The 10 Secrets to Successful Collecting

Every now and again one item slips through the net... and raises the bar...and then everyone says (with a great deal of hindsight, I might add):

"It was obvious it should have been that price"

The sale last week of a signed Abraham Lincoln photo for $103K is a prime example.

It was estimated by the Auction house at $8-10,000

It sold for more than ten times estimate.

How can that happen?

The answer is simple.

It just takes a couple of very knowledgeable collectors who realise exactly how rare the item is, contrary to what any dealers or price guides may tell them.

Knowledge is King


There is now a huge amount of data on recent prices realised, and price history going back several decades, and even centuries in some collecting fields.

To build a valuable collection you first need to build your own knowledge and reference library, and decide what is rare from your own view point.

I've been in the collectibles business for over 30 years and I'm happy to share my knowledge with you.


Here are my "10 Secrets to Successful Collecting"


1. Always buy the "Best, Best, Best," that you can afford.

Buy a few 'show-piece' items rather than a quantity of less important items (This follows the "Location, Location, Location," rule about buying property).

2. Quality is vitally important when you buy.

There is often a premium to pay for top quality or for an exceptional piece.

However this will be the same when you come to sell. If you have the 'best' items you'll always achieve the best price when selling.

Adhere to the Collectibles mantra: "Quality remains long after price is forgotten"

3. Ask why an item is rare?

Ask how the price has trended in the past and its expected trajectory in the future.

Why is it collectible, and what is the size of the collectible base in that particular area?

4. Provenance... we are looking for good provenance, the history of the item, the past owners, the origin of the piece and so forth.

If an item has a very good story or uniqueness about it, it will again be reflected in the price now and in the future.

5. 'The String of Pearls' Collections... some items in some fields achieve 'celebrity status', and are chased after by all collectors.

The inverted jenny stamp is one example.

It is a merely a matter of financial budgets that separates the potential buyers.

In order for people to gain "Complete Collections" there is often one item that is exceptionally rare.

If you have the patience, and the funds to do so, you could build a collection of these exceptional pieces - then you will have the collection, the individual items, that other collectors aspire to buy.

Our unique Henry VIII divorce plea letter is a fine example. The only comparable letter is held by The Vatican Secret Archives and will never enter the public domain again.

I refer to these exceptional pieces as "The String of Pearls" collections.

In my 30 years in the business I have helped a number of clients build such collections. Some have been sold for large profits, others have been donated to Museums for tax credits.

6. Pick up the phone to the best dealers in the business and build a relationship with them.

It is very important to trust the people you deal with, and see that they have been in the business a long time and are more than happy to help you build a magnificent collection.

If you're a stock market investor you'll probably never get access to Bill Gross of Pimco, or Warren Buffet of Berkshire Hathaway on the phone.

But with Collectibles you can certainly pick up the phone and speak to Paul Fraser, and many other well known and respected dealers in all fields of collecting.

Make use of their knowledge. It's free.

7. Communicate with other like-minded collectors, join groups etc. to build both knowledge and confidence both in the market you are in, and building your collection in the right way.

8. The future. Consider what and why something will still be valuable in 100 years.

Henry VIII has been increasing in value for the last 500 years and there seems no reason why that will not continue in the future.

Also consider 'the firsts'; the likes of Neil Armstrong, the first man to leave our planet and walk on another.

The first to climb Everest, the first to break the 4 minute mile, or maybe the 3 minute mile.

Many greats are not appreciated within their lifetime like Van Gogh, but are extremely sought after now.

9. Emerging markets. Understand what items developing economies will become interested in, especially the BRIC countries.

China and India are both huge new markets that are opening up to Collectibles.

They will look firstly to collect and repatriate items from their own country and culture before spreading out to the World.

10. Above all enjoy your collecting

Study and research... understand supply and demand, rarity and scarcity.

Consider the effect of donations to Museums, inflation and interest rates, currency fluctuations and their effect on pricing.

Remember that Luxury Collectibles are all solid and tangible assets that you can enjoy for your lifetime, and then someone else can become custodian during theirs...

Follow your instinct and be passionate about your collection. If you're passionate about a certain area you can guarantee others will be, too.


I have always been passionate about collecting, and it has given me a lot of pleasure along the way.

Collecting has also proven to be very profitable in a number of ways, both financially and personally.

I wish you success in whichever field you choose for your collecting.

If you want my personal advice and guidance I'm a phone call away.

+44 (0) 117 933 9503



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