Monday, June 16, 2008

Antiques & Collectibles: Learn What to Avoid or Buy Extremely Low

I’ve received many calls lately from people wanting to know my opinion on contemporary collectibles. I’ve taken the general view that these aren’t worth the time needed to sell them, however, there are always exceptions – like at what price I can get them for.

Frederick Hart is a wonderful artist that worked in Lucite and Bronze. However, to give you an idea why I avoid this type of merchandise unless I can purchase it at a price that seems almost idiotic, let me share a couple of stories.

I’d been working with a couple on their art collection for several weeks when they sprang a surprise on me. They had acquired several Frederick Hart pieces and asked if I was interested in them. They showed me a small bronze. I offered $1,000 for it, and they accepted. I soon sold it for $2,500. But, then they ask me if I would be interested in a major piece of Hart’s work called “Fidelia.” I was reluctant to even give the owner a bid, but since I had purchased so much from them, I did. $2,500. Again, I was startled when they accepted, because I had no idea what I would do with it. There was, however, one lady that had purchased the small bronze from me, and she was willing to take a look. Thankfully, she bought that one as well, for $5,000, allowing me to make some money on the piece. Today, “Fidelia” is in a gallery, offered at over $25,000. I wish the gallery luck getting the price.

Can you imagine taking a 90% licking on something you purchased? I was able to double my money but that wasn't a guarantee. I could have had some real trouble selling these pieces. Don't hesitate to offer what you may think is a totally unreasonable price for items that could be potentially difficult to re-sell. Even original Erte bronzes can be difficult to sell, unless you can buy them extremely reasonably. I’ve purchased two Erte bronzes and was able to double my money on both, but only because I was able to purchase them at less than 25% of their retail value.

Perhaps the strangest piece I’ve purchased was a bronze of two Leopards with a nude on top. This piece was about 2/3 life size and extremely heavy. It listed for about $55,000 and I purchased it for $5,000. I tried and tried to sell it with no success, but finally a dealer in Florida took it off my hands for $7,500. Believe me, even though the dealer paid the shipping, it wasn't worth the headaches to get it shipped. At last check, the dealer still had the piece after almost two years. I wish him luck because he bailed me out.

It’s has been my experience that if you don't have some idea of where to move the merchandise, it’s better left for someone else. It totally amazes me how people can buy these types of items with so little regard for their money. “I just loved it and wanted to own the piece for my home” is the reason most people buy these items, spending more money than they could ever resell it for.

Other items that fall into this category are Franklin Mint, Collector Plates, Thomas Kincaid, and any other Collectible you’re told will become very expensive in the future. Remember the Beanie Babies? How about the Dolls that you could adopt, what happened to them? With items such as these, please be safe rather than sorry.

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