13 September 2009

To Buy Or Not To Buy (And Why):

In most of my blogs that have dealt with fine art or antiques, I always say that the best investment is to buy what you like. That way, if for some reason you can't sell it, you won't be upset by having it hang on your wall, or sit in your corner indefinitely.

Some people think that only listed artists are valuable, or that only antiques are valuable.

These people are mistaken.

Something is an "antique" if it 100 years old or older. People love to tell me their grandmother's 1940s bed room suite is "antique." It isn't.

It is also a vague term, and has little to do with money. Many antiques are not particularly valuable. I was researching a Victorian ivory handled, silver plated fish service last week that was quite disappointing in its value (and my standards are pretty low).

Conversely, people will pay a lot of money for nearly anything that Andy Warhol touched.

Freeman's sold an Andy Warhol (1928-1987) Grace Kelly for $50,000 last November, which was actually below estimate.

Plenty of unlisted artists do well, depending upon subject matter. An unsigned oil on canvas of a beautiful river scene is never worthless.

But don't feel you should be limited to what hangs on a wall, or a shiny flatware service.

Here is what is sitting out in front of the gallery where I worked in New Jersey:

This could be yours, for the low low price of $325. And it plays the Lone Ranger song. How can you refuse??

I was reading an article, and saw that 1980s Pez dispensers can be worth $125-$150, and some rather bland looking "first generation" Pez dispensers can bring as much as $1,500 (but the article failed to mention if that was an auction value or a retail value - kind of important info).

The important part of buying a vintage or antique piece is to at least know a little something about it.
More than once we've had to appraise fake Dalis and Chagalls. Even on my cruise boat they were selling them - they are everywhere (
Park West is the name of the cruise-ship auction house to be avoided.) People purchase them with the impression that they are investments for the future.

Like all investments, you need to do some research first or hire an expert to work on your behalf. How many of you would spend your life savings in the stock market without speaking with a broker or other qualified consultant? I mean, that's kind of why we antiques appraisers are here.

Even the tiniest fraction of knowledge will help you when spending your money. Is that tea set sterling silver, or just plate? But if it is plate, is it good plate? Is that table a genuine period piece, or nice reproduction? Why is it so cheap?

As for me, my newest interest is to collect post WWII West German pottery. Most of it may be had for less than $100, and even the good stuff is less than $200. If it increases in value, that's great! If it doesn't, that's okay because I will have only bought items I like, and I didn't spend too much.

Happy buying!

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