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Friday, February 27, 2015

Understanding how an antique comes to market

    OK how does that pre WW1 desk globe in near mint condition come to market?  How does that exceptionally well preserved 1950 Black ocean Peerless globe come to market?  Would you believe that the answer could be different for both of these items!
     Antiques enter the collector market in only 2 different ways, and this difference explains the antique globe market very clearly as I will show you.  So here goes a not so expert analysis.......
Pre WW1 W& A.K. Johnson


1. Fresh to market, ( sometimes called new to market)   You have all heard that term, well what does it mean? Ask 10 collectors or dealers and you are likely to get 10 different answers. So here is my definition: A fresh to market antique is one that has never been exposed to the antiques marketplace ever before.  That means it's never been on eBay, auctioned, or sat as inventory in an antiques shop.  It comes from the original owner, or the descendant of the original owner.  It might come from a second owner that has a direct link to the original owner, but this is a gray area for me.

2. An established antique or collectible,  This is any item that has ever in it's life entered the antiques marketplace.  This includes an item purchased from an antiques dealer in 1950 and passed down to a grandson who then puts this item on eBay, this item is not new or fresh to market, it was absent from market for a long time but it's not new.  Anything once on eBay, Fleaglass, or  Ruby Lane and searchable in this day in age is certainly in this category.

1950 Weber Costello Peerles
So what is the significance of this and why do I care?  Well we globe collectors spend the majority of our time in a semi searching/ researching mode. There are not that many globes, or opportunities to purchase what we seek so 90% of the time we are learning, or searching for the next item for our collections. If you just read that sentence you are researching right now,  ha ha I caught you!!
     Fresh to market is exciting, a new opportunity, the first opportunity to buy an antique is exciting, and special, firstly if you are buying something fresh to market you set the value, and if you are a collector that's an exciting proposition. Now how do you buy something fresh to market?  There are only two ways. You can buy at auction weather it be eBay, or  traditional;  secondly you can buy at an estate liquidation, weather an estate ( or tag) sale or estate auction.  Under my definition if a dealer advertises something as fresh to market, they are really saying:  fresh to retail.  A dealer rarely gets fresh to market merchandise under my definition, a high end dealer probably has had one, probably two middle men handle an antique before they receive it into inventory, each adding a layer of profit.
     Any other time except the very first sale is an established antique sale, that is the person who first buys it weather dealer, collector, or picker knows the full value of the item,  and any subsequent sale weather to a collector or up the chain of the business is an established antique.
     An established antique is always more expensive than a fresh to market item. Is that a bad thing? Well no not at all. When I buy an established antique I'm buying a value added item, I am purchasing something that has been found, vetted, and marketed, and in some cases guaranteed. That is an important thing especially if I'm buying something outside my very narrow band of knowledge. Truth be told even within my area of knowledge it is sometimes great to see value in an item that someone else also sees value in, it is reassuring.
     So then why do I care again?..........  Well I think it's important as collectors that we step back and  take a look at the whole sales process that encompasses antiques. It is setup unlike anything else that we buy.  The only thing you can buy where knowledge is true power.  You can research that new car purchase for months but you'll never have a real chance to buy that car for less than it's worth.  Smoke and mirrors will have you believe otherwise but who is fooling who. Not so with antiques, you can work smarter not harder!
     Let's back up to the first paragraph of this post, I mentioned 2 globes and how they might each come to market very differently.  First I want to look at our pre WW1 desk globe pictured, it's 100 years old, the person who purchased this globe new is long gone they passed away, and their estate sale occurred in 1988.  back then give or take 5 years was the window when this antique would have been in plentiful supply, coming "fresh to market" on a regular basis right out of the estate.  Now lets look at that 1950 Black ocean Peerless, well grandmas going into the nursing home right now and her baby boomer son's old globe that she never got around to throwing out is popping up in estate sales as we speak, hence the plentiful supply on the Internet.  I want to venture that the window of opportunity to buy a great example of this globe "fresh to market" closes around 2020, so we've got time great examples are still around.  As for our other example the WW1 globe it is now almost exclusively the domain of established antiques sellers, be they collectors, specialty auctions, or dealers. Exceptional examples will almost always come from these sources.
     I want to clarify myself when it comes to eBay, items on eBay can be fresh to market, or established antiques, if a dealer is selling it's established, if it's a picker, also established, it it's listed by someone clearing out their relatives house, or their own house it might be fresh.  It's never black and white, lots of gray between these definitions.  Auctions at least of any sot let those with knowledge set the market price, and that's a good thing!
     So how do I put this into practice?  What I like to do is always keep the door open to fresh sales, be they from eBay, estates, or even networking. I also love dealer sales because the hard work  ( finding the item ) is already done.  Buying from another collector is also a very rewarding opprutunity, why? Well because though not a fresh to market item,  it is not retail either, that gray area again.
     You know, thinking about antiques in this way kinda makes me wonder why did 50's mod explode 10 or so years ago? Was it newly fashionable?  Or is it that the original owners of all of those 50's ranches and the furniture in them all hit the market at once due to the demographics of the owners? We as society have an uncanny knack to make what is available, also popular...
     So what's the "next big thing" then? How can I profit from this this info?...  well duh.... if I had storage space I'd start stock piling 80's boom boxes, Transformers, and every mint in the box NES cartridge I could get my hands on.....money in the bank come 2025............ Not to mention pristine examples of pre Berlin wall globes :)


P.S.  In all seriousness; buy an antique for love, not for money. You'll be happier in the long run....

****Both photos in this post are with thanks to Dee Wiemer, owner of Upstarts on Etsy****

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Overpaying for an antique.....it's OK once in awhile and here's why

     Have you ever bought something, anything really, and brought it home then had that sinking feeling........" I think I overpaid"  you say, then you check the ads maybe go on the Internet...... well if you just bought an antique it's not that easy, it's next to impossible to compare one piece to another.   So  what does it mean to overpay for an antique? More importantly How do I know if I did, and How can I prevent doing so in the future?
     First what type of buyer are you?   dealer?    dealer/ collector?    Pure collector?
If you are a dealer, stop reading now this post just doesn't apply to you.  Nothing against dealers, but this is not  fit advice to follow.  Now a lot of people are a bit dealer, and a bit collector.  Trying to balance their love of an area of collecting with the desire to make some money. If this is you then read on, perspective might come.  Finally are you a pure collector? Do you buy first for the love of the object?  If so then please read on......
     I want to mention right from the outset that I am a pure collector, I sell only to upgrade my collection, which in this hobby is rarely.   So back on track, overpaying for anything is something nobody likes to do, but I've learned a valuable lesson along the way. It's almost impossible to overpay if you are buying the best example of what you are collecting. That goes for anything, from early American furniture, to 1980's lunch boxes, and certainly to  old globes!
     But Kyle....you can't be serious, of course you can overpay!  Someone is probably yelling that at the monitor right now. Yes people overpay for run of the mill antiques all the time, average condition, will always be just that..average....
     Let me clarify myself.  and please pay attention!!  You can overpay for almost anything you buy day to day, we are pre programed to find the deal, and 99 times out of 100 finding the deal means finding the lowest price. As Americans we are obsessed with saving money on everything.  Look no further than Amazon, Wal Mart, etc... we love deals, heck I love deals.  Now I want to concentrate on the 1% of the time when getting the deal might not be price based!
     Antiques of any type are inherently hard to comparison shop, because as an antique buyer you must contend with price, age, condition, context, condition, and demand. Notice I mentioned condition twice.  If you are a regular reader of this blog you will notice that I harp on condition, I am the biggest fan of buying less but buying better, and therein lies my nugget of wisdom.  If you are buying only the best examples of what you want to collect it becomes very hard to overpay for those antiques.  Demand for the nicest examples of any antique will always be there, when prices of antiques go down, and they sometimes do, it is usually the middle or lower end of any category that suffers, the best examples of any collectible or antique nearly always are stable or increasing. Aiming your collecting budget at the very best examples of an antique category is always the best practice.  So I submit that it is better to overpay and acquire the best  and fewer examples, rather than " save" money and buy a middle of the road example of the same antique.
     So why have I posted this now?  What's my angle?  Well a month ago I missed out on something, and I want to share this with you, a lesson learned, please follow this link:  1960 Trippensee Planetarium  This link takes you to an eBay auction that I bid on and lost, if you're reading this and you were the lucky winner congratulations on a smart buy.  This Tellurion was not too old, 1960 but it's condition was exceptional, right down to the instruction manual I bid into the high $500 range, and the winner was high $700 you see I was nervous that I was going to overpay.  I knew I was wrong 1 minute after the auction closed.  I was blind until defeat.  I cheaped out, so to speak.  Now this is not a rare item, these come up about once a month, or so in varying condition, but how often do the come to market complete, and in exceptional condition? That is a much rarer event, and in my mind definitely worth the premium this telurion brought.
     So was this item worth more than the sale price?  Would going higher have been OK?  I'm going to go ahead and say yes, and here's why.  An item such as this is only over time going to become more scarce, add in excellent condition and I think the case can be made that a true collector can and should go after such an item with a different level of determination, because lets fast foreword 10 years ( we're in the long game are we not? ) What is this item going to sell for in the antiques market?  probably $1500 give or take a bit, so would paying up for the privilege of condition be such a bad thing?  Now your average tellurian of this vintage, sells for $350-$550 right now and will probably sell for $450-$700 in a decade. Price appreciation in antiques is not even across the spectrum, it greatly favors the top 10% of best condition examples. Now, missing that tellurion is not the end of the road, another great one will surface, eventually... and I'll be waiting.
     So just like real estate it's all condition, condition, condition.  Keep that in your mind when buying and everything else will work itself out.   One caveat,  I don't invest in antiques, I collect something I'm passionate about, if a monetary gain occurs, great!! It is not my main focus. Buying smartly we should have an eye on resale eventually, I've learned to never say never.
     Finally if you are interested in an area of collecting and it gives you pleasure to pursue your interest well then what price can you put on that.