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10 Tips For Investing in Antiques and Collectibles

by acenh (06/05/08).
Mahogany Bow Front China Closet

These days many people are taking a closer look at antiques & collectibles as investments. As the stock market becomes more volatile, it just makes great sense to add tangible assets to your investment portfolio. Unlike any other investment, when you invest in a collectible, it’s virtually impossible to lose 100% of your money due to devaluation.
By investing in things you like you have the pleasure of owning them no matter what their monetary value, but we want you to make money with your purchases, so here are 10 tips to help you do that. Since collectibles come in and out of favor, I’m going to cite principles, rather than specific items to invest in.  Future articles will cover specific antiques & collectibles information.

  1.  Remember the first rule in investing in anything, "well bought is half sold".  It’s easy to make a profit if you’ve purchase the item at the right price.
  2. Avoid trendy items that are "made to be collectible". Items such as Beanie Babies, Franklin Mint collectibles and such, generally have no staying power. They are hot for a short time, but when they cool down you can’t get more than $10.00 for a box full of them.
  3. Buy out of market. Seek out furniture dealers that buy house lots, ask them if they have any jewelry for sale.  Find out if the local heavy equipment auction has any furniture included in the sale, they usually do. There are many ways to shop out of market, to use an old Yogi Berra quote, "hit em where they ain’t". By shopping out market, you eliminate much of the competition and can often buy at fire sale prices.
  4. If your considering laying out serious money for an item and you have doubts about it’s authenticity, get it authenticated or appraised. With the Internet there is no excuse for getting duped. There are many online appraisal services that are very good, fast and inexpensive. I offer an authentication in 24 hours and an appraisal in 3 days. There are several other good ones available.
  5. Learn and practice a few of the basic negotiation tactics. I can think of no other business where the art of negotiation is used as much as the antiques/collectibles trade. Without a good foundation in haggling skills, you WILL overpay.
  6. Study the people in the business at least twice as much as you study the merchandise.
  7. When learning about the merchandise, learn rules of thumb and generalities, the detailed knowledge will follow.  As an auctioneer and appraiser I can valuate millions of items because I’m well versed with styles, colors, quality and trends of items. If you know that Aqua Marine and Tomato Red are very popular colors for almost any collectible from the 1950s-60s, you have good information on thousands of items just with that one rule of thumb.
  8. If it looks too good to be true, it may actually be that good. I realize this counters common wisdom, but in the antiques world, specialized knowledge can give you incredible leverage. IE: To the untrained eye, Grueby Faience co. pottery may look ugly, but most pieces will bring thousands at auction. This is a business you have to be willing to take risks in. Be careful, but not timid.
  9. Buy in large lots. This is my favorite safety net. When you buy in volume from a seller that wants you to "take it all", you can rarely lose money. Of course you want to make sure you have the time and space to deal with the volume. As well as being a financially safe move, buying estate lots, collections etc. is the best way to learn the business quickly and it’s a blast!
  10. Learn the terminology, nicknames and slang of the trade, it will help immensely when buying and selling. Then learn how to use this knowledge discreetly. Sometimes it pays to show off your education, sometime is pays to keep it vested.

Thanks for reading if you have any questions, feel free to email me at auctionwally@auctionwally.com
Now get out there and start buying low and selling high! There has never been so much merchandise on the collectibles  market as there is right now!

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