After many years of “free” money, markets of all varieties are trying to deal with the impact of interest rate increases and inflation. In the business of collecting or buying and selling antiques, there is some correlation to the changes, I suspect. I’m just not sure what’s what.

Inflation generally helps the valuation of “things.” People see cash as losing its buying power and things, like antiques, holding or increasing in value. For a period of time some people can freeze the current value of cash by purchasing something that will hold value (hopefully) and may increase in value. 

The wild card, of course, is supply and demand. With many true antiques, the supply is limited. Paul Revere only made a limited number of “things” in his lifetime. A number of them probably were melted down for the silver in them. So the supply, if anything, will diminish. The value of Silversmith Revere’s work is enhanced by his folk hero status. And that leads us to “demand.”

What creates demand? In the antiques and collecting world it seems there are speculators, collectors and those who just like the “look” of something from another period in time. Personally, I fall somewhere in between a collector and the “like the look.” 

As a collector I enjoy looking for marked American pewter and I hope to find early marks. I like the research that goes with serious collecting. I also like the “look.” I also recognize that prices are far from the “peak” for pewter and many other antiques from pre-1800. Why? The demand for colonial-era antiques was likely boosted by the creation of Colonial Williamsburg and its continued development and rise in popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. Personal collections followed. I suspect “supply” from collections assembled in the 1950s that began to be disbursed in the 80s and 90s and beyond has filtered into the antiques market. At the same time, interest in the colonial era seems to have diminished for a variety of reasons. Extra supply, tepid demand.

Of course this is just a theory on my part. Whether colonial is out, and Arts and Crafts is in, or Arts and Crafts is out and deco in, is influenced by many things, not to mention television programs on cable networks.

My advice to a new collector is to educate yourself on what it is you are collecting. Know you’ll buy some “duds,” pay more than you’d like for some and get bargains on others. Don’t worry too much about whether it will increase or decrease in price. Buy what you like.

And don’t forget, that new car you just bought fell in value about 20% once you drove it off the lot!