Monday, October 20, 2008

What’s Left to Invest in Right Now? Fine Art & Antiques.

Willem de Kooning's work is part of the several items Christie's will auction next month from the estimated $21M art collection of Richard Fuld and his wife, of the now bankrupted Lehman Bros.

During the price boom in real estate, few people thought about the appreciation potential on items they furnished their homes with. Rather, they focused on the appreciation potential of the home itself. What they’d really been doing is following the crowd, and in doing so, completely missed the growing values in the Antique & Fine Art Markets.

In the past few years, a person could often make more money from the increased value of their home than from their salary at work. I’ve gone into homes that had increased in value substantially, and last year, had been valued in the multi-millions. I couldn’t help but notice that while the property was very valuable, nothing on the inside was. These multi million dollar homes were decorated in low quality furnishings and cheap items from big box stores.

Now, many of these expensive properties are sitting on the market with no one to buy them, losing value each passing week. If the items inside had included some fine art and valuable antiques, there could likely have been a valuable silver lining to today’s scenario. Even Richard Fuld, CEO of the now defunct Lehman Bros. will likely be cashing in on an art collection his wife has been busy with over the years, when it’s auctioned at Christie’s next month. I’m guessing it will likely bail him out of other losses, like his Florida property that’s not worth anything close to what he paid for it.

While I don’t believe there will be many people looking to expand the size of their living quarters right now, we might likely see people buying better quality items with the money they have. Replacing these cheap furnishings with high quality items serves a twofold purpose. Naturally, it beautifies your surroundings, but it also gives you a safer haven to park your money during this volatile time. Purchasing the right fine art and antiques with your money allows it to increase in value far away from the turbulent markets.

Today, I think that this will be a tremendous factor in what people buy for their homes. The loss on home values can be replaced by the increased value of fine art and antique furnishings, carefully selected for its lasting value and continued demand.

With money earning only 3 or 4 percent in the bank, 401K’s and other retirement accounts losing a tremendous amount of value, combined with more than 3 or 4% inflation, how is the average person to keep up? What else is there left to invest in?

Why not invest in the things that have most consistently risen in price year after year, namely antiques and fine art. There is no question that rare and unusual items have out produced any other type of appreciation for many years. Dress up your house during these tough times, but at the same time, fatten your bank account.
This opportunity to buy some of the best antiques and fine art seems almost to good to be true, but it isn't. We should become our own Goodwill Ambassadors. Tell everyone we talk to about this great opportunity, share the treasures that will make money over the next few years. Why not say to your neighbor, “Susan, I have a great painting that will not only look good over your couch, but will make you money while it hangs there.” What a friend Susan has in you, and you can bet it won’t be the last purchase she’ll make from you.

We might have to become a little more aggressive in our sales activities. But when we keep moving forward by continuing to train ourselves n the quality items, we’ll come out ahead. If you’ll remember that a Tiffany vase sitting on a table will be enjoyed by its owner, admired by many, and make the owner money all at the same time, you’ll find a way to make some substantial sales.

That painting by a well known listed artist displayed on the wall of your living room will add beauty and quality to any home, is sure to start many conversations, and will be admired by family and guests. Wait until Uncle Jim discovers that your painting serves as your new IRA and 401K. Wink, wink.

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