Business

Cashing in on vintage

By Shamille Scott Business reporter scotts@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, November 25, 2012    

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Something that has the polish of time and history can be seen as an investment.

Beautifully handmade items — which in many cases can't be replicated — carry value in today's modern, machine-made world .

Antiques are getting scarcer and the prices go nowhere but up, say local antique dealers, valuators and collectors.

A furniture bought 25 years ago for $2,000 could be worth $35,000 today. "Not just any furniture," said Lorna Chong, dealer of antiques and collectibles. It has to be unblemished, and made of wood like mahogany, she added.

Mahogany is a desirable wood, unique to the West Indies, she said.

Antique dealer and collector, Wayne Nasralla, said he sold a set of bone knives that had some 98 pieces for $100,000.

"When I bought them, too long ago to remember," he said. "The knives really didn't have much value at the time. It must have cost me about $10,000 then."

A three-legged pot, such as the ones found in the country — "the really big ones" — could be sold for $20,000 depending on its condition, according to the antique collector.

The rarity of the item, the aesthetics, and the prominence of the article all guide the buyer's choice.

"The estate that it belonged to also counts... I have pieces from great houses, such as Chester Castle," said André Latty, another local in the trade. "Potential dealers shouldn't go for items that are a dime a dozen."

But don't confuse collectibles with antiques. Though both are desirable, collectibles are more modern and carry a lesser value.

Anything over a century old could be classified as an antique. But for those who see potential in investing in items such as furniture, china, silver and crystal, the cardinal rule is to "buy what you like", Latty said.

However, it's just as important to do research, which includes going to museums, auctions, country houses, antique fairs and dealer's shops to develop an eye for antiques.

"It's a treasure hunt, you may have things in your house that are vintage or desirable," Latty said. "Read before you sell or part from your old items. You really don't know what you have,"

An "eye" is something that takes years to obtain — it is an innate understanding of the aesthetics of what is before you, the quality and style of a piece, its inherent beauty and integrity.

Some may say they are not into buying garbage, Latty said. But that's not necessarily the case.

"There are those who don't want anything modern in their houses, It's a matter of personal taste, he said.

But, there is no denying that there is a market for antiques, Latty added.

"People have been collecting old things for hundreds of years. They have made money from it," said Nasralla, the main organiser of the Antiques and Collectibles Fair which has been held in Kingston for two decades.

There is no rule that is etched in stone about how antiques should be priced. "There is a generally feeling of what people will pay for them," Chong said.

Chong has sold antiques to members of the diplomatic corps. "I've sold things that are now in Germany, England and Paris," she said. Some local antiques are even sold online, she added.

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