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Investing in antiques

Seeing the impressive figures publicized at the latest Christies and Sotheby’s auctions makes some take a second look at their lovingly acquired collection. Finding out the difference between what an item is worth and what the same item will sell for the difference between having real value and being worthless.

True appreciation

Regardless of the perception, true value in most items does not come in a year or a decade, but in generations. Most treasures will not shoot up in value like a Faberge egg, but even those took over five decades to be truly understood as unique.

Along with time, provenance matters in selling a piece. Names sell. Auctioning an antique desk of a society lady with a notorious reputation will easily eclipse a similar item sold by Ms. Jane Smith.

Unfortunately, some see their cherished keep sakes as a hedge against the unforeseen, or a form of a retirement plan, but an owner needs to look closer.

Understand the market

The best way to look at antiques as assets is to look at them as other aspects of a portfolio. Know when to hold onto an item and when to sell. Only the foolish would sell a stock when it is at a twenty year low, but many try to sell antiques and not know the market.

Older collectors are selling not buying for the most part. Younger buyers rarely go for the huge, heavy, ornate monstrosity many hoard in attics.

Estate planning

If a collection is being considered for liquidation or items are being selected to be passed on to the next generation, make the task easier on all involved.

Keep an eye open to sales of similar items. An item may be worth five thousand dollars, but if no one is willing to buy the item at that price, or more sobering, no buyer can be found at any price, the experience can be an exercise in frustration.

Collectors often travel in the same social circles. Collect the name and addresses, and phone numbers of possible willing buyers. Destitute royals have been known to sell a gold snuffbox or bauble to a discrete potentate looking to dazzle a favorite wife.

Note dealers and auctioneers who sell similar items. Many specialize. Most will have a list of clients looking for special items under the radar. A single item or a whole collection may be just what a deep pocketed customer may desire.

Love what you have, but make sure it remains an asset and not a liability.