When To Keep Art Solely As An “Investment”

“My dad swears that the vintage lithograph he gave me as a birthday gift 5 years ago will be worth millions one day. I hate it, but should I keep it just in case?”

If you own collectibles purchased in the retail market, you may have been “sold.” Eager sales consultants may have assured you that something is a “must-have” or a “great investment” piece. Not true.  If something is sold as a “collectible investment,” it probably isn’t.  Contemporary high quantity multiples don’t retain or increase their value over time.  However, unique, rare and fashionable contemporary works of fine or decorative art may very well surprise you with their values. In fact, I wrote a blog post about how someone purchased a bowl for $3 at a garage sale and resold it at auction for over $2 million.

So, how can you tell if you should keep a work of art or décor as an “investment?”

If I knew that secret, I’d be relaxing on a beautiful beach right now! Kidding aside, no one can guarantee what valuables will be a good investment down the line.

My advice:

  1. Buy or keep what you love! Enjoy it! If you find out your inherited Salvador Dali lithograph is worth significantly less now than when you first received it, you should enjoy it just the same. If the kooky lamp your ex bought for you in college (that’s been sitting in the attic) is now worth a small fortune, it doesn’t mean you should like it more. If the “kooky lamp market” is strong, sell it now.

Let me tell you about how our professional market awareness helped a client reap the reward of “found” treasure in the past.  A clean-out of a client’s home in late 1995 produced a complete collection of 1962 Mars Attacks trading cards. In 1962, the cards proved popular with children, but depictions of explicit gore and implied sexual content caused an outcry, leading the company to halt production. In 1996, Tim Burton released a film based on the series, and wasn’t THAT timely!  Cards which had little value one day, increased overnight. The movie flopped, so the open window of sales opportunity was extraordinarily brief, but we successfully took advantage by selling them on a then new marketplace called eBay.  Oh, how I love surprising clients!

  1. Hire a professional consultant to evaluate your collections. By paying for an unbiased valuation, you can gain an understanding of the marketplaces affecting YOUR objects.
  2. Find out what your items are worth now, so that you are ready in the event of unexpected loss or damage, future downsizing, or planned giving, but don’t get caught up in the numbers unless you have to sell now. If you do need to sell, find a certified and accredited professional to make sure your art, antiques and home contents find their next and most financially generous new owner.


Appraise or sell your art, antiques, silver, jewelry, collections and complete home contents by calling me, Lynn Magnusson ASA AAA.

Co-Authors: Lynn Magnusson, ASA, AAA and Becky Lipnick, Communications Coordinator

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