How to Find the Best Antiques to Invest In

How to Find the Best Antiques to Invest In

Not everyone will find an incredibly lucrative antique. But for those that do, the result can be life-changing.

How to Find the Best Antiques to Invest In
Sarah Sharkey

Updated Nov 1, 2022

Many companies on MoneyMade advertise with us. Opinions are our own, but compensation and in-depth research determine where and how companies may appear.

Collectibles

Collectibles

Memorabilia

Memorabilia

Long Term Wealth

Long Term Wealth

  • Antiques are a lucrative asset class that can fetch millions of dollars at auction. 
  • High-priced antiques are in limited supply, high demand, and good condition. 
  • You can invest just a few dollars in sought-after antiques with fractional equity platforms. 

 

The thrill of the hunt is one of the most exciting parts investing in antiques. Whether you're turning your grandparent’s attic upside-down or poking through an estate sale, there’s a chance you’ll stumble across an antique that'll change your life forever.

Not every piece experiences the same journey—some antiques age like a fine wine, while others have it rougher.

For example, when someone brought in a Joseph Kleitsch painting, they were shocked when they discovered it was worth $500,000. The owner had originally purchased the painted for around $100. Needlessly to say, they were very pleased with their trip to the iconic Antiques Roadshow.

If you're hoping to find an antique goldmine, the list of the most expensive antiques of recent years is sure to excite. Just like other collectibles, adding antiques to your investment portfolio as an alternative asset can help you diversify.

What makes an antique valuable?

You're unlikely to stumble upon million-dollar antiques in plain sight at a local market. Even if you have beautiful family heirlooms sitting in your attic, they might not make the cut on Antiques Roadshow.

Here’s a look at how and why some antiques are worth a lot of money, while other vintage items are just dated personal belongings. 

Popularity 

Not all old items are worthwhile collectible investments. Though a vase or baseball card may be really old, that doesn’t make it a valuable antique. Instead, the item in question must have sufficient popularity for the market to place value on it.

For example, you might love books. But unless you are investing in a rare first edition book, it's unlikely to be a lucrative investment.

Different types of antiques have varying levels of demand and popularity. You might have noticed that several of the priciest antiques ever sold are of Chinese origin. Chinese antique furniture and pottery have been a popular market in recent years.

Other highly collectible investments tend to be pop culture related. When a certain antique is in high demand, it’s more likely to fetch a better price.

But the popularity of an antique ebbs and flows. As an investor, you’ll need to stay informed of the market sentiments to know when it's optimal to sell. 

Rarity 

Supply and demand are crucial aspects of antique investments. When many collectors chase the same asset, it's value is more likely to go up.

 

For example, when dealing with vintage furniture, a one-of-a-kind piece with high-quality craftsmanship from a sought-after designer might make a better investment than a piece that you can find at virtually any antique store in the country.

Condition

One thing that all antiques have in common is that they're old. Not every piece experiences the same journey—some antiques age like a fine wine, while others have it rougher.

As a general rule, antique items in mint condition are likelier to fetch the best price. In contrast, antiques that aren’t in pristine condition tend to sell for less. For example, some vintage Star Wars action figure collectors will pay much more for them in their original packaging than unboxed versions of the same toy.

Intrinsic value

Last but not least, the intrinsic value of an item is one of the important factors.

Rare coins and antique jewelry are often considered valuable collectibles. That’s because each has an intrinsic value embedded in the item itself, such as that of the precious metals a rare coin is made of.

In the world of antiques, everyone has personal preferences. But some of the most popular and highly collectible antiques include items with some intrinsic value that don't take up too much space.

Best antiques to invest in

Not everyone will stumble upon the antique deal of a lifetime. But in recent years, these items have been marked as some of the most expensive antiques to invest in.

Qing Dynasty vases

Several Qing Dynasty vases have fetched considerable sums in the last 15 years.

Earlier this year, a blue-and-gold vase that had previously sat in someone’s kitchen sold for $1.8 million at auction. According to Dreweatts, an English auction house that facilitated the sale, the former owner had inherited the piece from his father who had bought it for a few hundred pounds in the 1980s.

The piece may have sold for well over a million, but its initial valuation of $186,000 proves just how difficult it is to accurately value an antique. The unpredictability of an auction is one of the unique challenges of investing in antiques. 

Though a seven-figure valuation is eye-popping, another Qing Dynasty vase takes the cake for the most expensive antique sold at auction. Back in 2010, a Pinner Qing Dynasty vase sold for $83 million. That particular vase, sold by a British auction house, was found by a pair of siblings cleaning out their parents’ attic.

post-img

18th-century Chinese vase auctioned by Bonhamsfor a price allegedly between £20 million and £25 million.

Source: ft.com

Ru Ware washer bowl

A Ru Ware washer bowl is one antique collectible that paid out a record-breaking price of $37.7 million when Sotheby's dropped the gavel in 2017. The washer bowl was beautiful in its simplicity. But the rarity of a piece from the Song dynasty garnered fierce competition at auction.

Double Eagle coin

A 1933 Double Eagle coin sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $18.9 million in 2021. The high-quality gold coin was originally minted at a face value of $20. The rare coin blew away the estimated sale price of $10 to $15 million.

What made this coin exceptionally rare was a law enacted by U.S. president Fraklin Roosevelt to take the country off the gold standard during the great depression. This forced citizens had to forfeit their gold currency, including the double eagle. The result was most double eagles were melted into gold bars by 1937, making the gold coin super scarce.

post-img

1933 Saint-Gaudens Gold Double Eagle.

Patek Phillippe Supercomplication 

The Patek Phillippe Henry Graves Supercomplication is a high-end pocket watch that sold for $24 million in 2014. Originally commissioned to be the most complicated watch possible, it shattered records to become one of the most expensive timepieces ever sold.

Back in 1999, the watch set a record for the time with a sale price of $11 million. However, the ‘Mona Lisa of watches’ saw its value soar as interest in the pristine watch grew.

post-img

The Henry Graves 'Supercomplication' timepiece sold for $24 million at Sotheby's in 2014.

Source: cnn.com

17th-Century Persian rug

It seems likely that a rug would fetch millions at auction. But this 17th-century Persian rug sold for $33.8 million at a Sotheby's auction in 2013. That’s quite the sticker price, over three times the previous sale price of $9.6 million when it was auctioned at Christie's in 2010.

The rug may have fetched such a high sale price due to the unique nature of the pattern, which is a ‘vase’ technique on a red background.

post-img

17th Century Persian rug sold for $33.8m (£21.8m) at Sotheby's in 2013.

Source: bbc.com

How to invest in antiques

Even if you want to add antiques to your investment portfolio, finding collectible investments isn’t always a walk in the park. Here are two tips to help you get into antique investing.

Choose something you love

When it comes to buying antiques, it’s often a good idea to buy antiques that you gravitate towards. For example, when shopping for fine art, why not purchase a piece that you love or appeals to your tastes? At the very least, this ensures that you’ll enjoy the purchase, even if you lose money.

If something catches your eye at the antique market, it might be the perfect piece for your collection. Or you might choose to get in contact with reputable antique dealers to keep tabs on your aspirational finds. 

Opt for a piece of the action

For many, the idea of poking around an antique fair doesn't bring too much excitement. Whether you aren’t willing to dig through antique pieces for an Antiques Roadshow-worthy find or simply don’t have the storage space required, that’s okay.

You can still add this asset class to your portfolio through fractional investing. If you want to buy equity in fine art rather than spending millions to own it outright, then Masterworks might be the platform you're looking for.

Masterworks lets you buy and sell shares of fine art just like how public companies and ETFs are traded on the stock market. When Masterworks sells the painting, its shareholders receive the proceeds from the sale. 

Mintus is a similar platform in which you can purchase shares of exceptional artwork. At the moment, works by Andy Warhol and George Condo are available as investment opportunities. 

Ready to invest in antiques?

Antiques are an investment option that could pay off in big ways. Purchasing antiques outright requires some capital, but you can make this type of asset a part of your portfolio with a minimal upfront investment by purchasing shares of a masterpiece.

masterworks
Masterworks

4.7

Art

Find your next investment