Sell Abroad or Stay Home?

Are foreign markets better for selling antiques than American markets?

Collecting has gone global, thanks to the Internet. As a result, antiques and collectibles divide into two groups: (1) those that have a global market and (2) those with only a national or regional market. Beatles memorabilia and Royal Doulton are two examples of collecting categories that have a global market. Ceramic categories such as Hall, Hull, Roseville, Weller, etc., illustrate categories whose marketplace is limited to their country of origin.

America is the mother lode for antiques and collectibles. After World War I, during the Depression and in the two decades following World War II, American collectors and dealers raided the antiques and collectibles treasures of Africa, Asia, Europe, Central and South America, and other parts of the world.

Foreign items returning home

As the economic power of these countries increases, especially through the creation of a viable upper-middle and lower-upper class, private individuals and others are coming to American to buy back their historical heritage. Large quantities of Asian and European objects sold at auction are going back over the east or west horizon.

After World War II, the world was influenced by American movies, music and television. Licensed product associated with these three categories is collected worldwide. While some foreign licensed rights were issued, foreign collectors want the products sold in America, most of which did not appear abroad. A French Coca-Cola collector has far more American than French objects in his collection.

The trend toward investing in antiques and collectibles is increasing, thanks to the current world economic situation. Investors are moving from intangibles, such as bonds and stocks, to tangibles, such as gold and antiques and collectibles. Whereas Japanese investors played a significant role in the 1990s and early-21st-century market, today’s investors are likely to be from Arabic countries or Russia. These investors want the best of the best. They buy it wherever they find it, at home or abroad.

Online auctions broaden collectibles and antiques markets

Thanks to eBayliveauctions, no longer in business, worldwide collectors, dealers and investors want ready access to the American auction marketplace. Several firms, e.g., Artfact and, have created platforms to replace eBayliveauctions. The viewing audience for these sites is smaller than for eBayliveauctions. The number will grow. Some sites will fall by the wayside; others merge. What will not change is the appetite of foreign buyers to play an active role in the American auction scene.

Some things sell better in one market than another, the result of personal preference and other considerations. When I visited antiques shops in Germany, I was astonished at the prices asked for pearl-handled fruit-knife sets, double to triple what they bring in the United States. Check out the clock and music box prices in Amsterdam’s antiques row, three to 10 times those for the same pieces in the United States market. Likewise, German collectors have little to no interest in late-19th/early-20th-century inkwells. Buy them in Germany, and sell them in the United States at triple what you paid.

Americans are jingoistic and isolationist when it comes to the antiques and collectibles marketplace. It is time to remove the blinders. The market is global. The next step is to determine the where, when and how.

Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out his Web site.

You can listen and participate in “WHATCHA GOT?,” Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. If you cannot find it on a station in your area, WHATCHA GOT?” streams live and is archived on the Internet.

“SELL, KEEP OR TOSS? HOW TO DOWNSIZE A HOME, SETTLE AN ESTATE, AND APPRAISE PERSONAL PROPERTY” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site.

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected letters will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Photos and other material submitted cannot be returned. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5093 Vera Cruz Road, Emmaus, PA 18049. You also can e-mail your questions to Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.

Meet Harry Rinker in person at the 8th Annual Northeastern Pennsylvania Home & Garden Show, Jan. 23-25, in Wilkes-Barre. He will also be appearing at the 8th Annual Southeast Pennsylvania Home & Garden Show, March 13-15, in Reading.

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