What's Happening And Why?
And I have to tell you that the "industry" is constantly changing. It's a movable feast.
To give an example:
When I first started out in London's Portobello Road at the age of 17 you couldn't give Victorian mahogany furniture away, nobody wanted it. I've actually seen it chopped up in the street and used on bonfires (burns long and well). You could sell good Victorian "tizzie walnut" stuff, things like card tables, whatnots, canterburys, side tables etc. as long as they had floral inlay. You could also sell round and oval tables, sets of chairs, credensas etc. as long as they were good quality and had inlay. But mahogany? Forget it.
Later on, some 30 years later, Victorian mahogany furniture was all the go. It sold for what dealers of my vintage thought was "mad money". Particularly in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and France. The French were fussy though, only the best would do.
Now, once again, Victorian mahogany furniture is difficult to sell.
The same applied to carved oak furniture. It was broken up in the 1950s/60s for component parts. You could sell a door off a cabinet providing it had good carving but you couldn"t sell the whole cabinet. The door could be used as a wall hanging.
In the late 70s though, some 20 years later, I was shipping truck loads of carved oak to buyers in Belgium and Holland, every single week.
It's the same for collectables. Clarice Cliff pottery was dumped ( I did it), carnival glass was sold by the tea chest full at 50pence an item (I bought it) and oil lamps sold in Portobello Road for one pound each. I've kept some of those. Nowadays I see similar lamps for $3000 or so.
So what are the changes all about? The answer to that is one word; FASHION. Things go out of fashion all the time, practically everything you can think of does.
When antiques and collectables go out of fashion the dealers move on to other things and prices of the now "unfashionable" items tumble. But here"s the thing, the item doesn't change. By that I mean that if something was good quality, well made, of good design and beautiful to look at when it was made then it still is. Nothing has changed to take those attributes away and sometime in the cycle, say another 20 years, people will once again open their eyes and see the item for what it is. When that happens Victorian mahogany furniture will have a resurgence once again. The same will happen to all the various "areas" of antiques and collectables.
They are subject to the vagaries of fashion. But here"s something else to consider and with which I've never come to grips. Why do people who buy antiques and collectables intrinsically believe that they are entitled to make a profit on them when they want to sell them? Nobody expects to make a profit on their car, a pair of socks, a lounge suite or anything else. Everybody expects to lose money on everything they buy that"s new. So why should they expect to make money on something they buy that"s old? It doesn't make sense to me.
There is a bonus to buying antiques and collectables though. The joy of owning them is enormous and it can last your whole life through. Most collectors can tell you where and when they bought something and some of the items, along with the memories they bring up, become priceless to the owner. I can vouch for that because both my wife and I have items we won't part with until we pop our clogs. Financial value doesn't enter into it.
So here"s my advice about buying antiques and collectables:
Do a bit of research on the subjects that attract you.
Read AUSTRALIAN publications first because they reflect the home market.
Take absolutely no notice of what the "fashion" is.
Buy what you love and it will give you pleasure forever.
Don't worry too much about "the current market value" but get a guideline to ensure you"re not ripped off.
If you can, buy the best quality (I don't follow that rule myself, too many temptations out there and I buy simply for enjoyment)
And, the bonus is that there are people out there just like you who will pay money for your items if comes time to sell them.
Two things to remember:
It's not the things you buy that you regret, it's the things that you don't buy.
And: IT'S ALL ABOUT ENJOYMENT