Before I started working at Newel full time, I had a position as a staff accountant at Coopers and Lybrand, a then “big 8” accounting firm. I was pleased to read that a present day survivor of the now “big 4”, Deloitte, has concluded that for the antique furniture market, it is a good time to acquire a “proven asset at a low price”
The venerable English weekly, the Antiques Trade Gazette (http://www.antiquestradegazette.com/news/7242.aspx) had an article highlighting the economic data as well as functional quality and craftsmanship for making an investment specifically in the antique furniture market. Along with a strategic bet that modernism is overvalued in relation to proven assets now at depressed prices, the article concluded that antiques should prove to be a viable unorthodox asset form.
When you read the whole article, you can’t help but feel a bit bullish on the prospects for a market that has been particularly hard hit for an extended period. Even when the good times of so recent memory were flying in the contemporary and modern art arena, furniture hadn’t seen really good times since the 1980/90’s. If my memory serves me well, when the Impressionist market collapsed with the exit of the Japanese in the 1980s, traditional furniture and decorative arts were quite strong. However, over the last 10-20 years the only consistent market to grow has been the modern periods. Art Deco, French 40s, Mid-century modern, have dominated in growth at the expense of classical French and English.
Another interesting point the article discusses is the hedge quality of antiques against future inflation. While I don’t claim to be a clairvoyant economist, I do remember that in the old days of rampant inflation in the 1980s, we couldn’t raise prices fast enough. That was fun!!
I have always tried to not encourage any client from making the decision to purchase an antique solely as an investment; I think that misses the point why one bothers to buy these things. If can’t love it and have some sort of passion for wanting to own the piece, you’ve lost some significant added value.
On the other hand, as a dealer and someone whose business and income depends on acquisitions, value and salability are paramount. My love for my purchases requires me to be able to accept a satisfactory and (hopefully) favorable financial settlement for the piece. But in an industry notorious for a slow turnover of inventory, I’d rather be in a position to raise a price at some future point, than be stuck with a bad investment.
Perhaps the most noteworthy point of the report from Deloitte is the positive tone for the prospects of antique furniture. It has been a long time for anything upbeat concerning this end of the market. As antiques present themselves as a “green”, environmentally friendly product, in the new economic order they might sprout into the green shoots of a good investment too.