I used to have a small shop in a mall before I retired completely. While I specialized in American Art Pottery and in particular Roseville, I found that furniture was what paid my rent.
I had a steady customer base for the pottery but month in and month out the furniture paid the rent. I would buy at auctions and sell in the shop. So, from my viewpoint, furniture would be the most reliable.
This is an interesting question, because it’s rare that I get to put away subjectivity and apply objectivity to this business.
That said, after years of collecting fine art and art pottery, and attending shows, shops and auctions across the Northeast, there seems to be no area of collecting that is as consistent as Americana.
It doesn’t matter what kind of Americana you collect, I have never seen the prices decline for sculpture, paintings or the various other forms associated with Americana.
The downside to this is that it is very difficult to get your hands on the very best examples without having to pay through the nose for it.
I was lucky enough to be among those who got a few good paintings, and a couple quilts, out of Brimfield in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I would never sell these pieces, but have had them appraised a few different times over the years at consistently higher prices.
They will be a great inheritance for my kids when I’m gone, because, as they say, you can’t take it with you!
While it may not be popular, and seems to get a lot of bad press – Antique Trader included! – I have seen an awful lot of brown furniture come onto the floor of my shop over the years, and it never ceases to sell well.
People buy it for convenience and practicality, and it looks good with just about anything! I’ve even had people who buy lower end pieces to use the wood for other things, though I would not ever recommend this. What buyers do with the pieces once they are bought, however, is not necessarily my business.
Without a doubt, the only area that has seen significant and steady increase over the years – by all age and range of collectors – is Modern furniture.
I know this may be an unpopular thing to say to dealers today, many of whom don’t consider Modernism relevant as an antique form, but just look at the prices at auction. Wow, is what I have to say. Put your money there and you will never go wrong.
Regarding your question about whether or not the antiques business should be federally regulated, I know I’m a few weeks late in getting this response to you, but I just had to sound off.
I was dismayed at the numbers of readers who told you that they thought it was a bad idea and that you are crazy for suggesting it. You are not crazy! At least not to my knowledge, ha-ha.
Really, though, I think it would be a good idea to have some kind of federal regulation to stop all these scammers ripping people off by selling new furniture as if it were old. In fact, I just read about a furniture maker in England that was making things for expensive dealers who were then selling the furniture to trusting clients as if they were really antiques. The dealer denies this, but if it’s true, then that’s a real shame.
In America, it would be a good idea, above, say, $50,000, to have the government do some background checking and detailing. Otherwise, thieves and crooks can get away with whatever they want and then disappear into the night.
Don’t let anyone tell you you’re crazy for suggesting this. I think it’s a good idea.