I’ve been asked about the impact inflation has on antiques. At one time I would have had an easy answer, and that would have been that holding (or buying) antiques is a good bet in inflationary times. For most real antiques there is a limited supply, so demand eventually drives prices up. Typically, antiques are a little less volatile in pricing, so it can be argued that the dollar will buy as much “antique” today as it did a year ago. And sometime down the road, someone will have to pay more for the same antique to capture that inflation impact. In theory holding a “thing” appreciates, if it is unique or limited.
On the other hand there has been a great deal of disruption in the antiques market. The internet brought eBay to the antiques market and with it, a lot of speculation in antiques (and dare I say the word, collectibles). Speculators drove up prices until sellers searched their attics and found hundreds of the once-rare item and quickly cooled a market.
The expansion of on-line auctions has brought more buyers into the antiques market as collectors, and dealers, can attend sales on the same day in several states. So the amount of antiques, the number of buyers and the number of sellers has expanded, impacting prices.
Cable television has brought any number of home improvement and home decorating trends to the public in the programming. We hate to say it in print, but the influence of these shows seems to have much more trend-setting ability than similar magazines.
Antiques are sprinkled throughout these programs, but generally without any education about the antique.
And, of course the downsizing of the baby-boomer household has had its impact on antiques prices.
So in short, if you can buy an antique you like at a fair price, buy it. Don’t buy it as inflation hedge and don’t buy it expecting to sell it at a profit overnight. It may appreciate or it may not, regardless of inflation. One thing is for sure, it’s longer-lasting enjoyment than the ice cream sundae that cost a buck or so more this year than it did last summer!
Grant Hamilton, Publisher