THE ART OF COLLECTING ANTIQUES

Some South African families whose ancestors go back a number of generations, have what they call, all that “stuff” that gets passed down from mother to daughter, from grandfather to grandson.  It could be that solid, heavy, ornate side server, the dining room and chairs or the four-poster bed. Others have a great-aunt whose house is filled with porcelain “beautiful ladies”, dogs or a collection of porcelain dolls. You, yourself, might have a penchant for collecting knives, corkscrews or art deco costume jewellery or you’ve kept all those old-fashioned fifties’ flint lighters or have your collection of old comics stuck away in a cupboard somewhere.

Well, all those things fall under the category of antiques or collectables and could provide you with a nice little nest egg for the future. Whether you’ve inherited a family member’s collection or whether you’re toying with the idea of starting your own collection, there is no question that antique collecting is another form of investment – and a profitable one at that!

With stocks and shares always on the slippery slope of volatility, many people are taking advantage of investing in tangible items that cannot only be felt, touched and appreciated, but that offer a tangible investment and to top it all are exempt from capital gains tax. In the medium to long-term, most good quality antiques and art do appreciate in value and experts, at a conservative estimate, put the minimum appreciation at around 10% a year.

So, what are South Africans investing in and what makes for a good investment. Before you jump on the bandwagon, you need to understand the difference between “antiques” and “collectables”. Antiques are usually anything that is over 100 years old and “collectables” refer to “younger” items that have become highly desirable as collector’s items. Whilst a painting by one of the old masters or a rare Louis XIV chair is a top of the range investment that will always give a high return, there are other, more recent collecting disciplines that investors can enjoy and which will give a good return. In antique furniture, collectors are going for the more practical items that they can display in their homes, like armoirs, military chests, dining room tables and chairs, chiffoniers and extremely decorative items. These can range in price from R 5 000 to over R100 000 per piece.

Collecting silverware remains one of the most popular disciplines and the trend worldwide is away from elaborate bulky pieces to smaller pieces that by their very nature make them easy to store, show and maintain with often higher values. The more popular collecting disciplines include collecting things like vinaigrettes, caddy spoons, baby’s rattles, nutmeg graters, pin cushions, Irish silver and novelty silver. 

Other collecting disciplines that are highly desirable and offer a good investment include collecting books, maps, coins, stamps and military memorabilia. History is a good preserver and anything related to any particular historical period, a specific war or battle will, as time goes by, become more sought after. 

All the antique dealers who take part in the monthly antique fairs that take place in Johannesburg and Pretoria are members of the NAADA Association which ensures that the dealers have bona fide trading  licenses and run ethical businesses in accordance with South Africa’s 2nd Hand Goods Act. 

 


 

“Collecting is like eating peanuts; you just can’t stop.”

If you are one of those ‘peanut eaters’ then the Antiques Fairs that take place under the auspices of the National Antiques & Decorative Arts Association are not to be missed!

Gauteng’s best kept secrets are the three Antiques & Collectables Fairs which takes place every month at Nelson Mandela Square on the first Sunday of every month, at Hyde Park Corner on the last Sunday of every month and at Brooklyn Square on the first Saturday of every month. This is when thousands of eager collectors come from far and wide looking at items that attract, intrigue and fascinate. It could be sparked by something from childhood – a dinky car or doll that was treasured; the pattern on a tea set that belonged to Grandma; the memory of having to sit through Dad’s painstaking photo shoots with an old camera or Grandpa’s stories about the war years. Seeing that item again brings back nostalgic memories and then, finding out that in fact, those items are highly collectable and have value can spark a collection and turn you into a collector.

Because antiques & collectables are rare and not mass produced, the chase to find an elusive piece to add to a collection is what makes it such fun. Ask any of the regular collectors who visit the Antiques Fair at Nelson Mandela Square and they will tell you that they never miss a monthly fair because that means they might just miss the one time that the antiques dealer has that piece they have spent years looking for.

The over 40 antique dealers who come from all over the country each month to present their wares are all members of the NAADA Association which falls under government’s 2nd Hand Goods Act. This means that they have all been vetted, have trading licenses and adhere to the code of ethics of the association.

Some are specialists in certain collecting disciplines like silver, glassware, jewellery or ceramics. Others have a varied selection of antiques and collectables that makes browsing through their time like a treasure hunt. The fun is in interacting with antique dealers who have devoted their life to collecting antiques and who, in most cases, are extremely knowledgeable and will guide and assist in your collecting ‘journey’. You will also meet like-minded collectors with whom you can exchange ideas, tips and even join collector clubs in your chosen field.

 

Collecting is a passion…. that just might give you a handsome pay-off in the long run!

 


 

COLLECTING THE QUANT AND THE QUIRKY

It is an undisputed fact that we, as humans will forever be hunter/gatherers – in some form or another.  Not in the original sense of our evolution but in our everyday modern world.  Everybody collects something – whether it’s surrounding oneself with beautiful objects, collecting investment pieces for that rainy day or collecting with the purpose of building a legacy. They often say that what you collect is a reflection of who you are and shows what you stand for.

  • Collectors of rare manuscripts, stamps and maps show a keen interest in history and geography and appreciate the time and effort put into the art of cartography.
  • Rare book collectors might be at the cutting edge of on-line technology but appreciate the literary and tactile value of a beautifully bound first edition book that can take pride of place in a well-stocked library.
  • Often engineers and architects gravitate towards collecting without even realising it. They might have inherited a Stanley or Miller multi-plane in its original box or cherish a well-crafted woodworking tool or a brass gauge or scale.
  • Fashionistas don’t only follow current fashion – they are often crazy about vintage clothing like flapper dresses of the 1920’s or are drawn to the pop-art accessories of the sixties – the very basis for becoming a fashion, accessory & jeweller collector.
  • As a home-maker, most people surround themselves with beautiful things; as a collector you might have a penchant for a rare Royal Albert dinner service, elegant rare silver candlesticks or an Art Deco lampshade. Or you may favour collecting old storage tins, kitchenware or old appliances.

People often are collectors without realising it. Ask them if they are interested in antiques and collectables and they probably will say they don’t.  Yet, a look into the homes and interests of people and you will see a collecting trend emerging. Some of the more unique, odd and quirky things that people collect include:

  • Are you partial to the odd garden gnome or decorative bird-bath in your garden or favour those 50’s ducks on the wall? Well, those could be the start of a really interesting collection of ceramic animal figures or Victorian garden accessories.
  • Younger people are not immune to the collecting bug – with the revival of action figures – from Superman, Spiderman & Co to the Star Wars phenomenon, collecting early examples has become a fast growing trend.
  • The rock ‘n roll era of the 50’s through to the 70’s has sparked a new trend in collecting – whether it’s an early Coca Cola poster, an early petrol pump, a classic American pick-up van or Zippo flint lighters.
  • Follow actor Tom Hank’s example and start collecting old typewriters; old calculators and even the early cell phones are becoming tomorrow’s collectables.
  • With everyone able to take high-tec pictures on a cell phone and cameras soon to be extinct, collectors are seeing the value in collecting old cameras – both as an investment or simply to show their grandchildren.

If you see yourself in any of the above, then the Antiques Fair on the upper and lower levels of Nelson Mandela Square is the place to be on the first Sunday of every month from 9am to 4pm. As the biggest and longest running antique fair in South Africa with over 40 dealers coming from all over the country, this is collecting heaven and Joburg’s best kept secret for both local and international collectors and visitors.

 


bronzeladyDear Collectors,

The National Antique and Art Dealers’ Association is initiating a newsletter. We look forward to your feedback and would like suggestions on the kind of articles/issues that would be of interest to you the collector.

Starting a collection and buying antiques can be very exciting.

Collecting comes naturally to human beings, usually sparked by our curiosity about things. As kids we all collected all kinds of things from toys to rocks to butterflies.

It is also human nature to possess and is deep-rooted in all of us.

The act of collecting is generally motivated by emotions rather than money. There are companies and individuals who collect for investment purposes, but those collections are normally determined based on trends and advice from specialists and curators.

We all want a part of history, want to connect to a part of history that we were most fascinated about when growing up or to a time we feel very strongly about.

Everyone enjoys the thrill or the hunt and collecting is more like a quest - a lifelong adventure.

Always remember: buy the best antiques you can afford and if it’s for your own personal use or collection.

  • Only buy the things you love.
  • If something appeals to your sense of style or your idea of beauty, you will develop a passion for it.
  • Whether you are buying antiques as an investment or for a collection or to sell them on, always buy what you like and buy what you are interested in.

Buy fom accredited dealers.

If you want to be certain that the antiques you are buying are genuine always buy from an accredited dealer and check to see if they are a member of the National Antique Dealers Association of South Africa www.naada.co.za

Invest in pieces you fall in love with.

Just like any other relationship in your life, your bond with your antiques works in a very similar manner.

You should invest only in antiques that make you happy and pieces that you would like to have in your home for years to come. You should have an interest in the financial value of your collection, but this should merely be secondary. Just like any market, fashions and tastes change over time. This means that something that is not valuable now may become so in the future, and vice versa.

Looking for original untouched pieces.

Pieces which have not been restored, preferably with provenance, are likely to be among the best investments. There are times when restoration does help increase the value of a piece, this is normally the case in furniture and art. However, it depends on the item and the quality of restoration work done so we suggest you get advice from an expert in such cases.

"Using a recommended restorer is key to the preservation of the integrity of the piece."

The importance of the condition of a piece is critical. A dealer who is a member of NAADA, will always inform you about the condition of the piece and about any restoration work undertaken but if you are buying elsewhere you always should ask if the piece has undergone any restoration.

Always get a receipt.

It does not matter in whatever manner you decide to make a payment - cash, credit card or a bank transfer - please make sure you get a receipt that lists what you are purchasing:  the age, the material, any damage or restoration and its value. When buying an important piece please insist on an evaluation certificate.

Buy rare pieces and unusual pieces.

The most valuable antique and collectables are the unusual pieces.

One needs to look for the quirky, edginess and anything that makes a piece uncommon, such as an unusual factory mark when it comes to porcelain, ceramics and china.

There were small factories in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, which produced pieces which did not have any markings on them. Some of these pieces are extremely rare and valuable because of excellent craftmanship and the fact that they were produced in limited quantities.

Mistakes in stamps and coins are rare, which makes flawed pieces extremely valuable.

To understand this further one needs to do extensive research on what one is collecting, and you need to speak to a dealer who specializes in that field.

When it comes to furniture always try and buy useful pieces: you can never go wrong with Georgian and Regency pieces as the trend at the moment is to collect from this period.

You can now find a dealer in specialist collecting fields on our new website here

Beware of fakes, reproductions and forgeries.

If you suspect something is a fake, resist the temptation to buy until you can get confirmation that the piece is authentic.

At times, a piece could be an amalgamation of parts from different periods. An expert will be able to tell if a piece from different periods have been put together.

You should do your research on what interests you before you start buying:  attend lots of antique fairs, speak to dealers, there is so much information out there: read, familiarize yourself with stamps, markings, signatures, glazes, hallmarks:  look for little tell-tale signs which can give you a lot of information.

People who make replicas are always in a rush and often miss some vital period detail, or the finish will not be on par with original pieces.

Dealers often say that every piece “talks” – it sounds strange but it is true;  if you carefully observe a piece it will “talk” to you and will tell you where it is from and who is its creator.

It is always better to buy from an accredited dealer.

Don’t be scared to handle and examine an item in your hands – get to know your antiques.

As you are going to spend your hard-earned money on a piece, you are entitled to pick it up, hold it in your hands and examine it. Check the bottom, the top, the sides and look at it from odd angles and use a magnifier if necessary to look closely. Never be afraid to pick anything up in a shop, at an auction, at a fair or at any other sales event. It helps in understanding the condition and the quality of the craftmanship of the piece. And at the end of it if all fails go with your gut feel, if it feels good when you hold the piece - you know exactly where the piece is going in your home or office - and it makes you feel happy then go for it.

Ask questions.

Researching and reading through reference books and the internet will provide a background to the history of a piece. Try and pick a specialist’s brain, ask as many questions as possible. There is nothing that a specialist with a little time on their hands likes better than to talk about their subject, you will be amazed. The more questions you ask about the piece the better, you will automatically come to know if the piece is genuine and if the dealer knows everything about the piece.

Ceramic Restoration.

It depends on the item, the era, the quality of workmanship and the provenance.

For example, on a 17th century porcelain charger, you would expect to see some kiln grit or kiln dust to the base and perhaps a firing flaw that would have occurred in the kiln. These would be acceptable. 

However, you would not expect to find these kinds of flaws on an 18th-century Imperial mark and period ceramic because the firing techniques would have been refined.

Fifteen years ago, only mint-condition mark and period ceramics would have been considered acceptable, now collectors will consider ceramics that have been broken and restored or which have hairline cracks.

Rarity of the items also plays a very big role and the origin of the piece.

Art Restoration.

Some items appreciate in value after restoration. For example, the beauty of a 19th century Dutch school painting can be assessed and seen only if it has been cleaned by a conservator.

As Joshua Glazer, Christie's specialist, Vice President, Old Master & Early British Paintings department says, “the conservation of Old Master paintings should always be guided with the principle of reversibility.”

Whether your painting is an oil on canvas, tempera on panel, oil on copper, or a work painted on an unusual support such as lapis lazuli or marble, any conservation work that is done should ideally be able to be undone. Essentially, this concerns the materials and techniques that your conservator will employ while cleaning and restoring your painting—retouches need to be applied in a way that they could be removed should a new owner wish to see a painting free from any cosmetic repainting.

Buying from an Auction house.

A few things to keep in mind - do your research, ask the auction house as many questions as possible, speak to their specialist, insist on a proper condition report, check the piece thoroughly.

Check the commission rates and don’t forget about the VAT which is added on to the commission and then do a comparison. Be aware of the auction houses terms and conditions there is a lot of important information for the buyer to be aware of. 

Make sure you go to a reputable auction house.

Ready to Buy online?

Many of our members do have websites, if you go to the listing section of the members you will be able to click on the link of their websites here.  When purchasing online look for testimonials from clients. When buying online buy from accredited dealers.

When buying online insist on getting as much information and images about the item as possible and try and speak to the person selling the item. It is also important to look at payment methods and how you are protected as a purchaser.

Insuring your pieces.

You need to insure any antiques you buy. The premium does not necessarily have to be expensive even if you have only a few valuable items.

Please bear in mind that many standard insurance policies will require items to be specified if they are worth more than a defined amount. Specialist high-value policies, however, tend to need items to be specified only if items are worth more than a certain amount.

Make sure you keep an up-to-date valuation of the items insured.

For particularly high-value items, insurers may require evidence of a valuation before they will offer cover.

 

If you require any further assistance, please send the association an email. We look forward to hearing from you all.

Naada Association www.naada.co.za 

Written by Simran Kindra

President NAADA

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