Furniture better than property as a lucrative investment
Prices for old English tables and chairs are at an all-time high, representing a better return on your money than bricks and mortar
Forget dot.coms and shaky technology stocks. Forget spiralling property prices. If you really want to make money, take a look at that old mahogany desk of Auntie Maisie's.
According to the Antique Collectors' Club index, published annually for more than 30 years, antique English furniture prices rose in 1999 by 4 per cent, to their highest ever level.
Based on a selection of typical pieces, it shows that since 1967 furniture has seen value growth exceed that of the stock market and house prices in the South-east, excluding London. A country gateleg oak table picked up for £45 in 1968 for example, would be worthabout £4,250 today.
Best performers in 1999, according to the index, which covers more than 1,000 pieces of furniture, were walnut, country and late mahogany furniture, with increases of 7 per cent each. Oak and early mahogany both rose 4 per cent.
But as with stocks and shares, values range wildly between items. The values of Victorian and Edwardian furniture, which had soared in recent years, saw little or no increase. A Victorian desk bought for £5,750 in 1993 would now be worth £250 less.
John Andrews, who compiles the guide, says the exceptional performance of antiques is largely due to their unusually low starting price. "I think if you look at the last 10 years, house prices and the stock market would have slightly exceeded it," he said. "It's just that 30 years ago antique furniture was ridiculously cheap."
Chris Wright, of the Antiques Trade Gazette, says that while quality antiques tend to hold value, there were fluctuations in the market depending on what was in fashion. Where several years agoArt Deco and Arts and Crafts furniture were shunned, this year the styles are increasingly in demand, along with "anything Gothic".
"It's a combination of what's available and what people are buying ... so Deco material and Arts and Crafts were quite cheap and there was a lot around," says Mr Wright. "Then people start buying, the price goes up, people say it's in fashion, so it spirals. As soon as prices reach a prohibitive level, then fashion will move on."
According to the index, while the best investments included dining tables and chairs from all periods, there were exceptions, such as Victorian balloon-backed chairs. These have dropped in value, possibly due to modern over-reproduction at low prices.
Other pieces to have lost value include sloping fall-front writing bureaux, which may have declined due to increasing ownership of computer equipment, which favours pedestal desks and larger tables.
So far this year, the humble Welsh dresser has been fetching exceptional prices. An oak dresser was sold in Mold, Flintshire, for £46,000, after spending more than 100 years in the house of the farmer who had it made.
Even if it is not worth a fortune, good-quality antique furniture should prove a better investment than its modern counterpart: "If you're a first-time buyer, you can often find good antique furniture for under £1,000, which may be a lot cheaper than buying modern from a warehouse," Mr Wright said. "It should also retain its value, whereas second-hand furniture that is modern and machine-made is going to have a resale value that is negligible."
However, well-made, original pieces by today's designers,says Mr Wright, may become the sought-after antiques of the future.
But the modern buyer is unlikely to see the same return on his or her investment. Mr Andrews notes that dealers - a traditional source of "bargains" - have largely been displaced by major auction houses, and novice buyers by the well-informed. "Antiques Roadshow and shows like it have left everyone feeling that there's a fortune in the attic," he says.
The FTSE 100 is inching closer to its record high but can it maintain these levels?
MPs call for Equitable Life policyholders to be paid £2.8bn owed by government
Fuel poverty could claim 100,000 lives over next 15 years, warns energy charity
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
Weekly Money: Round-up of the personal finance stories you may have missed 23-27 February
- 1 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 2 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 3 What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
- 5 Fearne Cotton quits Radio 1 after ten years for 'family and new adventures'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...
£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...
£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...
£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...
Day In a Page
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
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads