I know, you have something tucked away in the back of the wardrobe, a sort of insurance policy for the future. Your great aunts, friends grandmother gave it to you twenty years ago. They said that if you handled it only with cling film and tried hard to clean it with a mixture of cocoa cola and butter it would increase in value. But you are not interested in value are you? It’s an heirloom, for your children, you’d only sell it in dire circumstances. Or for that new Renault Clio.
First you think you might take it to the local museum. They will tell you what it is and the value. Except they wont, you see museum curators have a code of ethics which doesn’t allow them to value anything in public for the public. It’s a sort of secret knowledge that allows for transferable skills to the car boot sale and auction houses. Ideal in this sort of economic climate. You wont bother to make an appointment but just turn up at the museum at any sort of random hour and demand to be seen. After all, a museum curator is just waiting for that dream like moment when you appear with your priceless heirloom. When the curator does appear, they are a bit flustered and don’t have much time to talk the finer details of what you had for lunch. It seems they may have been a bit busy.
Sarcasm aside, despite what they say on the Antiques Roadshow and Kirsty’s Home-made Home I am a strong believer in only ever keeping and buying ‘antiques’ that you actually like. Most stuff that people are getting rid of is in fact rubbish. Otherwise they wouldn’t be getting rid of it there, they would be getting rid of it at a large famous London based auction house. It is so rare to find something that is worth a fortune either from your relatives or from the car boot sale. Unless, they are particular specialist collectors and know what they are doing. From experience these are a few of my top tips, feel free to ignore and disagree if you like:
- Ceramics are rarely worth as much as people anticipate. If something is cracked, chipped etc then it is worth less than you think and it will cost far more than what you think to get it restored
- If you ‘think’ it might be a fossil or a Stone Age axe, then in 90% of cases it isn’t
- If that antique dress is machine stitched then it isn’t early Victorian
- If your painting looks a bit rubbish, then unless it’s a folk painting of a farm animal then it probably is a bit rubbish
- Anything linked to The Beatles, The Royal Family etc is probably worth 50p
- That large diamond piece of jewellery may well not be a diamond, but if it is, it will be worth approximately half, or less, of what you think it would retail for in a jewellers
- That thing you just dropped, put in the dishwasher or gave to charity yesterday was in fact the most valuable thing in your house
- There are very few first editions which are actually worth anything. Except Chilly Billy which has really gone up in value since its release (I do happen to own this)
With this is mind, what do I think is worth collecting? I’m no expert in this, so you can take my tips or leave them I don’t care.
Utility Mark Clothing– Buy this cheap now, save it for another fifty years- it will be worth more than putting the same amount of cash in the bank
Pop Prints– we bought an original Storm Thorgusson print about 6 years ago for two hundred and fifty pounds (instead of going on holiday). It’s now worth over a thousand pounds. That seems quite a good return to me
Space toys– I’m sure that these can only increase in value
Suffragette Memorabilia– you can still find items which people haven’t recognised (green, purple and white). I know three different people who have even found it at jumble sales!
I think that if you are thinking of starting a collection or encouraging your children to do so then it’s best to pick something you know about, are interested in and that you can afford at the moment. From there you will get the joy of sorting, drawing and learning more about it. Fossils are great for kids, they are safe, hardy and easy to get hold of. For me, there are just too many things that I have to restrain myself or my house will slowly fill up. I have a small collection of Arts and Crafts prints including one by Walter Crane which is incredibly rare (or so I have been told) as it is an example of a particularly specialist printing process. I have some brooches, fossils and I would love to own more historic costume. I think however, in the New Year I shall start collecting antique buttons. They meet all the criteria for me and best of all, they are small!