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Hamptons Life

Mar 4, 2019 11:01 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

The Winners And Losers In The Field Of Collecting

Mar 4, 2019 11:28 AM

One year ago this column, The Collector’s Eye, began. As most people do at an anniversary, I am looking back over the past 12 months and the reactions and questions I’ve received in order to mount my own “Best of Collectibles” award. Not best in the sense of best written, best researched, or best question—but what ideas in antiques and collecting are the hottest, most valuable and most likely to remain that way for the coming year.

Before I announce the winner, you will have to bear with my own column reviews.

My first article, “Everything Has Its Place,” talked about how anyone can start a collection of things as disparate as matchbooks or 18th and 19th century hooked rugs. However, it started with some off-hand line about the lack of stuff in the contemporary Hamptons home. Perhaps it was the word “antiseptic” or “personality free interiors” that bothered some. I don’t know, but it was simply an observation. So for those who wrote to chastise me I say, “too bad.” I write about things, not the lack of things. On the other hand, I received several notes from people who also have matchbook collections and a few who were interested in knowing more about American hooked rugs.

The “Blue & White Sustains” article was popular as is blue and white porcelain to this day. Several writers shared pictures of their blue and white objects and stories about their acquisitions. Some needed advice on selling what they had and some on repair or how to make lamps out of vases, etc. As I said in the article, nothing quite captures the imagination or matches the popularity of blue and white ceramics, pottery and porcelains. One year later, blue and white continues to be extremely popular and antique pieces continue to command good prices at auction with many Asian buyers pushing prices on Chinese pieces for their personal collections. More than likely this will continue in the coming years. The same can’t be said about kilim rugs (“Stands the Test Of Time”). Kilim rugs right now are not particularly sought after collectibles even though they have a rich history and intriguing back story. We’ll keep our eyes on them, however. They could see a renaissance once “color” comes back into the home.

In the summer articles, I highlighted antique wicker (“Comfort Found on Any Porch”), collections of unique American folk art (“Pursue Americana for Independence Day”) and shells (“There’s Always a Find at the Beach”). These articles highlighted the uniqueness or rarity as a collectible pursuit. In this category of collectibles there is a dedicated following of buyers and sellers who are quite passionate about folk art, almost like a club. Because these things aren’t made anymore and reflect a different time and place, I believe they will maintain their value. And occasionally, when a piece with provenance pops up, it will be a big sale with a big price tag. Different but similarly unique is the business of shells at a more modest level, which I predict will continue in popularity and value, in particular the nautilus and giant clam shells, which get rarer and rarer by the year.

Two other articles focused on wardrobes (“Armoires Persist As Needs Change”) and Chinese furniture (“Ageless Kang Fittings”) and we ended the year with holiday collecting (“Traditions To Hold Dear”). Again I see a dedicated following of designers and clients who appreciate a beautiful armoire and love the modern look of Ming Dynasty furniture and integrate it with contemporary interiors. Nonetheless, the prices for armoires and most Chinese antique furniture has declined even in this past year, but I think it unlikely to go down more. As far as holiday traditions, they are going the way of the dodo except for museums. What they have in common is personal affection and/or appreciation.

The winner of my award for Best of Collectibles goes to “Mid-Century Modern Finds Its Place Among Antiques.” I’ve chosen the article about modern furniture and lighting because its popularity has continued to rise and the demand for authentic vintage pieces is strong. Prices continue to rise as well, making it more valuable and at the same time harder to find. The mid-century designs like the Sputnik chandelier are now iconic. Even production pieces from the Knoll Studios have been granted iconic status. Beloved by both architect and designer, the market for mid-century furnishings as collectible objects has skyrocketed in the past year and at auction has eclipsed by far the market for traditional antiques. There is no reason to think that this trend in modern furnishings will not continue to thrive. Unlike traditional furniture, modern furnishings fit our lifestyles better, look great in our open concept homes, they’re clean lined and not fussy, and extremely stylish. My bet is on mid-century modern to be a winner in the years ahead. There are so many options that my only word of caution for a collector investing in some of the iconic antiques is to make sure you’re buying a genuine vintage piece, not a copy of a vintage piece. As with all purchases of valuable things, make sure to thoroughly vet the item by asking questions of the dealer or seller for verification—one can learn only so much on the internet!

To the readers and email writers, I appreciate your interest and want to remind everyone that if you have questions or comments about things I write about or things you’re curious about, please let me know. I welcome the feedback and thank you for reading my column.

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