Some financial experts consider antiques to be a third-tier investment. I would offer another opinion: Given the volatility of the stock market, which has experienced two large drops in the last 25 years, and the equally unpredictable real estate market, fine antiques — especially 18th and 19th century furniture, accessories, and paintings — are steadily rising in value each year. I have never seen a decrease.
Ruth Taylor, an estate dealer for more than 35 years, said that she could not agree more. According to her, the values of antiques increase an average of 5 percent each year. There is always a market for antiques, and the general population is about 85 percent traditional in their taste, which affects resale. Ruth stated that she would much rather have a home full of antiques than reproductions.
My personal experience confirms that antiques are a sound investment. Ten years ago I purchased a tortoiseshell tea caddy for $1,600, which I thought was pricey. I recently saw a similar one priced for $8,750 at an upscale antique shop, which shows what a wonderful return on investment antiques can create.
Antiques of the 18th and 19th centuries are especially valuable because they are entirely handcrafted. Today, there are very few craftsmen who have this expertise, and as time goes on, there will be fewer handmade objects for sale. Did you know that American antiques are the most valuable of all the different varieties in the world? One reason for this is because so few of them were made.
By contrast, mass-produced furniture is very much like a new car—once it is taken off the showroom floor, its price tends to decrease immediately, by one-third to one-half of its purchase price.
If you’re still not sure about investing in antiques, think about this: How many companies do you know of today which would make the copper plate to reproduce an antique print, or hand paint fine porcelains? These have become lost arts. And those who do embrace these processes charge a high price for their items. The artisans are rare, and it’s getting more difficult to find craftspeople who maintain the traditional art forms.
Here are some guidelines for making your antique investment: Buy the best you can afford, look for pieces in perfect condition and keep them in perfect condition, see if there is an artist’s signature or foundry’s stamp, and ask for the provenance, a written record of ownership and authenticity.
You can learn more about antiques by visiting museums, taking classes, and dealing with a reputable antique dealer or a member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Buy magazines and books on the subject. Attend auctions to see what items are truly worth and what people will pay: The Heritage Auction Galleries and Dallas Auction Gallery are two excellent venues. I also highly recommend watching PBS’s Antiques Roadshow.
Once you begin, I think you’ll agree that learning about and investing in antiques can be a fun and profitable venture. Happy antiquing!
With over 60,000 hours of interior design career experience, Margaret Chambers has received numerous awards from the American Society of Interior Design, has been named a Best Designer by D Home in Dallas for over seven years and has been a featured designer in over two dozen publications including Traditional Home, Texas Home & Living, and Dallas Modern Luxury to name a few. Chambers’ experience, innate talent, and studies of classic Europe enable her to confidently mix different styles, techniques, and cultures. You can view her portfolio at www.chambersinteriors.com.