One of the most interesting aspects of working in the art, antiques and collectables world today is just how few people realise that they are part of it. Antiques may be things of the past, but it’s an ever-changing world, which means there is a constant supply of ‘new’ antiques, objects that have just become more than 100 years old.
In the end, it is an arbitrary measure; what really matters is the quality of the piece in question. Values can change depending on a range of factors, such as rarity and condition – and, indeed, age – but perhaps the two factors that most alter the general cycle of buying and selling are changing tastes and habits.
Think of tobacciana and smoking accouterments. Cigarette cases of the 1930s remain highly collectable, but will that always be the case no smoking itself is in such decline?
A similar view can be taken of dining room furniture. Personally, I think a return to having a special room for dinner parties and the like is long overdue, but while larger homes may still accommodate this if they choose, the average new-build house simply does not have the space.
What we need to seek out then, are the antiques of the future.
There is one collector I know of who has proved very successful in identifying trends – perhaps even creating them himself – by taking calculated risks as a pioneering force. Describing himself as a ‘homesteader’, he has acted like one of the great pioneers of the West in the 19th century, heading out and staking his claim before seeing if it yields anything of value.
The thing about people like this is they accept that a lot of the time their efforts will yield very little, but it’s all worth it because here and there they hit paydirt.
So, as we embark on 2023, look about you and ask yourself a few questions. What do you see that will stand the test of the time? Does it have mass appeal? In time, will items associated with this field decline sufficiently to create that vital rarity factor… but not become so rare that not enough of it is left to sustain a collecting base? Does it have the potential to create a strong sense of nostalgia? Perhaps have retro or kitsch value? Is it the sort of thing that could be a future design icon or simply a fascinating piece of history?