you ever noticed that avid collectors of anything larger
than coins, stamps or postcards, seem to have much bigger
houses than most of us? I can't decide whether they buy
the houses to provide haven for their collections or does
a huge empty house cry out to be filled with whatever takes
the owners fancy?
Like many others before me, my collecting (some would say
obsession) started at the age of 3 or 4 with coins, stamps,
cigarette cards and key rings. Of course, also like most
others before me and probably since, quantity was always
infinitely preferable to quality. And so, whilst my collections
grew rapidly and cheaply, their values always remained fairly
Nevertheless, it was fun and laid the foundation for the
discipline that would be needed in later life as my collections
began to mature with my income, no doubt in a similar fashion
to the way your collecting started, which is why you are
even contemplating reading this.
The first rule is not to get over possessive about an item
you purchase at an auction or an antique shop. That is to
say, never become so attached to your pair or Wedgwood Fairyland
lustre vases that you will never be able to part with them.
Remember to become an antique, an item has grown old and
probably had several owners, each who considered themselves
its temporary custodian and guardian. Not that you shouldn't
receive pleasure from owning something so beautiful and
maybe even profit from its appreciation upon transfer. Quite
the contrary, look at it, adore it, allow yourself to be
enthralled by its beauty, and then let it move on, and enrich
someone else's life.
The second rule is to find out as much as you can about
what it is you are trying to collect or buy. You may already
know much about your chosen field of expertise, but there
is always room for updating what you know in the light of
recent finds, sales and auction prices. Do your research
and don't be afraid to invest in books, magazines and membership
to collectors clubs, where you'll find a wealth of information
that only adds to the enjoyment of what you collect.
Rule three covers those who only buy as a form of investment.
Unless you have a proven track record, a very keen eye and
deep pockets, this is really best left to the experts. Valuations
can go down as well as up, just like shares. In fact, antique
prices seem to be inextricably linked to share prices. When
stock markets crash, antiques seem like a good deal, but
watch prices tumble when world trade recovers and people
want to put their money back into the markets. The secret
really is to purchase the very best example of an item that
you can afford. That way there is the greatest chance that
its value will increase over time.
My fourth rule stems from the mistakes of youth and is to
do with giving your collection a focus. Gravitate toward
a particular manufacturer (i.e. Moorcroft), artist (Lowry),
region (France), time frame (Victorian), or theme (Rugs
from the Ottoman Empire). You may do this naturally after
a while, or you may ignore me altogether and collect what
I must admit that whilst my collecting has become more focused,
just like the branches of a tree, I still, even now, find
I take the odd detour. Despite this, the trunk still keeps
me on the straight and narrow and is the means by which
a collection matures.
Eventually, any new piece must stand-alone against the backdrop
of other acquisitions and it is at that moment you will
discover the piece doesn't "fit". Not only that,
but you'll find that it actually detracts from your collection.
This is when you have to hope you bought wisely, and pristinely,
because at the same moment that this truth dawns on you,
your first thought will be "Can I sell it?"
Rule five also stems from the mistakes of youth and that
is to buy the best example you can afford. If you started
your collection by buying slightly damaged, cheaper versions
of the same type of thing to establish yourself as a collector
in this field, consider selling all of them to buy just
one exceptional example. It will pay in the end! Suddenly
you'll discover that one absolutely perfect example is worth
more than three - five times what damaged examples are worth.
I give no specifics here because this axiom remains true
for almost all types of antiques, from whatever field or
time period you can think of.
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