When none knows what it’s all about, it’s all about money or 5 principal dilemmas of a beginner collector.
Icons on blankets, rarities on your grandma’s cupboard, surprises from the Internet – a hunt for bargains! That’s what we like best.
Bargains! It’s them that seem to be the biggest driving force of the collector market. Do they really bring a return of the investment? And what return? After all we don’t want to trade, we collect with no hidden reasons? It’s all about art! Is it really?
Dilemma 1. How to refrain from buying?
Many of us start from something catching the eye and we simply feel like buying it, the price is low so why not? A short while later there are all kinds of “almost classics” peering from every cupboard, shelf and cardboard box in our apartment. Turns out the real rarities are seldom available for 20 PLN … So we buy the (also beautiful) second league lying to ourselves that this will surely pay off. And just a moment after the purchase we know it will be difficult to sell this “almost rarity” at a higher price … but whatever, you only live once, maybe it will turn out well. Bargains lure and calls like mermaids call sailors crashing on the reef. Everyone knows about the mermaids and yet they still sail and sail …
There’s no cure for the affliction known as bargain purchase. Only the very orthodox collectors can rise up to the challenge and deny themselves the pleasure of spending small sums. But don’t lose hope, maybe one day you will succeed too?!
Dilemma 2. Sell or wait?
At the beginning of 2016 I decided to sell a part of my collection in an auction house. I’ve prepared for that quite a lot and over 150 objects went for sale. Majority of them was sold. I knew that after publishing the book I could probably earn more but I thought that: a. what if none buys my book and prices do not go up (!), b. it wouldn’t be right not to use the economic situation I’ve created (oopsie, an idealist in fourth generation … caution! That is incurable!). So I sold them. A year passed since then. After my book „Zacznij kochać dizajn. Jak kolekcjonować polską sztukę użytkową” (“Start to love design. How to collect Polish applied arts”) was published, average prices went up 6 times and some got even 10 x higher …
So, if you ask whether to wait or to sell my answer is: always wait! Design of the mid-20th century will only increase its price and worth, also the substantial one. How should you obey I don’t know – I am, as you can see, a poor example of a reasonable person. I am rather a compulsive idealist. Fortunately I still have a few of those objects so there’s still hope. Do not hurry!
Dilemma 3. To catalogue or just gather?
-I am not a museologist, my collection is not that serious, I don’t know that much, apart from that, I don’t remember if that’s Horbowy or Drost – my nervous friend said when I gently pointed out that it may be worth to have a catalogue of her objects. She did not want to. And that time it was really serious and it would pay off. A few month later she was approached by a portal that mediated in sending vintage objects to the USA. Unfortunately she didn’t know what she had: how many objects?, what objects?, what prices? from what years? Neither did she know the dimensions of those objects (necessary for the delivery). Gathering all that information would have taken her 3 weeks – and that much time she did not have … She’s a stubborn Silesian, after the defeat she dug her heels in not cataloguing the collection for sure. No is no, that’s it! She doesn’t have to. I just hope none breaks in .. with such obstinacy and no catalogue she has no chance to insure the collection, and one of her figurines is worth several dozen thousand PLN. But whatever …
Cataloguing, apart from the pragmatic aim of allowing for an insurance of one’s collection, its quick lending or immediately sending a description to a potential buyer, brings other benefits too. While cataloguing our treasures we have to look through them carefully, describe them and think about their features, qualities and assets or errors and flaws. Thanks to cataloguing we learn how to see because we have to name the features of the object! I advise this lesson of humbleness and patience to each beginner collector: first the description, i.e. the analysis (cataloguing), then interpretation (context against other objects in the background) and at the end valuing (artistic and pricing). Not the other way around! But who would want to spend so much time on that? Why do we need that? Then comes the surprise – was that vase worth so much? But I’ve seen it a few times in the Internet and I never thought it’s so valuable and good? I had never and I will not unless I can see with comprehension. One simply has to do their homework.
One more thing: lucky people are usually the ones that have helped their luck a lot …
Dilemma 4. Believe on the word?
The story is so clichéd this time it is difficult to tell it. Mr Z. comes to the flea market in town Ł. every year. He’s known for having bargains for friends. It’s been heard multiple times they’re not so bargain but whatever, he knows someone will get tempted. And they do. The plates are almost under-glazed painted, the drawing on them is almost from the 60ties, and the signature is almost the factory that it should be. Almost. Because Mr Z. is nice, his prices are not too high and not too low, simply bargain. And he sells. And then, when someone points out after a year it was not the original, Mr Z. says he was not sure but if it was the original he wouldn’t sell it for the price. And that’s where the Internet has its advantage – if objects turn out not to be what was in the description, we can easily return them and seek our rights. But there’s an objection – we have to read those descriptions carefully. Even ask in writing for additional information. It’s best if the vendor confirms that’s the original. If he doesn’t – he doubts – buying such object is our own risk. And there’s no point hurling insults at the vendor. Our fail, one we’ve asked for. But don’t worry: this has happened to each and every one of us at least once – the important thing is to draw conclusions. It’s not always worth buying cheap, especially … with forgeries
In this case my advice is precise: you either buy cheap and risk and then have no pretentions to anyone or you ask an expert to help you confirm the authenticity. Knowledge costs but none’s promised that you hobby will be a stream of bargains and flukes. If it would be so, I suppose, your collection would be smaller and less interesting. You don’t need to buy everything very cheaply – it’s important to buy reasonably
Dilemma 5. or doublets, doublets ….
Urban legends about exchanges amongst the collectors are out there, by coffee tables and on forums. And what’s more important, they’re true. It has happened multiple times that two collectors with doublets met and even though one of them didn’t have the money for the desired object, he did have something that was precious for the other one. Such exchanges are only reasonable if you have a doublet or two … That’s why it is worth hunting for acknowledged objects you already have but are sure of their worth. Their time will come. An experienced collector doesn’t have to have hundreds of most known objects, icons and rarities, it’s enough if they have 30 but doubled – it can quickly turn out they’ll acquire the rest in exchange for the others. Yes, everything requires the proper approach and strategy, even collecting “old vases” – I am telling you, the world is complicated and full of traps.
Ah, I forgot. To reach the stage of truly beneficial exchanges one has to gain fellow collectors’ trust. No way to go without it. So it is worth working on your reputation, help, repay and be nice. Share an important information or a catalogue, maybe help with a complicated transaction. Nothing works quite as well as mutual relationships in this world. And such relationship are built over years, not with three random auctions … it helps to remember that. A true collector, the one from real rarities, doesn’t want to just acquire the object. He likes to boast about from whom (that is from what collection) they have it as well. That group is picky and likes spending time closing deals with nice people – that’s part of the hobby. Spending time talking to nice and knowledgeable “design freaks” gives them sense of joy and belonging to the group of interesting aesthetes. It’s worth remembering that while answering a question or delivering sold objects – you never know who’s on the other side of the … Internet