Some musings on antiques

Most things, it appears, become more valuable as they age, the exceptions being cakes and people. The fascination of the old may be a way to make money from random Chinese vases left lying in the attic, but you need to get your hands on them first, or benefit from very forgetful relatives. And even if you own a stunning old mahogany desk or set of silver, odds are the enjoyment of owning such pieces will outweigh any desire to sell them, unless for obscene amounts.

But what about the antiques of the future? It is increasingly difficult to say, due to a curious phenomenon. This manifests itself in people retaining tat they think may be of value in future. However, due to this idea now being widespread the tat most likely to be valuable is hoarded, meaning there will be a plethora of it in the future. It is the tat that no-one in their right minds would keep that is going to be exceedingly rare.

Another problem for those looking for the antiques of the future is fakes. At the moment, quality fakes contemporaneous with the antiques they copy can, in some instances, be worth more than the originals. This is due to all sorts of reasons; superior craftsmanship and rarity value being the most obvious. Even when they are worth less, a good fake can show the qualities of what it copies, and can command a decent price.  But in the future will a fake of something from now be worth money? After all a modern picture by Hirst for example has virtually no artistic skill and is unlikely to be made in a better form due to it ultimately being intrinsically rubbish; and so a fake  would be missing the only thing apparently giving it value: being by Hirst. This gives a dilemma for the collector of future antiques.

Having proven that is is nigh-on impossible to guess what will be of value in a hundred years time, let us look at what is going to be worth money in thousands of years time . It is fair that the ancient Egyptians, peering over the shoulder of an over-exited archaeologist will say in disbelief: ‘ what, you like that old tat? And that’s a corpse! A dead body, you can make them yourselves!’ Admittedly, they would have to concede the point when it comes to 20 pound solid gold death-masks, but that is but one find among many.

So, besides pickling your relatives what can you leave for your great-great-great-great-great-etc.-grandchild to make his fortune from; assuming of course that you care? Here we should probably take our lesson from what is popular now: big ruined temples, statues, and coffins made from gold.



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