A Note on Collecting

A Note on Collecting

Folk Art can do more than brighten one’s life. The market has become one of the hottest investment crazes in recent years. Collectors frequently buy pieces to add interest to their living environments and with an eye towards adding to their investment portfolio. Folk Art can increase in value, but you have to wait for the right time, typically a window of 10 years, hence many fork art collectors collect to pass on these unique and unusual objects to their descendants.

Since it’s impossible to determine an artwork’s true value — a lot depends on the medium, craftsmanship, and condition, because with folk art, many artists and craftspersons are never known. One of the first decisions to make is whether you want to buy individual pieces for appreciation and art sake, or invest in an estate piece. Learn as much about your area of specialization as possible, in this case the Japanese culture. Devote time to “cautiously and skeptically search the internet, vintage and antique fairs, folk art galleries, and auction houses where collections are showcased. See what they have to offer and how objects are priced, and most of all, chat with the sellers and curators who are always eager to answer any of your questions. Buy from people who offer you accurate and research information on the piece(s) they sell, including as much about the provenance, (liniage) of the piece as possible.

You don’t have to be a collector to start, but access to information is key

You don’t have to be a collector to start but knowledge of the Folk Art world — or working with someone who has this knowledge — is key if you want to pick an authentic piece of artwork by both known and unknown artists and craftspersons. The best approach to art investment is to first consider the aesthetic pleasure, as the phrase goes “in the eye of the beholder”, and the financial benefits second.

Being retired professors we have always believed that it’s best to provide customers with as much information as needed to make a decision, or to give details for comparative shopping. Investors in art must identify pieces with great long-term perspective and to evaluate the fair market value. One never knows why prices vary, for sometimes a piece may be inexpensive because a seller has a short time to move the item. Remember: the value is very high if you are not investing for a quick turn around. Longevity (age), in most cases, sets the price for high quality artifacts.

The folk art world is broad even within cultures, so to narrow down your search, pick a genre, time period, or collectible or vintage/antique that interests you. Once you’ve found your area of focus, know what kind of piece(s) you need, to round out your collection, and if you are specializing in one particular artist/craftsperson, diversify your purchases to have a full representation of the specialization or artist’s/craftsperson’s works.

  • Originals, or “one-of-a-kind” works of folk art come with higher prices, but have the greatest potential investment beyond their personal appreciation. As a rule, unique, unusual, and rarer works of art are more valuable but as most collectors know, there are “sleepers” out there, which are a tremendous investment.

  • Avoid Reproductions or mass-produced copies. Unfortunately there are many produced because if interest is strong, many people get on board to make a living from that endeavor. Such pieces are most affordable but they’re also worth the least. You probably won’t see any profit from a reproduction.

The big question is “should I invest in collecting art?”  The seasoned, confident collectors who are enthusiastic about folk art, an investment in historical objects that have cultural significance, can be an exciting way to diversify a collection for both you to enjoy, and to pass on to family members. Remember, the value is in “age” for it is proven that history adds a great value to cultural based art objects.

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