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.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

    £40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

    Ashdown Group: Direct Marketing Manager - B2C, Financial Services - Slough

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity h...

    Ashdown Group: Java Developer - North West London - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

    £40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

    Selby Jennings: Corporate Communications & Marketing Specialist – Geneva

    120,000 - 150,000 chf + bonus: Selby Jennings: A leading Swiss Private Banking...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser