"He was active at an ideal moment: the opportunities, both in terms of cost and availability, which were open to a well-informed and by no means indigent collector, were such as someone with similar ambitions today can only dream of."
This quote from a Christie's press release stood out for me this week. The auction house, while discussing the fantastic art and antiques collection of Professor Sir Albert Richardson, alluded to a dreary future for the collectibles industry.
A future where opportunities to buy collectibles at a good price are slim.
Richardson began collecting in the early part of the 20th century, at a time when great country house sales were common and collecting was still a relatively recent hobby.
Of course, there would have been a huge number of artefacts that were distinctly undervalued in these sales, and the well-trained eye could easily have grabbed a bargain.
Yet picking up a spectacular item on the cheap is still possible today...
Yes, the most renowned collectibles are well documented on today's market and this drives prices higher - the rarer the object of desire, the greater its value. Being able to pinpoint this rarity to a precise number leaves very little room for negotiation on the buyer's part.
But don't lose hope. Collecting trends change. And I guarantee that 20 or 30 years from now there will be valuable areas of the sector that today are hugely undervalued. It's identifying those areas that is key. Among my personal suggestions are Apollo Moon mission memorabilia, classic cinema collectibles and Muhammad Ali autographs.
And if you can't be skilful, be lucky! Great discoveries are still being made on a regular basis in the collectibles market. Try these high profile finds for inspiration:
Two wheelbarrows of gold coins and bullion
To take an extreme example, we can look to the remarkable hoard of gold coins belonging to a Nevada recluse that sold at auction yesterday (August 6).
The previously unknown collection was unearthed after Walter Samaszko Jr, a 69-year-old Carson City loner, died in 2012. Cleaners found two wheelbarrows of gold bullion and coins, including 1,200 examples of the famed Saint-Gaudens double eagle - America's most valuable coin.
The coin section of Samaszko's stash made over $6m yesterday, with collectors from across the US jumping at the opportunity to buy the undervalued coins.
One lot of 444 Saint-Gaudens $20 coins sold for $630,000. Depending on condition, that has to be the kind of bargain that Christie's imagine today's collector "can only dream of".
The Black Swamp Find
Alternatively, we could take the recent Black Swamp Find, a hidden cache of the world's rarest baseball cards found in an attic, as a perfect example.
The number of rare cards authenticated by Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) doubled from 700 to 1,400 overnight, with what were previously thought to be the finest examples now significantly down the pecking order.
This of course had an effect on values, and collectors perched on the lower branches of the money tree are now able to buy the cards that they always dreamed of owning.
Simply put, don't be deterred, the collectibles industry is constantly surprising us. Whether by luck in the attic or judgement at your local market or auction, there are opportunities. And you could do worse than taking a look at our online store.
Thanks for reading,