Does A Pandemic Affect The Antiques Trade?

Does A Pandemic Affect The Antiques Trade?

December 12th 2020

I think it’s fair to say that 2020 is not the year that we expected. As the grasp of a pandemic shook the world at the beginning of the year we have had to work out what we are currently calling a new ‘normal’ and as we know look towards the end of the year with the hopes of a vaccine, it seems there is light at the end of the tunnel after all. With all industries, countries and people effected we now look to what the future may hold for us. This is a time to stick together, shop local and support everyone around us. 

One thing I get asked frequently is ‘how has the pandemic effected the antiques business?’. As simple as the question is it’s very difficult to give a simple answer. Let’s start with fairs, shows and centres. We have had brief glimmers of openings throughout the year but across the board we have seen very little action from this side of the business. Social distancing in force and difficulty with adhering to guidelines has meant that the majority have closed and have been postponed until further notice. With this we have see a huge decline in what is known as ‘unseen stock’. Simply put this means market fresh items that have not been in the trade before. The trouble with not being able to attend such events means that for a lot of the trade this is their bread and butter and they cannot operate without it much like a car salesman can’t operate without cars. The majority of the antique world are still working without internet and this is a staple of how they make money. If you take away these events and shut the centres it means there’s no money coming in. 

On the flip side we open our arms to the internet and how much of a positive impact his has had in a lot of ways, although its not all sunshine. The internet has revolutionised the way that things are bought and sold in all aspects of life. It allows us to research, buy and sell from all over the globe at the click of a button. The pandemic has pushed a lot of traffic online and many people who before may not have bought online are now avidly scouring the internet for their next baby yoda toy or in our case ceramic or vesta case. The same rule applies for our trade and a lot of clients have gone to the web searching for their next piece. This is both positive and negative as we try ourselves to find items that we can then sell on, but having our clients looking in the same places we do has meant that quite often we are being cut out. Auction house have gone online and with places like Ebay it means the market has become very volatile. 

What we have found is that the auctions are doing tremendously well because people are unable to view sales and therefore are taking more risks purchasing online, thinking maybe the item is bigger than initially thought or not seeing the damage on the piece. This has driven prices through the roof. What costed £20 last year now costs £40 this year and similarly what cost £1000 last year now costs £2000. The interesting thing about a recession and perhaps this time a pandemic is that antiques, jewellery and collectables seem to always have a strong market value, for instance take the gold price as an example at the beginning of 2020 the gold price stood at £37.34 per gram, it now stands at £43.59 per gram with the highest point this year being the 7th of august recorded at a whopping £50.61 per gram. To put this into perspective the all time high for gold per gram on record was august this year. To coincide this with the pandemic when people can’t go out, cant go on holiday and have money to spend people tend to buy things they enjoy. With money in the banks earning little to no interest what better to spend your money on than something you will enjoy, a boat, a car, a motorhome or maybe a luxury watch, that nice piece of furniture you have always wanted or even some jewellery. The market may be volatile but if you can find it there’s a good chance you can sell it, sometimes investing is not all about stocks and shares albeit a gamble, its safer when you can enjoy what you have purchased and pass it down for generations to come or upgrade it for something new. 

Credits: –  Gold prices 1973-2020 / Featured Image: Banner vector created by freepik