I know you are tech savvy and you believe if you put what you wish to search for in the search engine of your choice you will be directed to the item you have been searching for. So you find what you want or do you? For example you type into Google ‘Meissen ‘ it brings up 6,130,000 results. But there of course your interest may only be for items of Meissen for sale?
Okay I concede you use the main antique search engines, www.the-saleroom.com 1,401 results; or perhaps www.invaluable.com 1,157 results or maybe the other British antique search engine www.ukauctioneers.co.uk 15 results. So, what other choice do you have?
A couple of weeks ago, I attended a meeting given by the joint CEO’s of Barnebys Christopher Barnekow and Pontus Silfverstope. (interestingly the Meissen Schnaballen Ewer illustrated 2nd to the left in the illustration in the link, back in the 1980’s I had a pair. Back then I had paid £45,000 at a time of course when there was no Internet just a network of dealers who knew I was one of the most important dealers of 19th century Meissen Porcelain. This was my only means of finding the rarities I sought. Today this pair could possibly cost as much as in the region of £150,000 and how would you find such a pair in today’s market? Your only chance is looking from informed sources or going to a specialist Meissen Porcelain Dealer.
So what was so special about the Meeting with Barneby’s CEO’s. It was to give those attendees including myself an insight into the most significant auction search platform available. During the event I listened to their visualisation of the future of the auctions industry that annually runs into an incredible multi-billion’s marketplace.
Having now accustomed myself with the Barneby’s Auction Platform I have decided as far as auction searches are concerned this is the place I want to be and where I shall be doing much of my more informed searching. But Barneby’s are more than just an auction platform and that is why I was there at the meeting.
Interestingly their visions were quite similar to techniques I adopted while I was doing some consultancy work on behalf of high Net Worth Lloyds Underwriters back in the 1990’s. Often I would be asked to oversee restoration of antiques to determine values as well as costs of restoration work. I came across an entirely different type of value where no value in terms of monetary means could be put on any one piece, this type of value, was based on sentimental value; that is the physical relationship the item held to the person who owned it. To clarify what I am trying to say I would like to share with you a short story.
I was called by the underwriters to go and look at a porcelain group where the value was very minimal but the client was important to the insurer in the that their policies. Interestingly the client didn’t have a particularly large policy in monetary terms and the cost of the repair work exceeded the value I put on the piece. Nevertheless the underwriters gave me the go-ahead to restore the item. When I had completed the restoration I personally delivered back to the client. In this case was an elderly gentlemen in his 80’s. The vase I had arranged restoration for had belonged to his late wife and restoring it to its former glory, I could see the emotion in his eyes to know he was very please with the job done. It is this type of generosity that insurers may overlook the cost of restoration where it cannot be measured because the value of the piece is represented in terms of memory to the insured.
What Pontus was saying if you are trying to convince the new generation to purchase antiques based on return of investment you will probably find yourself in a losing battle. However if you suggest the value is in the relationship the piece might have had a relationship and hold a memory of an aunt, uncle or parent or other family remember this creates a totally different and unique value.
Then there is the case of antique furniture some of which more than one or two hundred years of age with a far more sustainable value when compared to the likes of IKEA. I personally use the table that my computer sits on that was originally made at the beginning of the 19th century. It cost me £280 in its unrestored but very usable condition. When I may come to sell it, it wouldn’t surprise me if there was sufficient return on my investment to prove that I have more of a decent return than had I purchased a piece of IKEA albeit if it is an original piece from IKEA and is the first of it’s generation then in 20 years or so it too might have a sustainable value that is if it lasts that long. The problem with furniture like the flat pack that is purchased from IKEA is that it is not as solid and does not have long lasting that original antiques generally have.