The value of antiques in a sluggish economy

Just a few thoughts as I eat my lunch…    

Anyone who regularly reads my editorials in Antique Trader – Anyone? Anyone? – knows that I love to pick on the minutiae of the market, especially as it pertains to those that have and those that have not. The high-end is an easy whipping boy, because if you’ve got millions in the bank, it doesn’t matter what the rest of the market is doing, or how it’s trending; you will still be able to buy what you want, when you want it. The result is that, yes, the high-end is generally out of touch with the middle and low end of the market. Them’s the facts.

A few weeks ago, however, when we asked the question of our readers: Can you still find good antiques dirt cheap, and where?, I got an email from Darylle Lambert, the author of “31 Steps To Your Millions in Antiques,” pointing out, among other things, that if the economy tanks it’s even better for the overall antiques market because people will want to put there money where their investment is safe and others will want to sell their antiques to meet their overhead. Regardless of how you slice it, at whatever level, we all know that your money is safe in antiques. Unlike most things, the money you put into a piece is going to stay there – as long as it remains in good condition – and, in most cases, increase as the years go on. Darylle is a smart man, and he makes a good point; one that I’ve been thinking about for the last few weeks since he wrote me.

I have to say that I agree with him, and – even if there is much turmoil and change in the antiques business right now as dealers get in or out of the business, as the best stuff becomes harder to get and as a segment of the antiquing population dies off – I would say that the market in general seems to bear out his theory. As things have gotten diffifult in the last few years it does seem that people have been drawn to auctions and shows just as others have been drawn to sell off their collections to put some cash in the bank. If they aren’t spending big bucks on the items that make a dealer’s, or auctioneer’s day with a single sale, they are indeed spending. In times of turmoil – like now, with a looming recession and an uncertain presidential election – people are going to turn to comfort objects. They might not buy a Chippendale highboy for a few hundred thousand, but they’re going to pony up $75 for that good condition 1962 copy of a Scrooge McDuck comic, or for anything that takes them back to a safe place in there lives. I myself, being a kid of the 1970s, go back to the arcade games and cartoon characters that populated the simpler days of my early life and I have been buying things that take me there.

There will always be examples of people who can find something cheap and make a healthy – sometimes hefty – profit off of it, but more to the point, I think, is that people will always be willing to spend something that reminds them of the uncomplicated times in their lives, be it tin soldiers, ceramic cups or postcards. This is what makes the heart of the market beat, even if it’s the million dollar sales that make it pound. We all need the thrill, but me? I’ll gladly take a steady pulse over a racing one.