SA's Only Antiques, Collectables And Decorative Arts Magazine

collectingtrends1The more things change, the more they stay the same. Applicable to so much in life and trends, this saying also applies to the world of antiques and collectibles. Whilst what is collected changes, the art and passion of collecting remains a basic human trait. What our grandparents collected might not appeal to young collectors who are looking at more ‘modern’ collectables but underlying this transition in collecting lies the most important thing about antiques – their ‘value’.

This goes beyond the monetary value of a piece to its intrinsic value as a living piece of history and its role in preserving our collective culture. More and more of the younger generation, conscious of global warming and rampant consumerism, are starting to surround themselves with things that have a ‘green’ footprint and have meaning and a story to tell. A Victorian mahogany chest of drawers that has survived more than a century of use and will easily survive for another century, has a carbon footprint 16 times smaller than that of one made today.

What remains a constant is the fact that collectors will always look for pieces that they can connect to; objects that have contextual and historical meaning. A great part of the allure of collecting is knowing where the piece originated from, who made it, who owned and what it was used for. In our digital age that is continually evolving, being able to connect with a piece of the past and appreciate the craftsmanship and artistry and above all the loving time spent on it, is worth every cent of its value.

My first bit of advice is to collect what’s coming. What does that mean? Collect those objects that are sure to be part of the next art or antiques revival. Trends are temporary, but history and the objects that highlight history hold their value. Don’t you wish you bought up all that mid century modern, circa 1950s-1960s era furniture that was so accessible and cheap in the 1990s- 2000s? Today, those Eames chairs, Knoll tables, and Sunburst clocks are going for sky high prices.

Today, dealers have been focusing on presenting important collectible pieces from the 50’s through to the 70’s. Avoid amassing a diverse assembly of unrelated works of art or antiques (also known as eclectic collecting) and collect a few specific items. Collecting a lot of diverse objects isn’t collecting, it’s clutter.

Buying and selling in antiques is like a wave of supply and demand. The ebb and flow may change over the decades but rest assured the wheel will turn and its time will come again. And for the younger generations: buy! buy! buy! By the time the 30-somethings are 80 and their children are 60, what they bought cheap (now) will be expensive once again (in the 2070s). This is not just a trend, this is The New Order. As always, there are exceptions to the New Rule: fine art by listed artists, the noble metals, mid- 20th century moderne, etc. Each category has added strength even in these times.

New collectors are younger and have matured in the digital age. They will present themselves and their collections online, not so much the old-fashioned way. Global growth will continue as more of the live bidding platforms come on stream. Experts see a time in many auctions when those in the room will be the vendors, with bidding coming via the Internet and phone.

New developments in social media. Pinterest, Periscope and others have really started to have an impact on the way people look for things to inspire them in 2016. Expect more in 2016, especially as Instagram use spreads to the older generation. It is proving particularly appealing to collectors.

Although prices rise and fall in accordance with age, condition, demand and availability of a particular treasure, cyclical collecting is part and parcel of the collecting world. New items come into favor in the collectibles market each year and old favourites sometimes slip into the background for a while. But, collecting is a case of ‘what goes around comes around again’ and collecting genres that were passé suddenly can be all the rage again.

Vintage finds from the 80’s are coming “Back to the Future” and challenging the status quo. Bold Italian designers such as Ettore Sottsass’ and Michele De Lucchi’s shocking geometric motifs will be seen in furniture, textiles, tabletop decor, and even jewelry.

These are a useful means of promoting specific collecting areas as well as focusing the minds of both buyers and sellers. The power of the brand will continue to grow; this is very apparent in our Accessories sale, where clients want goods by leading brands such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Gucci, Prada, Rolex, etc

The risk with so many new ways of buying and selling – and so many new players – is that expertise and professionalism gets diluted. It has never been at more of a premium and this will be even more important in 2016. Make sure people you buy from really do know what they are doing.

Furniture collecting, which is the cornerstone to antique collecting, has been evolving over the past few decades. Whilst classic furniture of the 18th and 19th Century was the mainstay of the furniture market, in recent years, with people down-sizing and wanting more affordable and easy-to-live with pieces, furniture from the 1920’s Art Deco period through to the 50’s have come into vogue. In South Africa, the traditional ‘ball and claw’ furniture has taken on a new life and collectors are scrambling to get their hands on cabinets and lounge suites.

The ‘zeitgeist’ appears to be that the brown furniture market is dead but, as the results show, that is not quite true. Brown is the new black! Collectors, dealers, and online trade markets are all seeing an uptake in sales and are showcasing a greater desire to house the past within contemporary design. With more and more people becoming aware of the ‘green’ credentials of antiques, investing in classic brown furniture is once again in vogue.

Modernist and mid-Century furniture in plywood, hardwood or metal frames heralded a post-war machine age design that appealed to the modern age. Scandinavian and Danish designers took over the trend and gave it new life.

Antiques are back from the past—quite literally! As designers continue to infuse projects with a variety of antiques, the re-emergence of vintage and more vintage has become an established trend.

Homeowners in 2016 want a one-of-a-kind unique find that reflects their personalities. Antiques and hand-made goods will dominate the interior design scene and allow consumers to express their unique sense of style more thoroughly. Most collectors do not decorate their homes around one specific collection, but instead combine styles and periods of objects that work well together. Antiques provide a unique means of defining character in a room. A totally contemporary interior can feel shallow without a few antiques mixed in, just as a traditional interior can feel stuffy without a few contemporary pieces. People are mixing and matching in their homes and can have an Old Master and a bright contemporary print next to each other on the wall. One no longer walks into a ‘Regency room’ or ‘art deco-style room’. Buy an antique furniture statement piece and put a modern picture next to it.

Antiques and handmade goods will dominate the interior design scene next year allowing consumers to express their unique sense of style. The revival of period antiques has begun! The design industry is reinventing itself and is moving away from the typical mid-century modern look with the addition of period antiques. Collectors are infusing period French and Italian seating with modern upholstery, for a simply one of a kind look.

The Asian Art market has matured and evolved over the past few years, with buyers becoming ever-more discerning. The demand for rare and fantastic-quality pieces is still strong, in particular those with exemplary provenance, and such items are still fetching large sums. Some of the pieces that collectors are snapping up include Buddhistic objects, including paintings, Thanghas and bronzes. Experts are watching the Chinese market closely, given their economic crisis but most believe that the Chinese collectable market will continue to thrive. A growing and affluent middle class, previously prevented from collecting antiques, are now serious shoppers. Still affordable and becoming collectable is the blue-and-white Kraak porcelain – the first Chinese porcelain to be imported to Europe in mass quantities.

Milestones make for investment collecting and throughout history, the occasion of a famous person’s birthday or a milestone anniversary means limited edition collectables come into their own as time goes by. The centenary of WW1 and the marking of important events of WW11 resulted in an increase in the value of related antiques. The antiques market is about timing as much as it is about treasure hunting. As we collect contemporary and vintage objects, remember, history is the best teacher. Trench art, notably crafted artifacts from the various wars, like empty shell cases are put to new uses, such as umbrella stands.

Mementoes linked to the Apollo lunar missions, especially Apollo 11, the Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins mission, which saw the first man walking on the Moon are becoming ever more collectable as the 50th anniversary approaches in 2019.

Think vintage cricket kit, typewriters and travelling trunks. Fossils, globes with concealed drinks cabinets and ejector seats. If you are of the masculine persuasion, as half of the population, these collectables that are being pursued by a new generation of men eager to adorn their homes with trappings of the hero of the British Empire, Grand Tourist, or fighter pilot. These are the top “mantiques”.

A trend with a long history, cabinets of curiosities and natural history collections have always had a place in the man-cave. Men have never stopped collecting. We’re just seeing the modern version. On a more modern level, look around the Abercrombie and Fitch store, Ralph Lauren and the latest Hilfiger clothing ads. There’s a public school aesthetic in fashion that’s visible on the high street now. It’s OK to be into expeditions and sport — we’re all interested in Ranulph Fiennes’s expedition.

Vintage fashion continues to have its devoted followers with the art deco period still one of the most popular. For younger collectors the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and even 90’s find them scouring second hand shops for inspirational buys. Top fashion designers have looked east for their collections with Gucci using Persian rugs as a backdrop to his shows and using rich textures in their textile designs. New fashion ranges for Muslim women have taken their fashion style to a new designer level.

Much like clothing, jewellery trends come and go depending on the style of the times but the value and rarity of precious stones and antique jewellery continues to make it one of the most precious of collectables. The world’s most expensive diamond – the ‘blue moon’ diamond sold for $48.5 million in Geneva in late 2015 – setting a new record of more than $4 million per carat. Coloured precious stones, especially Burmese natural rubies and sapphires are fetching high prices and natural pearls are coming into their own again. Antique jewellery will always remain the epitome of elegant investing but coming a close second in terms of being worth more than gold is amber. Victorian amber beads, especially the ‘English mustard’ coloured ones are highly collectable and very sought after in the Middle East and China.

Inexpensive costume jewellery has long been a favorite accessory of the fashion-conscious. Whether or not you like to accessorize your wardrobe with vintage necklaces, earrings and bracelets, it can be a lot of fun to decorate with these beauties. Some collectors fill small bowls with them or lay them out on a dresser scarf to showcase their shine, shape and color.

It’s one thing to be seen sporting the latest Gucci or Chanel handbag – it’s another to boast a vintage designer handbag that is no longer available in the high-end boutiques. Finding a vintage handbag that turns out to be a rare Hermes pink crocodile Birkin that sold for 146 000 pounds at Christie’s should be enough to get you trawling antique markets for handbags that will get everyone talking. The most sought-after bags include the Hermes Kelly named after Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco who used the bag to hide her growing pregnancy and the classic Chanel 2.55, an updated version of the classic clutch bag with chain straps designed in 1955.

Just knowing that the designer bag you’ve bought was made by a distinctive fashion house like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Dior, Prada or Cartier or comes from a glamorous era is enough to make every woman a collector. Finding an authentic designer bag and not a fake and in pristine condition is the challenge but there are specialist dealers like Vivien Hilton of Moonstruck Experience who will help you find some superb examples. Fine men’s watches, especially the highly collectable brand name vintage ones, continue to fetch exceptional prices.

The trend in collecting china, porcelain and ceramics continues to be strong but the experts say that 20th century decorative arts are coming into their own. Look for top quality Royal Worcester and Moorcroft investment pieces. For those who love Clarice Cliff and Susie Cooper, both of whom were strong in the 1980’s and then dipped, watch out for their resurgence. The international pottery trend for 2016 is for pieces with simple, clean lines in whites, cobalt or inky ultramarine blues. Look for international studio potters such as Lucie Rie and Hans Coper and in South African pottery, choose from Kalahariware, Linnware and Ardmore, which are fetching good prices and continue to be highly collectable.

Collecting glassware remains one of the most popular – whether it’s Waterford Crystal, Streuben glass, Lalique or Swarovski crystal or the more modern Scandinavian or Murano pieces.

According to, despite the gloom permeating the rooms of some silver auctioneers, 2015 produced a strong finish to the year in London. Fluctuations in the price of silver ingot in recent years are said to have affected the market for antique silver in ways that bring rueful smiles to those involved in the trade. When the price was heading up towards £30 an ounce there were many routine silver teasets and other products of no great age that apparently fell prey to the appeal of scrap value. Paradoxically, now that the ingot price is bumping back down at around £8 per ounce, aesthetic appeal is reasserting itself in a grudging revival: sales are said to be affected once again by design and quality of manufacture. Internet trading has also become a primary way for both dealer-retailers and auctioneers to trade. There are now some comprehensive websites and portals that can look after buyers of all kinds of silver with ease.

It goes without saying that English silver has always had a high reputation, not just for the products of 18th-century craftsmen but also in more recent post-1945 terms for the work of designer silversmiths who have brought recognition of a world centre of excellence to this country. Christie’s silver auctions showed that silver is still capable of attracting avid enthusiasts. The Henry VIII silver gilt Apostle spoon of fig 5 with mark of William Simpson, London, 1531, fetched £25,000. A George 1 silver tazza with mark of Thomas Mason, London 1717, went for £16,250 (left) and a George III silver wine-cooler, collar and liner, mark of John Scofield, London 1792, went for £14,375 (right).

Bronze and copper are making a comeback as key interior decorating colours so take out those copper collectables and start looking at investing in some stunning bronzes to accessorize and add value to your home. Art deco bronzes continue to be popular and bigger pieces make good investments that continue to go up in value.

Despite difficult economic times, investment firm Stanley Gibbons, reported that books had increased in value by 398% over the past twenty years and 8.8% per year over the past ten years. The largest gain of their 30 selections over the past 20 years belonged to George Orwell’s Animal Farm and showed a gain of 2 597%, from $289 to $7 800. Anything by Ian Fleming and his Bond series has become notably collectable in recent years with his Casino Royale showing an appreciation of 874% from $3 800 in 1995 to $36 995 today. With book collecting, the inspiration for most people to collect is that they love them, but if they turn out to be an investment as well – that’s a double whammy! We might have all gone electronic and digital with Waze and Google maps but collecting old geography school maps (especially those with the original wooden poles on the bottom and top) are becoming popular and trendy.

The hammer at top auction houses kept slamming down on art and 2016 sees a continuation of rising art prices. From the Modigliani painting that fetched $170.4 billion to record auction prices fetched for post-war and contemporary artists such as Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and Alex Katz. A work by Joan Miro, dated 1942 fetched $264 000 and a work by Wayne Thiebaud dated 1964 fetched $420 000.

The nostalgia associated with a childhood toy continues to buoy the market in toys but this is one area of collecting that changes the most. Although the popularity of the 1930’s Lionel & Marklin trains and the Hot Wheels Redlines and AFX Aurora Slot Cars from the late 1960’s to early 1970’s continues, right now Star Wars toys from 1977 through to 1984 as well as most action figures from that period are highly sought after – no doubt fuelled by box-office movies reigniting interest.

One of the most positive collecting disciples is that of coins and banknotes. International dealers have been seeing increased interest in stocks and bonds and the market for banknotes doesn’t seem to slow down. Coins remain popular and portable and for a number of different countries, collectable coins end up being a hedge against inflation or currency devaluation.

Despite our move away from writing and posting letters, collecting stamps remains a passionate hobby for many and a strong investment. In 2014, the one-cent magenta octagon with handwritten black script released in British Guiana in 1856 set the record for the most money ever paid for a postage stamp. It sold for $9.5m – nearly a billion times its original penny value.

At the moment stamps from China, Hong Kong, Japan and India are in high demand – giving the socio-political changes in some of those countries. In the 1960’s, for example, few people wanted to buy stamps from a communist country such as China. Today, a sheet of stamps from 1962 called Stage art of Mei Lanfang is worth around $15 000.


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