Tag: Maine Antiques Digest
Moderating a presentation at the Heart of Country Antiques Show in Nashville, veteran painting and furniture dealer Woody Straub commented the slump in the current market was actually the third such dramatic decline in his lifetime. If you walked over to a table along a side wall and picked up a complimentary issue of Maine Antiques Digest, you’d see the current slump spelled out in black and white.
In his monthly editorial, S. Clayton Pennington set the scene for what was the auction portion of Americana Week in New York. A Queen Anne slant-front desk which had sold at Christie’s for $44,650 in 2002 brought only $15,000. A New Halpshire slant-lid desk which brought more than $200,000 at Sotheby’s in 2002 hammered at only $104,500. While the downward spiral is not without its spurts of confident bidding, Pennington didn’t seem as convinced the current situation was temporary. He termed it a “new price structure.”
Trend or paradigm, you can see the situation playing it in other furniture categories elsewhere in the magazine. A pair of Rococo Revival chairs by John Henry Belter that sold at Neal Auction in New Orleans for $30,550 in 2005, exceeded the present-day estimate of $3,000 to $5,000, but brought far less thatn the 2005 price at $16,250. Likewise a set of six side chairs attributed to the shop of Duncan Phyfe brought more than $70,000 in 2003 and only $50,000 in January, 2011. A second set of chairs with a similar attribution which had brought $119,500 in 2003 failed to find a buyer this time around.
When dealers and auctioneers talk about the market, they usually mention the high-end is still doing well. The March issue of MAD seems to reinforce that notion in the sales of American furniture, but apparently even Belter and Phyfe are not high end enough. For the creme de la creme we have to move up the coast to Rode Island. A block and shell carved mahogany bureau table attributed to John Goddard and estimated at $700,000 to $900,000 brought $5,682,500. At Sotheby’s in 2005, it sold for $940,000.
It may be the case that Straub’s comment means prices will eventually rebound. It also seems the common advice given by the panel, buy the best you can afford, still holds true. Yet at times the best you can afford may not be good enough.
Such blunt talk from The Young Collector in Maine Antiques Digest. In the article titled The Last of the Young Collectors? in the December issue Hollie Davis and Andrew Richmond write that the bottom line is that young professionals are not interested in purchasing and living with antiques. No young collectors are coming into the market. It’s not happening, no matter how long we wait. But why are we waiting?
This is some of the stuff I’ve been saying for a while now. Boomers want to sell, but who is going to buy? The authors think the oncoming glut is going to be incredible. Dealers I talk to say prices are already off by as much as 70 percent. Yet when I talk to people who say they like American antiques, a typical response is, “but I can’t afford them.” This idea that antiques are for wealthy old people is still as much alive and well as is the idea that Pittsburgh is filled with steel mills. Neither is the case to any degree.
Davis and Richmond also point out that the industry has wasted time trying to lure these young would-be collectors into the Winter Antique Show and ignored the middle market. This is what I call “waiting”–waiting for the customer to grow up and join the country club. Not going to happen, but not hopeless either. Dealers wanting to interest these folks would do better to go where the would-be customer is—urban vintage markets like the Brooklyn Flea and Randolph Street Market. Don’t brush “flea markets” off your shoulder—high-priced items can and do move there. This is where these “young collectors,” professionals with money live. They’re in urban neighborhoods. They’re not at the suburban country club. If there’s going to be a market for the collections being shed by the baby boomers, this is where it will be born.