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; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

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

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

    £15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

    Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

    £40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

    Day In a Page

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test