What's Hot, What's Not: The 2020 Edition

February 7, 2020

It is that time again to look at what’s hot, and what’s not in the antiques and collectibles trade. In this edition, we will start off on a positive note and look at five categories that set the collecting world on fire in 2019, and see if these trends can continue. As always, it should be noted that this list comes from my own observations in the trade, and readers are welcome to agree or disagree.
5. Antique and Vintage Firearms. Collectible guns will always be a staple in the antiques and collectibles trade, and 2019 was no different. From antique firearms to more contemporary weapons and the like, there is no greater sense of history than holding a weapon that was used in the Revolutionary or Civil War. With the publicity that followed the sale of the 1847 rare Colt Walker Pistol back in April of 2018 for $1.8 million at Rock Island Auction Company, collectors and enthusiasts ensured that antique firearms would remain a viable collectible market going forward, and this trend is not letting up any time soon.
Tip to novice collectors: Antique firearms is where most of the action in this market is, especially if buying for investment. That said, buying in-demand contemporary firearms may be a less expensive strategy that could yield results if you are a more speculative collector on a budget.
4. Luxury Collectibles. Rolex watches and Hermes Birkin handbags may seem out of reach for most collectors, but we are living in an age where items from the 1980s are now fetching six figures or more at auction. Therefore, that $10,000 vintage Rolex looks like a bargain. Just because both Rolex and Hermes are luxury goods manufacturers doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a spot on this list. Due to a growing economy and a booming stock market, many well financed collectors are entering the luxury goods market, and prices for Hermes Birkin bags and vintage Rolex watches continue to soar.
Tip to novice collectors: You cannot enter this market with less than $5,000. However, if you study the market and watch completed auction listings, you can get a sense of market trends. Be very patient if you are new to these markets and looking to make your first purchase. A vintage Rolex watch, if bought correctly, is a much better investment than a newer model.
3. Mid-Century Modern Furniture. While the trend for mid-century modern furniture has been weakening in some instances over the past few years, the market is still red hot. There is some price resistance at the higher levels, but most pieces selling for less than $2,500 or under are on fire. Younger collectors with high incomes seem to be fueling this trend, and it is still going strong. Collectors should avoid the contemporary mass-produced pieces and focus on the original vintage counterparts instead. A lot of major companies have caught on to the mid-century modern trend and are now trying to market and sell it as original. Buyer beware.
Tip to novice collectors: Buy from trusted sources and do your homework. Auction houses appear to be the place to get the best deals. Be careful buying from high profile dealers in and around major Metropolitan cities, as prices seem to be highest there.
2. Art Deco Furnishings and Related Collectibles. What is old is new again. Now that the 1920s are officially close to being 100 years ago, interest in Art Deco and related designs is heating up again. I refer to it as the “Great Gatsby” effect. Make no mistake that this trend will continue, and a lot of designs that capture the element of the Art Deco movement and form will continue to do well at auction. I predict that this will get even stronger as we progress through the new decade. Much like the minimalistic styling of Mid-Century Modern, Art Deco captures the feeling of minimalism quite brilliantly and also tends to stand out when compared to more elegant furnishings that don’t seem to have the same appeal that they once did (I’m looking at you Queen Anne style).
Tip to novice collectors: Patience is the key here. Be sure to attend auctions in person and wait for the right piece to come up for bid, one that speaks directly to you. The market for a lot of these items is strong and getting a little stronger, but there are still some deals. Again, much like Mid-Century Modern, you are better off buying from well vetted auction houses than overpriced Metropolitan retail galleries.
1. Graded and Vintage Video Games. I am hesitant to place this on this list and even at the number one spot, but whether or not you agree with some of the crazy prices being paid, you still cannot deny that the market exists, even if it is being manipulated. That said, collectors are now willing to pay thousands of dollars for factory-sealed video games from the vintage years that they will never play, just as long as they are graded and encased in plastic. Make no mistake the market has legs but is overheated. Would I be buying into this market at present time? Absolutely not, but a lot of people are. Use caution.
Tip to novice collectors: This market is suffering from not only extreme speculation, but also insanity. Use caution if you choose to enter the graded video game market at present time. There are several high profile companies profiting highly off this at a lot of novices’ expense. The market should see a correction sometime over the next 5 to 10 years, where some prices will go up but many will go down. It’s tulip mania in this market at present time.
And there you have the five hottest markets in the antiques and collectibles trade. In my next column we will look at five markets that are cooling significantly. Thanks for reading!

Shawn Surmick has been an avid collector since the age of 12. He currently resides in his hometown of Boyertown, Pa., and is a passionate collector of antiques and collectibles. His articles focus on various topics affecting the marketplace.


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