What’s Happening to the Value of Antiques?


Fancy antique Victorian milk jug
Fancy antique Victorian milk jug

What’s happening to antiques? This was a question I was asked last week as I spoke to a group of people at a local public library. How do you answer such a question? Most people want to hear that their antiques are worth as much or even more than they were when they bought or inherited them. Unfortunately this is not always the case. In the world of antiques, values are based on age, rarity, provenance and condition. But there are two more elements that are especially important in determining the value of antiques.

The first is a no brainer – the economy. Regardless of the great value and unique style that we know antiques represent, the reality is that antiques are still considered by many as “luxury” items. Obviously these are the first to go when money is scarce. The only exception is top of the line antiques or art of any kind – there is always money for those but for the more ordinary pieces times are tough.

This is a good time to buy for those who can afford it. Prices for most things are down and nice items become available because people are selling to get money back or they are ready to move on to another phase in their life – either way, buyers win in this economy.

The second influence is the market. It’s tied into the economy somewhat but it’s much broader because it has to do with the difference in tastes, values and lifestyles. We all have stories about how something used to be worth a certain amount and now it’s only worth… As an antique dealer for many years I have more than my share’s worth of such tales.

Dining room suites, china, crystal, silver and silver -plate, linens – all the things you find in a dining room can be had at bargain prices right now. That’s a lifestyle change – many people don’t entertain in, or have a dining room.

Tastes change too. If the public en masse starts to prefer simpler, sleeker styles then anything that has ornate styling becomes less valuable in their eyes, therefor the price goes down. Even subject matter of paintings can cause prices to go up or down. The popularity of artists and writers will cause the same to happen. It’s the marketing concept of supply and demand in its purest form.


Late 19th century porcelain chocolate set
Hand painted and gilt Victorian chocolate set by Nippon

The point is that you must buy or hang onto what you absolutely love. Don’t buy for investment purposes unless you are buying at the top of the food chain and have specialized knowledge – or your portfolio of antiques will suffer the same fate as our mutual funds.

Happy Collecting!

2 thoughts on “What’s Happening to the Value of Antiques?

  1. My wife and I determined to buy antique furniture when we got married because it was such a ‘green’ thing to do. We have never been too sophisticated in our choices, just picking out what we liked and could afford. Our kids have always gone with us when we’ve gone out antiquing and they all got ‘the bug’ very early. I got a sense of how bad they were afflicted in this way when last year for Christmas my tall, athletic 15 yr old son asked for a very handsome but elegant end table he had his eye on at the local antique mall. I was pleased that it wasn’t the newest game system or an obnoxious CD I’d have to hide on him when he wasn’t looking. What a good boy!

    1. Your son is developing a good eye thanks to you and your wife and learning to appreciate things that may not be “cool” to others. He’s obviously secure in his own tastes and that is great to see in one so young. I have known one young man since he was very young. He and his Mom were customers in my antique store from the time I opened it in 1994. He loved anything old. His latest birthday gift was a cylinder player. He is extremely intelligent and has every intention of keeping the family home that has been theirs for 100. I still hear from him as he emails or phones me to get an opinion on something he wants to buy.

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