'Massive investment opportunities: thanks to the 'Sleeping Giant' of collectibles'

It looks like the 'sleeping giant' of the collectibles markets is Chinese and made from bronze. I'm actually talking about ancient Asian antiques - a remarkable collection of which has netted total sales of £13.35m ($20.75m) in an online auction.

The Sze Yuan Tang Archaic Bronze artefacts were sold from the collection of Anthony Hardy, personally amassed by the collector over 40 years with many items dating as far back as the 13th-12th centuries BC.

Many of these pieces dated to the "Golden Age of the Shang dynasty". In other words, Hardy picked a period in history - which he chose very wisely - and assembled a collection which was sure to be of interest to collectors, investors and museums in future years.

The $3.3m World Record Fangyi

Certainly, the proof was in the pudding at Christie's Asian Art week internet sale. The auction was headed by a very rare Chinese Bronze wine vessel, or Fangyi, from the late Shang dynasty.

Originally estimated at £771,500-1,156,000 ($1,200,000-1,800,000), the striking and heavily-decorated 12th-11th century container eventually sold for £2.1m ($3.3m): a World Record price, acquired by its lucky new owner at the click of a mouse.

Other recent successes included Freeman's £1,312,140 ($2,024,227) Asian arts sale earlier this month.

Highlights in that sale included Chinese huanghuali furniture pieces, with one cabinet selling for £9,130 ($14,080). Once again, the internet played a huge part in the sale. Bidders from China, Hong Kong and Singapore joined the usual US contingent with 22% of successful bids being placed online.

A year prior to Christie's and Freeman's massive sales back in November 2009, Bonhams held its own £5m ($7.5m) auction of Bronze Age Chinese vessels from the collection of the 2nd Lord Cunliffe.

The items dated from the 12th century BC to as far back as the 2nd; one of the oldest English collections ever to auction. It's also worth noting that Cunliffe amassed it in the 20th century's most economically-depressed era, between the darkest war years of the 1940s and his death in 1963.

Lord Cunliffe's war-era passion became another collector's great investment. Bonhams' auction drew a packed saleroom, with bronze and other objects selling for more than 10 times their pre-sale estimates.

Big sellers included an archaic bronze inscribed ritual food vessel, sold for no less than £490,400 against its predicted value of £40,000-60,000.

A bronze ritual bowl (sold for £490,400)

In fact, the power of Chinese bronze collectibles as an antidote to recession was reported by the New York Times in the wake of Bonhams' 2009 sale.

"If you wonder how good the mood really is in China, forget the annual growth rate, the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the rest. Instead, look at what is happening in the auction market," said the leading news source.

The article cited another blockbuster sale, at Christie's in September 2009. That auction offered historic Chinese art pieces from the Arthur M Sackler collection, one of the greatest of its kind in the world, with its total sales rising to $23.94m.

Four massive sales over a period of almost 12 months. And you can bet that words "recession" or "economic downturn" weren't mentioned in the saleroom at any of them.

Better still, there's no reason why another record-breaking sale won't happen in another 12 months' time (if not sooner).

My point is this: if you're looking for a recession-proof investment, then go for something that's been tried, tested and proven.

The world's top investors are following the examples set by great collectors like Anthony Hardy, Lord Cunliffe and Arthur M Sackler - and, which the opportunities that are out there at the click of a mouse, perhaps you should considering doing the same.

For now, best of luck and happy collecting!



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