Top prices at collectible and antique auctions in 2011I asked the permission to republish it here. If I may add a note, I would also consider the demographic evolution, that means the (growing) wave of retiree and pensioners coming to collecting and having money to spend (well, for now). For example it is estimated that in 2050 half of the population in Switzerland will be over 60 years old. I only wonder if the present pension system will still exist (the young, working-age people paying for the retirees).
So be it baseball card values, or postage stamps, or antique fishing rods and old fishing reels, this page will shed some light into the fabulous world of collecting vintage "things". Buy the way, what's the difference between "vintage" and "antique"?
TOP 10 FACTORS AFFECTING ANTIQUE & COLLECTIBLE VALUES
One of the most puzzling things about antiques and collectibles are their values. For example: how can antique furniture sometimes be less expensive than their reproduction counterparts? How can some things quickly shoot up in value and other "hot" collectibles suddenly drop in price in a short time? How can a newer piece of lesser quality cost more money than an older, better quality piece?
To answer any of these questions, it's important understand is the basics of the SUPPLY and DEMAND MARKETPLACE. Obviously, if there is limited supply of antiques (and some items are more limited than others), when demand grows, prices will grow too. However, that answer is too simplistic when dealing with the complexity of the antiques marketplace ... especially if you include eBay into the equation. Many, many things affect the value of an antique which, in turn, affects the price it brings at auction or the price tag it has in a retail shop.
THE TOP 10 FACTORS AFFECTING ANTIQUE VALUE ARE:
1. SUPPLY ... including extremes in scarcity and availability. If an item is extremely scarce, it may be very valuable BUT, only if there is demand ... if it has collectibility. If an item is too scarce, it can have limited value because it does not have collectibility. Obviously if supply is great, that limits the value. On eBay, if there are too many of a specific item at auction on any given week, the final bid price is usually less than it would be if the same item was up at auction during a period when there were fewer items in this category.
2. AVAILABILITY OF REPRODUCTIONS: If there are too many reproductions on the market, this will drive down the price of the "real thing". A classic example of this is marcasite jewelry. In the early 1980’s marcasite returned to style after 40 years. The early marcasite of the late 19th/early 20th century became heavily collected, driving up prices. By the late 1980s the market became flooded with reproductions that sometimes cost more than the genuine antique pieces. To compete. antique dealers were forced to reduce prices on the real thing. This has also happened to certain categories of glassware -- like depression glass, which has dropped in value in recent years because of the overwhelming number of cheap reproductions on the market.
3. THE VALUE OF THE DOLLAR ABROAD: A shrinking dollar will not only inflate prices of imported antiques, but it can increase prices on the type of American pieces that are in big demand abroad -- their demand will grow as foreign currency has greater buying power here, thus driving prices up.
4. TRENDS and FADS IN COLLECTING: Certain collectibles become “hot” during a 5 to 10 year cycle. The sudden demand can be prompted by newspaper or magazine articles, publicity of high auction prices or simply word of mouth (that’s what marketers now call “Viral” activity). Certain categories of collectibles can become very hot in Europe or the Far East, thereby driving up prices before they become hot in America … and vice versa. There are so many categories that became very hot collectibles … with soaring prices … only to fizzle out. In many cases, they fizzled out because of lack of interest … sometimes high prices drove collectors out of the market and sometimes reproductions coming on the market burst that balloon. Examples of collectibles that became red hot and quickly fizzled out range from Beanie Babies to Victoriana. Meanwhile, up and coming collecting fads are 1950s and 1960s "Eames Era" furniture and decorative accessories, which are quickly replacing Art Deco as the décor for the trendy, causing prices for these pieces to soar.
5. QUALITY FACTORS:
1. The quality of the piece: The workmanship, design, beauty, materials, condition and age are all things that go into the measurement of quality. Condition is a key factor in this aspect of quality factors as is whether or not the condition is "original" or not. However, that often impacts a piece's value less than the appraisers on the "Antiques Roadshow" would like you to think!
2. The quality of the environment its being sold in. Whether it's a retail store or an on-line auction, the quality of the sales environment counts.
1. Retail Environment: When you are shopping in a major city in a high end antiques shop that serves wine, plays classical music and has rich, thick carpets, beautiful paintings on the walls with well dressed sales help, you expect to find high prices and are more willing to pay them. On the other hand, it's highly possible you could see the same country French armoire in a second hand store in a small town in the middle of "nowhere" ... BUT you would not expect to pay as much for that piece there as you would in the high end store, would you? If you are a collector of 1960s designer Danish modern furniture: what would expect to pay in a trendy store in a major city? Wouldn't that be more than you'd expect to pay if you stumbled on the same Eames era piece in a thrift shop or at a garage sale?
2. On Line Environment: The quality of the auction when you're on-line has a great deal to do with what the winning bid will be. The seller's feedback will impact the final value (poor feedback definitely impacts the price a seller can get). The quality of the auction that the seller creates also impacts value -- clear pictures, well written item descriptions and full disclosure of information (e.g., how much is shipping?) will impact how much a piece will sell for.
6. DEALER MARK-UP: In a retail situation, you can take the mystery out of the price tag of an item, if you know what the dealer paid for it because his mark-up ... his profit ... is usually simply added to the price he or she paid for the piece. While department stores and furniture stores commonly mark-up new furniture and decorative accessories from 400% to 1000%, genuine antiques are seldom marked up any higher than 100% and are sometimes marked up as little as 10% over the price the dealer paid. Newly made pieces change hands only one or two times before coming into the retail setting and are marked up dramatically each time. Antiques, on the other hand, are often sold from one dealer to the next, each hoping to find a collector to purchase it at retail. Since more antique dealers are independent, they cannot afford to hold pieces for too long, so they might sell them to another dealer at a small mark-up ... or even put them up on eBay with a low starting price (sometimes even less than what they paid), just to move the piece out of their inventory. In a retail setting, most antique dealers will "haggle" but will have limits on how much they will reduce the price when haggling. It's important for the retail buyer to understand that the dealer profit is how he feeds his family (your boss probably doesn't bargain with you over your weekly paycheck!).
7. PUBLISHED PRICE GUIDES: Ralph & Terry Kovel have made their living for decades with their painstaking work in creating what’s unquestionably the most read price guides in the antiques and collectibles business. Their guides … and the guides of their competitors (Warman’s, Millers, etc.) are convenient ways to determine a “ballpark” value on an antique or collectible. However, these source books are ONLY guides. They merely reflect the price someone else paid for an item similar to yours (or the one you want to buy) and their prices should be considered estimates. Some of these books' prices are notoriously high … some are considered low. But, the values in them are actual values paid for specific pieces (coming from real dealers and live auction houses; some do use eBay prices as well).
8. eBay and other Online “Sold” Prices: The online market is HUGE -- with hundreds of millions of people all over the world having access to sites like eBay, the price something sells for in an online auction venue tells you not what something is worth … but rather what a select number of people in the population who happened to be online that week and happen to randomly see that item out of the zillions of other auctions on line that week … and how many others happened to also randomly see it … and want to bid on it. At Lennon Hall Antiques we like to say the eBay marketplace is as random as the population of the earth! Since a very large portion of the entire planet has access to eBay … and it represents such a cross section of the planet … the randomness of the price a piece will bring on any given week is startling. We have sold something one week for $500 … had the winning bidder not pay for it … then relisted it and had it sell two weeks later for $1000 … because that particular week more people who were interested in the item happened to be on-line and see it. Further, bidding wars dramatically impact online auction prices. We’ve seen pieces that we’d hope would bring $100 … sell for close to $1000… just because two bidders were caught up in bidding fever. These buyers had decided the piece was worth much more to them so the value we had placed on the item was no longer relevant.
9. Quality & taste is subjective: What one person perceives as a high quality vintage piece, another person sees as “used furniture”. What one person calls “Hollywood Regency” or even "Shabby Chic", someone else thinks is tacky. Judgments of quality speak to the taste of the individual, which is one of the single most subjective factors of all. If someone perceives a piece of high quality and fitting into their tastes and lifestyle, the value to them is significantly higher.
10. The Economy: Obviously in a poor economy, demand of certain goods lessens and in a good economy, demand increases. This is a simplistic answer, however because a poor economy does not preclude consumer spending, it merely re-directs it to other goods and services. For example, spending on luxuries will usually decrease during a recession … unless the consumer perceives an item to be a bargain or an investment that will increase in value. Further, in a poor economy, fewer people move, making do with what they have … modifying and improving their living environments by redecorating their homes. This aspect of a poor economy can actually spur growth in the antiques marketplace.
There are many other factors that will impact the value of an antique or collectible and affects its sale price. We believe these are the top 10. We’re sure you can think of many more and we’d love to hear from you with your suggestions. Please click on the link to the right to check out our auctions …. then click on the “ask seller a question link” in any of our auctions if you'd like to throw in your two cents!