New York - In a recent article by Megan Slack, found in the prestigious Homes & Gardens Magazine, the claim is made that, "Interest in antique shops has recently risen by approximately 50 per cent, antique auctions have increased by 80 per cent, and antique markets have jumped by 129 per cent." While we're certainly not going to disagree with these figures, as our own in-house numbers have also shown a dramatic industry-wide bump in antique and vintage sales over the last year, the question many dealers and buyers seem most interested in, is exactly what type of antique and vintage items are spurring these impressive sales figures.
To get a better grasp of what's been selling so far in 2021, we decided to speak to a number of experts, industry-insiders, and decorative arts dealers from around the globe in order to get a more complete understanding of what's been pushing the antique and vintage markets to such highs over the past nine months. Below, is the list complied by our experts with their take on this seasons hottest selling items so far.
For Bridget Shaw, a veteran vintage dealer who retails from her barn in upstate New York, the infatuation with anything marble or stone continues. "Over the past couple of years we started to move to outdoor vintage and garden antiques," says Shaw "but this year has been absolutely crazy. I can't keep any travertine or marble topped wrought iron items in stock." Shaw says she really began to notice the uptick in outdoor garden and vintage furniture last year, but since then the demand has far exceeded her ability to keep pace. "We're literally selling 2-to-1 when it comes to outdoor furniture versus inside," she said, "I think I'll probably still be selling this stuff when the snow starts to fly." As far as pricing, Shaw acknowledged that her mark-ups since the spring have been steadily increasing. "I'm guessing that I've tacked on a twenty-percent premium over the last few months," she says, "but it hasn't effected sales."
While big ticket items may be getting the lion's share of attention this fall, that doesn't mean that certain smaller collectibles aren't pulling their own weight when it comes to big sales. Don Badger, who runs a number of online concerns that were once devoted exclusively to sports memorabilia, has converted one of his websites over to a "board game only" presence, after discovering a vault of them (some in their original unopened packaging), at a garage sale. "I started to put a few of the Risk and Milton Bradley games on my auction sites, and they were gone in hours - usually over asking," says Badger. While he realizes that he's in an enviable position of having a massive amount of pristine stock, he's still amazed at the fact that some of the games he sold earlier in the Spring for $200 and $300 are now selling for double that in less than six months. "I have duplicates for many of the games, but the one's from the 1980's and earlier seem to be the most popular with collectors."
Riding a similar trajectory to board games, the public's seemingly endless fascination with almost anything "Deco" appears to be continuing with no end in sight, at least according Donna Sorvino, who blends a vintage boutique shop with an interior design business in Atlanta's Buckhead. "Most of what I'm seeing is younger people who are using Art Deco items as accent or occasional pieces in urban environments." Sorvino thinks that many of the city's buildings simply lend themselves better to Art Deco furniture than they do Mid-Century Modern. "It's really a choice I suppose, but over the last year, sales of Deco pieces have far outstripped my MCM inventory by a wide margin." Although she thinks her mid-century stock will still sell, she's now much more inclined to search out AD pieces than MCM. "The items I sold in the spring, I'd probably markup another thirty-percent today." For Sorvino, the sky's the limit, from small chests-of-drawers and sofas, to Deco influenced sculptures and smalls. "You name it," she says, "If you can attach Art Deco to the tag, it'll sell."
While noted earlier last year in Asia, the rise in the popularly of antique jewelry has apparently also made itself known to dealers on North American shores as well, with prices rising uniformly across the board throughout the year. Nigel Hill, a gems specialist from New York, who often represents major auction houses both here and abroad, says that while the buying frenzy for period correct antique jewelry probably started in the high-end Hong Kong auction houses a couple of years ago, the trend has now trickled down to everyday dealers. "We're getting far more collections from people wanting to sell, because they've suddenly become aware of the price increases due to the realized auction results," he says. Sandra Cooke, who owns an Etsy store and walk-in business in downtown Toronto, concurs with Hill's assessment. "Two years ago it was all about costume jewelry," she says, "Today, I'm only sourcing mid to late Victorian pieces like broaches, pendants and necklaces." Cooke says sales began to rise last year online, and by the end of summer, once Covid restrictions had eased, her store literally became full of urban hipsters on the search for older authentic pieces. "I'm as shocked as anybody," says Cooke, "but it's certainly nice to see some of these lovely antique pieces return to prominence."
Electronics from the 70's and 80's are continuing to surprise collectors and dealers alike. Paul Talbot, who's been specializing in old Apple computers and vintage video games for more than twenty-five years, says that there's a strong market for full computer systems to vintage console games and even some magazines. Talbot says that it's not just the products themselves, but sometimes the components too. "I bought an auction-lot of semiconductor chips years ago that turned out to be the same ones used on the Apollo missions," says Talbot. "Today, those chips are selling for thousands of dollars." While Talbot is quick to point out that most stuff that was mass-produced during the latter half of the twentieth century is not collectible, items from the 1970s and 80s are. "Apple ll and Commodore computers are increasing in value rapidly," says Talbot, "Even the ones with later serial numbers are now fetching five-figures at auction." Talbot, who markets his wares online only, says that sales have been brisk since the pandemic, with prices rising commensurately throughout the year. "It's the best fall I've ever had, "said Talbot, "I'm just hoping it keeps up through the winter... and beyond."
- A.I.A. Staff Writer's
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