Apr 6, 2014

Don't Bank on the Investment Value of Your Antiques

In the early 1980s, I was fortunate to live near Wilmington, Delaware’s Winterthur Museum. Winterthur is a former estate of the DuPont family and was used as a residence until 1951, when it was converted to a museum. The estate contains one of the country’s finest collections of 18th and 19th century furniture and decor.

Like many wealthy American families, the DuPonts furnished their homes with pieces that were both practical and investment-quality. No run-of-the-mill, mass-produced furniture could be found at one of these elite estates. Wealth wasn’t maintained by investing in disposable consumer goods; only antiques and fine art would suffice.

The “antiques are a good investment” mindset endured through the 20th century, but is losing its appeal in the 21st century. The Annual Furniture Price Index, a compilation of Great Britain’s Antique Collectors Club, shows that values of antique furniture have steadily declined since the 1980s (a fact well known to American antique dealers). The club’s February 2014 report attributes the value losses to the decline in formal dining and falling demand for dressers and “coffers.” Investment quality furniture is only an investment when demand goes up. Those of us who watched antique prices rise in the 1980s were shocked to find values evaporate 20 years later. Read More...

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