In my last two articles, we looked at five collecting categories that were on an uptrend as we enter 2019 and five more that have been on a significant downward spiral. A question I regularly get asked is what collecting categories I feel are simply not moving upward or downward, but instead treading water. I classify these categories as being neutral. Listed below are my top contenders, and keep in mind, this can change any time. As I have repeated many times, the only constant in the antiques and collectibles trade is change.
What Collecting Categories I Consider To Be Flat As We Enter 2019
Kindly note that I have placed all nostalgia and emotion aside when constructing this list. You will see from this list that most of these categories are routinely discussed in my columns, and their popularity at present time should not influence your decision to start collecting or enjoying these items. Instead, should you attempt to invest in any of these areas, use logic instead of emotion. Contrary to popular belief, the top 1 percent of any market should not define what a market is doing for 99 percent of all collectors. Be careful when auction houses announce record-breaking sales or how much a particular collecting category did at auction. Sales of extremely rare and in-demand items do not define a collecting category as a whole, nor should they. With those caveats in mind, here are my choices as we enter 2019.
5. Graded Vintage and Modern Comic Books
Regular readers will know that in 2015, I made the decision to sell off about 30 key vintage CGC graded comic books from my personal collection. I do not miss the books and am happy they found a new home. As I contemplate selling several more, an obvious trend has developed. The speculative market surrounding high-grade, key vintage comic books from the 1970s and earlier comics is slowly unwinding. Note that this has not affected most of the infamous keys (i.e. Action Comics #1, Detective Comics # 27, or other highly sought-after key issues from the silver age or earlier), but second-tier keys and speculative books based off of comic book movies are falling in price. This trend will continue, and most of these books will drop back down to more affordable prices. The same can be said of over-hoarded and lesser-important books from the 1980s and later. The bubble is starting to break, folks. Use caution.
Advice to novice collectors and investors: A wait-and-see attitude is in order. Many speculators and investors have incorrectly linked comic books with high-end antiques over the past decade. This was based off of speculative hype and not fundamentals. The market is starting to correct and will slowly continue to do so with some ebbs and flows. Future generations will not pursue comic books like past generations have.
4. Vintage Video Games and Systems
The speculative bubble that brought most Nintendo and later video game systems from the 1980s and later is on shaky ground. Cash-strapped publishers are starting to realize that their past video game catalogs are pure gold, and as a result, they are releasing more and more of their back catalogs. Nintendo is doing an excellent job at causing speculators great harm. Both the NES Classic System release and its popular Amiibo line have an element of scarcity due to how it markets its products. Collectors are growing tired of chasing an original rare game for hundreds of dollars when they can simply download it on a new console for about $5. Take advantage of the falling prices.
Advice to novice collectors and investors: Until the day that all video games are solely sold as digital downloads only, I have very little hope in the vintage video game craze that has started to decline over the past few years. Use caution if investing significant sums in this area of the market.
3. Contemporary Licensed Lego Sets and Minifigures
Sorry to say, but the golden goose of the speculative market is just about holding on. Lego overproduced a lot of its most popular sets based on franchises like Star Wars and Harry Potter, and now speculators are stuck with a glut of inventory that is slow to move and appreciate in value. Almost everyone I know is and was speculating in Lego at one time or another. Competition is fierce, and almost every major retailer has had the newest sets from the past few years on clearance.
Advice to novice collectors and investors: The expensive exclusive sets still have a market, but for how long no one knows. Parting out sets for resale can be a nightmare, but if you are up to the challenge the website www.BrickLink.com is your best friend. For the record, I dont think most of the current sets on the market will appreciate significantly over the next decade or more.
2. Vintage/Antique Art Glass and Pottery
Tiffany glass is and will always be a favorite of mine, but sadly, prices are somewhat flat for most pieces. The same can be said for most Rookwood and Wedgwood pottery. I dont think this will be the case forever, though, as the downtrend occurred in the midst of the 2008-09 financial crisis.
Advice to novice collectors and investors: The jury is still out as to whether items like Tiffany glass and Rookwood pottery will be sought after by tomorrows collectors. That said, I do see a turnaround in this market at some point, especially in regards to Tiffany glass. If you are looking to build a collection in this market, you should be able to find values on all but the rarest and most coveted pieces. Do your research and take your time.
1. Mid-Grade Art
High-end art continues to be a popular asset class of the extremely wealthy, with auction records routinely broken. Names like Banksy, Edvard Munch, and Warhol continue to hit headlines almost regularly. That said, for collectors of mid-grade art that doesnt fetch millions of dollars, the art world hasnt been too kind in the past decade. While it is true that artists who routinely sell on the secondary market for five figures or more can be highly sought-after artists in the future, this is rarely the case. Be very careful in this market.
Advice to novice collectors and investors: I am going to be candid here. This isnt a market for novice collectors, and investors should never consider taking the advice of just one columnist in the antiques and collectibles trade. You need the help of highly experienced art appraisers and dealers to make the most out of this market. Please use caution.
Until next time, happy hunting.
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.