Monday, February 18, 2019

Price softness in the globe market, Is this the new normal?

     For many years the GENERAL antique market has been slumping.  Yes there have been pockets of strength, such as Mid century items, and to a certain extent maps and globes,  really scientific antiques in general have held up fairly well.  Is that changing?  If so why?
      I have long been of the understanding that many people of a certain age let's say 30-50 are not as engaged in the antiques market as their parents or grandparents were when they were a similar age.  I have long believed the trend towards the modern has played a role. Many have studied this trend so I certainly won't belabor the point.
       So let's look at some examples of what I'm calling softness.
Wilson 13 inch globe, restored
     Here I'm showing what appears to be a pretty nice James Wilson globe, sold at auction just this past January.  Now yes it beat the estimate.  However  This is a nice example of a Wilson globe, in a nice restored condition, the restoration looks to be done very well, and the overall presentation is very nice.  I was thinking in my mind that this thing would touch $3000,  but with buyers premium it only made $1900.   Frankly I wish I had been the winning bidder I think that's quite reasonable for such an example of James Wilson's work.     A few years ago I think I might have been right about the price,  This makes me think things have softened.
A $500 Wilson celestial globe!

     Here is another Wilson globe from the same January auction,  this time a celestial globe from Wilson, granted it is not restored  but surely this is better than a $500 globe?    Yes a proper restoration is desirable, but all of the ingredients are there for a spectacular final result.   Now I'll admit that auction prices can be hugely variable, location, advertising, prestige of venue will all play a part in the end result.  That doesn't excuse the $500 price fail that was this Wilson, it just should have done better.   I can't help but think that we are in a "new normal" when it comes to globe prices for the moment.

The $200 18 inch desk globe
     Let me show another example of what I'm perceiving as price softness.  Here I have a recent eBay auction for a Rand McNally 18 inch desk globe.   Now, 18 inch desk globes are not common objects.  They were sold mostly to colleges, libraries, and similar institutions.  they have a special gravitas due to their size, and for the collector who can handle one they are very desirable.
     You can argue that this particular example is not as desirable because of the style of mount, or the base,  some people do not care for this style orb that Rand McNally produced during the 1920-1930 time period,  perhaps it is a bit fugly.
      I saw this globe initially listed at $1500,  a week later I saw best offer added,  finally I saw a plain auction with no reserve.   It ended just north of $200.  I did bid, but not seriously,   I'm interested in owning a nice 18 inch table globe, but this one was not the one for me.  Was that the problem for other bidders as well?   In another time and place I have to believe that condition and scarcity alone should have propelled this globe to $500, even $700.  Am I missing something?
      I can't help but think that not long ago these 3 globes would have all brought significantly more at auction than they did at this time.   Are all antiques in a slump? I think they are generally, I also think that for a while at least globes were faring better than most.
     The top of ant collectible category, that top 10% of desirability will always hold firm,  so too will the bottom 1/2 of the market, a $100 globe might be $80 today, or $110 tomorrow, but I'm wondering about the middle 1/3 of the market,  globes priced from $500-$5000.   Are they going soft?   Is the $2000 globe of 2016. now the $900 globe of 2019?    I think I'm going to watch the market carefully over the next 6-12 months it's really the only way to know where this market is at.
      Now I'm in this for the long haul,  I'll be surfing the web for globes from my nursing home!  So I'm not buying for profit, so I'm looking at this as an opportunity to add something to my collection that might have been previously out of reach.
     As always I'd love to hear your comments, or discussion,  please don't hesitate to drop me a line, and please don't hesitate to offer me something great for sale, at a soft price!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kyle,
    Yea, for globe (and map) values we may be in terra incognita. What's next? I'm thinking that things will get worse before they get better, which is another way of looking at value drops as an opportunity. You'll note that I wrote "before they get better," because I think values will rise again. 19th century and earlier globes will always have a cache', and even the better quality pre-1940 globes will eventually begin to look pretty good in their age and content. Collecting interest in things either skips generations or is particular to a generation - hence the interest in mid-century by Millenials. That's their wheelhouse - now - but I suspect it might expand by many decades or by subject matter when they retire, and then all bets are off! So, I'm buying - but carefully. No one wants to pay x amount for an item only to see it sell for x - 1/3rd a year later. That includes me, and likely you. By the way, the globe w/wooden stand at the right of your photo is gorgeous.