and auctions is a wonderful way to find an item," she says. For example, you can visit Muzeum's antiques and collectibles section to find items catching your eye.
Knapstein adds that if you don't know exactly what you're looking for, pick up a general price guide that surveys a broad range of antiques and collectibles and use that to help in your search.
If you're not a receipt-collecting shopping-list-writing kind of person, then it's time to shift gears. Leave a paper trail of everything you buy, and we recommend a Google Drive file so you can access that database wherever you are. Record what you bought, where, from whom, how much it cost, its details, condition, etc.
Think about an item that might attract you, like a gorgeous massive boudoir found in a Scottish castle and you can get it for a ridiculous price. But if it's truly huge, what buyer would want that for their home? Consider scale when you buy items, and think not only about its value via its historical significance but also its real-time applications. If it can't fit through a standard doorway or staircase, who would realistically buy it from you?
This might sound obvious, but snagging the rare stuff takes effort. You don't have to pound the pavement to hunt through garage sales, but be aware of what your community's neighbours might be selling, or visit a pawn shop to see what might have come past their desk recently. You might find that rare piece of war memorabilia everyone looked over, or you might spot a first-edition book that could interest collectors.
If glass items catch your breath, look out for prewar Lalique items, as this Telegraph article notes. They quote Mark West, a specialist glass dealer, saying: "Eighteenth-century English glass at the top end is still a good buy. Large sculptural items from the late 19th century through to Art Deco are a good investment, having seen gains of probably up to 50pc in three years."
According to Antique Trader's Knapstein, mid-century modern items are blazing right now in the antique world. She explains: "The variety of Modern pieces - and the abundance - make these items suitable for a broad range of tastes and budgets. Younger generations - including millennials - are drawn to the clean lines, as opposed to the now-out-of-fashion fussy, Victorian furniture, It makes a statement for vintage, yet It complements contemporary decor. You can see post-war designers are still influencing/inspiring contemporary designers."
If mid-century modern isn't your thing, consider looking eastward. Knapstein says that for many years, wealthy Asian collectors have been re-patriating the art and antiquities created by their ancestors. "They have the financial means to buy, and the technology of online auctions place items within reach – even if they're half a world away. Just this week a 900-year-old Song dynasty bowl was auctioned through Sotheby's in Hong Kong for $37.7 million, setting another record!"
We can see this being a polarizing tip, since some avant-garde art and home furniture can sell for big money. But we agree with what Scott Zema wrote in his book Three Steps to Investment Success: Buying the Right Art, Antiques and Collectibles. "The so-called classical or timeless forms of objects are relatively assured to continue to appreciate rather than unusual or offbeat objects." He goes on to say a Greek wine pitcher from eons ago, a design repeated many times, may be more valuable as an investment than a strange lava jug with lots of puzzle holes.
Back to Antique Trader's expertise on this one. Knapstein says some areas of antiques interest are mastered more quickly than others, "but it often takes years to develop that expert eye....The simplest answer is to buy from someone who is reputable – someone who will stand behind what they sell and guarantee that what they're selling is authentic. However, even the pros get fooled once in a while."
Ed. note: Stay tuned to Muzeum's blog section this fall because in November we'll publish a two-part blog post series on art forgery
Why? You might learn about a new fashion trend or societal movement that could influence your antique purchase. Let's say pocket watches are back in style (which they have been, in and out, for several years). You might want to steer your attention to any great deal on pocket watches, either at events or online.
Also, your community paper may list events where antique dealers may be networking, and it never hurts to learn from the experts as you become one.
Now that you've bought some valuable items, your investment effort doesn't end there. You have to keep your goodies looking oh so fine. Polish when you need to polish, dust when you need to dust, and ensure your family members or friends don't play around with your prized possessions. Keep your items safely stored but ensure they are far from any moldy walls or soot-filled corners.
Now that you're armed with 12 nuggets of antiques-investing advice, get out there and buy those unique items tugging at you. If you are looking for any items on Muzeum's site, or want some advice, don't hesitate to contact us anytime.
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