With 2019 now behind us, early 2020 seems to be a good time to reflect on the state of today's markets for antiques, art, and collectibles. I don't feel that there were any momentous changes in 2019... just a continuation of past trends with perhaps a slight acceleration. Here are my thoughts:
Without a doubt, the fair market value for most things continued to trend lower in 2019. This was largely across the board in all categories, with traditional forms having an especially hard struggle. By traditional, I especially mean categories such as early furniture, china, sterling silver, etc. Or, as one client put rather humorously, "anything that would have been in my grandmother's house". More contemporary categories such as Mid-century Modern seem to retain some strength, although my sense is that the popularity if this particular category has waned somewhat as well since the end of the TV show "Mad Men".
Pockets of strength can be found in areas such as fine wines, vintage automobiles, celebrity memorabilia, and other more esoteric categories. Early technology such as early Apple computers also can bring strong dollars for the right piece.
As in the past, an exception will always be made for the very best examples of anything, even in struggling categories like early Americana. Similarly, blockbuster items will always have a strong appeal as well... an example would be the famous Mustang used in the movie Bullitt, which recently sold for $3 million.
Looking ahead in 2020, I see little reason to think the above-mentioned trends will turn around in any meaningful way. My advice to clients continues to be that if you are thinking of de-accessioning items, do it ASAP while there is at least still some sort of market to sell into. Just be aware that auction houses are getting ever more finicky about their value thresholds, so don't expect them to take just anything. It amazes me to see how so many items that once would have sold in ones or twos are now being shoved into a single lot of 10 or more similar pieces. This in turn makes it harder to attract a lot of bidders, since most people aren't looking for 10 or 12 pieces of anything.
So, to conclude, you don't need to fasten a seat belt for 2020 as far the resale markets go but instead expect a continued gentle descent in values. The one wildcard will be the 2020 presidential election. Depending on how that shakes out, a loss of confidence in the financial markets could make for a nasty downturn, which will only incite more people to sell and make for even fewer buyers. Something to think about...
Bryan H. Roberts is a professional appraiser in Sarasota, FL. He is a member of the Florida State Guardianship Association, the Sarasota County Aging Network (president), and is certified in the latest Uniform Standards of Appraisal Practice (USPAP) Equivalent