Fine art of buying antiques
Collect to invest: Go for pleasure, not profit, says John Andrew
Saturday 08 February 1997
In the 1970s, inflation was roaring and investment was all the rage. People were pouring their money into anything, with the objective of making a capital gain when they later sold their acquisitions.
There is no denying that many were successful. However, when the bubble inevitably burst, many individuals learnt the basics of supply and demand the hard way. Having fought to buy average material at above-average prices, they discovered when they queued to dispose of their treasures that more sellers than buyers meant lower prices.
But surely antiques have increased in value over the years? Of course they have. Indeed, there is a shortage of quality material at present. Invariably, when good items which are fresh to the market appear at auction, whether porcelain, silver, furniture or jewellery, the demand and consequently prices are strong.
Where people who regard antiques as an investment go wrong is that they treat the fine art market as if it were the Stock Exchange. Unlike shares, there is no clearly defined market for antiques and furthermore, only two buyers can influence prices. Also, whereas a certain class of share in a particular company is the same as any other, every antique is different.
Variations in condition and quality can result in apparently identical objects being worth quite different sums. Add the effects of restoration, repairs, alterations, copies and fakes to the pricing formula and a minefield appears.
The biggest trap to snare the unwary in the field of antiques is a lack of knowledge. The prudent individual who carefully researches before buying a consumer durable, or seeks professional advice when investing money, generally throws caution to the wind when buying antiques.
Even when a "perfect" buy is made at the right price, there is no guarantee that it will be a "good" investment. I confess to being an incorrigible collector. As my collecting interest has changed over the years I have sometimes parted with items that are no longer of interest.
Occasionally I do well, while at other times, had a good return been the original objective of my purchase, a conventional investment would have been far more beneficial.
Take the example of the four Charles II silver lockets which were purchased in the early 1980s. The price paid was pounds 905. They sold at auction in July 1995 for pounds l,960, giving a net return after the auctioneer's commission of pounds 1,764.
This represents an annual compound return of around 6.5 per cent. One cannot complain, but from January 1984 to July 1995, the FTSE 100 index increased by a multiple of around 3.4. To have kept pace with the index, the lockets would have had to have netted pounds 3,077.
The lockets are rare collectors' pieces. The mundane will not have compared so well. Take the quite ordinary silver salver made in Sheffield in 1895, secured in January 1983 for pounds 185 and sold last month for pounds 350. This represents a 5.5 per cent compounded annual return. However, from January 1983 to January 1997, the stock market has increased by a multiple of around five.
Then there have been the disasters. Way back in 1971 the first piece of silver I purchased was a 1787 Georgian inkstand with superb cut glass ink pot. Considered a "snip" at pounds 30, it is certainly elegant, as the picture shows.
As I later discovered, it was in fact converted from a pen tray in the early 1800s and the added silver rim made to hold the ink pot was not hallmarked.
The piece would be illegal to sell, as any addition to a piece of hallmarked silver, by law, also has to be hallmarked. It remains as a pertinent reminder that not everything is as it seems.
A brief flirtation with antique cuff links had its ups and downs. The cased pair presented by Boris III of Bulgaria, which featured his cipher in rubies and sapphires, three years later realised more than double the price originally paid. However, at the same time a pair of antique French examples in the form of tiger heads, their tongues rubies, lost 45 per cent of their value in four years.
We should put things in perspective. No one buys anything new with the hope of selling it at a profit at a later date. Purchases are made because they are needed and liked or simply for enjoyment.
Antiques should be viewed in the same way. Buy what you like, but do not regard the objects you buy as an investment. Rather, see them as items to give you pleasure. Regard the profit as a bonus.
Remember though, unless you have an eye for bargains, it will take a few years before you can even contemplate making a capital gain. This is because your objects will have had to increase sufficiently to absorb the selling and buying costs.
27 July 2015 11:12 AM
The high-cost credit company preyed on vulnerable people struggling because of the recession
25 July 2015 12:00 AM
Competition has driven rates down but they could start drifting upwards
25 July 2015 12:00 AM
Andrew Hagger has carried out some research to try to establish which accounts are strongest in each of the different areas
Questions of Cash: 'Golfing break landed in the bunker when the price on the booking site was way below par'
25 July 2015 12:00 AM
One reader encountered a problem when booking accommodation at the St Andrews Tourist Hostel through HostelBookers
Payday lenders slammed for 'misleading' claims: charities say they're still not doing enough to help borrowers
21 July 2015 12:14 PM
Debt charities say there seems scant evidence to back up CFA's latest report
18 July 2015 12:00 AM
There have been fresh warnings that scammers are trying to trick people into using liberated cash to invest in dodgy schemes
18 July 2015 12:00 AM
Taking the wrong plastic can be a costly mistake, leaving you paying over the odds for your holiday spending money to the tune of £68, maybe more
18 July 2015 12:00 AM
15 July 2015 12:01 AM
But the right of over-55s to withdraw their retirement nest-eggs opens the door to scammers.
17 July 2015 03:48 PM
Mark Carney said the decision to raise interest rates was likely to come by 'the turn of the year'
10 July 2015 06:35 PM
Ticket frustration a go-go as gig-goers are let down again. Funny how bad publicity helps
Have you been given the wrong mortgage? City Watchdog says it is 'unclear' why two-fifths of loans were recommended
09 July 2015 06:49 PM
Stringent new rules were supposed to stamp out mortgage mis-selling, but only 59% of mortgage borrowers were given suitable advice
11 July 2015 03:00 AM
The alarm bells are ringing over 'no hang-up' fraud
08 July 2015 11:27 AM
Big firms are skilled at increasing profits while millions struggle with fuel poverty
07 July 2015 12:30 PM
A retired nurse lost £14,000 to unscrupulous rogues
An interest rate rise may be on the way - act now to secure a better mortgage deal
Switching your current account? Pick one that reflects the way you run your finances
Five Questions On: GB Energy's new tariff
Payday lender Cash Genie forced to repay £20m to ripped-off customers
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
- 1 Lord Sewel quits: Peer 'boasts of having sex with BBC presenter and seeing 13 mistresses'
- 2 Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta clashes with President Obama on LGBT equality: ‘Gay rights is really a non-issue’
- 3 Topshop pulls 'ridiculously skinny' mannequins after being shamed by customer on Facebook
- 4 Five-year-old boy forced classmate to simulate oral sex at primary school, claims mother
- 5 Black and ethnic minority people twice as likely to be hit by Tory cuts than white people, report finds
The 9 charts that show the 'left-wing' policies of Jeremy Corbyn the public actually agrees with
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
The last thing Labour needs is a leader like Jeremy Corbyn who people want to vote for
What the Labour party could look like under Jeremy Corbyn
I am the Jeremy Corbyn supporter that many will tell you doesn't exist
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
iJobs Money & Business
£18000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Insurance Bro...
£40 - 45k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Research Associate / Research Anal...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Finance Accountant - Fin...
£90000 - £98000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A truly exciting opportu...
Day In a Page
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This first-floor flat comes with two bedrooms, an impressive open-plan reception room and two lovely roof terraces.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Moored at Taggs Island and reached via a pretty garden, this two-bedroom houseboat has a vaulted reception room and skylit garden studio - currently a beauty salon.
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
A contemporary house spread over three storeys, this three-bedroom detached home has large sliding doors that open out to the River Quaggy.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
This former village bakery, dating back to the 17th century, is now a three-bedroom detached home just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
On the picturesque Isle of Man, this four-bedroom character home has a ground-floor shop that's currently run as a newsagents and a flat that would make an ideal holiday let.
In a new collection of flats, this first-floor two-bedroom apartment offers ample entertaining space and a prime view of Furze Green from a private balcony.
This three-bedroom stone-built cottage currently trades as the village store with a restaurant in the annexe and family accommodation on the upper floors.
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.
Less than five miles from Malmesbury, this four-bedroom cottage comes with equestrian facilities and gardens that extend to approximately three acres.
Spanning three storeys, this late-Victorian five-bedroom farmhouse is a spacious family home with a modern interior and B&B potential.
With an original church arch, this triplex one-bedroom church conversion has a light, spacious, feel and comes with a secure off-street parking space.
This recently-refurbished three-bedroom home has bi-folding doors that lead out to a decked seating area - ideal for alfresco dining this summer.
Well-located for coastal walks and popular restaurants, this detached four-bedroom home offers views over farmland, to the Solent, the Purbecks and Bournemouth.
If you love high ceilings, school conversions like this one are bang on the money. This two-bedroom flat is minutes from Burgess Park and the foodie haven at Borough Market.
Set within a church conversion in Bermondsey, this two-bedroom maisonette combines existing features, such as original arches and brickwork, with a contemporary finish.
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
This four-bedroom home offers a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining with doors that open to the patio and garden.
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.