Vanishing Family Wealth and Art and Antiques

I read an article today based on a Russel Sage Foundation study that indicates that for most families in the United States, that family wealth has vanished. I wondered , as I was reading that article, what effect that vanishing family wealth has on the buying and selling of art and antiques.

This was an interesting read that I observed some effects of. I’ve been selling art and first edition books for almost 40 years. I’ve never seen the market so slow as it is now. The same thing must be true for antique sellers too, since when I watched a recent segment of MARKET WARRIORS on PBS, none of the show regulars, antique and vintage pickers all, made any money on their picks to be sold at auction. In fact, they each lost hundreds of dollars on each of their picks, and were each a bit in a dumbfounded stupor over a real softness in an antique and vintage market that they had thought that they knew so well. 

This study by the Russell Sage Foundation about vanishing family wealth seems to provide some understanding why the market for art and antiques may have softened. I say may have, since I can only use my own experience, and what I observed from the utter disappointment and confusion shown by the MARKET WARRIOR regulars when their picks sold for several hundred dollars less than what they paid for them, with cash supplied to them by the producers of the show. In the real world, if that’s your cash that you just spent , and lost money on, you might have a few other emotions flowing besides being confused and disappointed. In the real world not making money on your buys might mean a leaner selection at the dinner table, or not paying a bill that needs to be paid. The regulars on MARKET WARRIORS can afford to be very wrong in their choices, since they have next weeks episode to appear on, and get paid for.  If you’re an independent art, book, vintage, or antiques trader, operating on a tight personal budget, you probably don’t have that luxury. 

Analyzing what this Russell Sage Foundation vanishing family wealth study might indicate to those of us that sell and trade in art and antiques, and vintage items, if your family wealth has declined, you have less money to spend on various things, that you would have no problem spending on, when finances are more secure. Not only that, both the art and antiques markets may be seeing a rise in available items for sale, while, at the same time, demand at certain price points, has diminished . This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you are in the market to buy.  If I approach this with a Warren Buffet mindset I would see this time when the market seems to be soft, and prices should be lowered to compete, as a good time to be a buyer in the art,  antiques, and vintage markets. And I would share that information with potential buyers. But who has the money to spend ?

This report indicates, by extrapolation, fewer people than before.

Here’s the link to the article about the Russell Sage Foundation study.–wealth-has-vanished-172130204.html?soc_src=copy

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