What is worth preserving now as the antiques and collectibles of tomorrow? If I could answer that, then I’d be richer than most. It’s surprising what people will compete for furiously at auction these days, from plastic toys of the 1970s to old computers. Only in May, Steve Jobs’ first ever computer, which he built in his garage, sold for £100,000 at auction. I have even seen ordinary old snapshot photos sell for £50 or more apiece. The mind boggles sometimes at what can be turned into hard cash and what people are desperate to collect.
One way of starting to identify what might be the next success on the rostrum is to look at the variables that contribute to value at auction: rarity, condition, maker, age, provenance, fashion and appearance. Age is not likely to be a factor in this case, but condition certainly can be, especially for old toys. Star Wars figures in undamaged blister packs can make far more than those that have been played with, for instance. Some of the rarer models are not those of the main characters, but rejects withdrawn and replaced by later designs. Ordinary day-to-day items can take on a special allure if their history – or provenance – links them to a celebrity or extraordinary event, like the Titanic disaster. More on this next week.