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A Look at Decorative Arts & Antiques Market Trends for 2021

Decorative Arts & Antiques Market Trends of 2021

A barometer of what’s hot and what’s not in the antiques trade is Asheford Institute’s annual Decorative Arts Trend survey. Conducted from January 2021 to December 2021 by the research staff at the Asheford Institute, the survey results consist of a sampling of over 2,231 current students and past graduates that are actively employed or working within the antiques, collectibles and vintage marketplaces within the United States and Canada. All those who participated in the survey operate their own antiques and vintage, or estate sale/appraisal businesses, including online concerns. Although a number of organizations provide year-end data, what is interesting and different from most is Asheford’s breakdown of results by age category: 20-40, 40-60, and 60-80. Looking at buying trends by age group adds dimension to the marketplace.  Each group’s interests, especially when viewed side-by-side, show us interests change over time.

Here is a brief overview of the Top 6 categories of interest by buying group, according to this recent survey:

Ages 20-40

1.       Art Deco – From “smalls” (clocks, ashtrays, table lamps, objets d’art, etc.) to furniture and case items.

2.       Textiles – Jackets, formal wear, sneakers, jeans, vintage handbags, and scarves to vintage macrame wall-hangings and funky flower-power quilts from the 60’s.

3.       Mid-Century Modern – From furniture (credenzas and lounge chairs) to now the work of lesser-known designers of the period.

4.       “Space” Collectibles – Space travel activity this past year has sparked interest among younger buyers for both memorabilia items related to actual spacefaring and all areas of related merchandise, including toy spaceships, movie posters, and even gaming-related items.

5.       Kitchen & Barware – From bits & pieces of kitchen and barware from various styles and periods to the more mundane cookware sets from the 1960s, like Corning Ware’s, Cornflower Blue plates and dishes.

6.       Costume Jewelry – From online vintage stores to dedicated antique shops, costume jewelry (particularly of the antique and vintage variety) has remained in consistently high demand throughout the pandemic. Top designers such as Ashbee, J.W. Benson, Spratling and Bugari are all market favorites, with matching prices to complement their works.

Ages 40-60

1.       Textile – Denim to couture is the order of the day. The growth of vintage online textile dealers on sites such as Etsy, The RealReal, Tradesy, and Poshmark have almost single-handedly launched a niche industry of textile sellers. Seasoned dealers abound, with classic offerings from such designers as Chanel, Halston, Missoni and Gaultier.

2.       Period Jewelry – Most popular amongst buyers are Art Deco and Victorian pieces with some later Mid-century examples from Van Clerf & Arpels. Tiffany, Cartier, Bailey-Banks & Biddle, lead the Art Deco break-out, but lesser-known designers from the late Victorian period are also gaining popularity, especially for their large broaches and matching bracelets.

3.       Mid-Century Modern – Dealers within the 40 to 60 age category, while somewhat late to the MCM game, have made up ground in recent years, and now account for the largest demographic group of dealers and retailers related to this space. Darker teak pieces (such as desks, tables and cabinets), being especially popular as they blend well with bold colors like yellow, red, and orange.

4.       Antique & Vintage Watches – Men’s high-end vintage watch sales are soaring in value despite a recent glut of “used” merchandise on online markets due to escalating prices. Premiums for Seiko Professionals from the 1970s, Gallet Chronographs from the 1940s and 60s, Rolex Submariners, and Omega Speedmasters from the 80s, are now standard fare on many websites.

5.       Costume Jewelry – Examples from known designers like Stanley Hagler, Catamore, D’Orlan, and Giovanni have escalated well beyond the range of the average buyer, with dealers expecting market prices to climb higher as interest flourishes, and stock diminishes.

6.       Ephemera – The call for paper collectibles has been on a steady rise over the last few years. At least according to a number of print and paper dealers who say that items such as travel brochures, posters, maps, ticket-stubs, and even menus from famous cruise and airlines, like B.O.A.C and White Star, have all seen dramatic price increases recently. Movie and music posters from the 60s, 70s and 80s, especially with generational stars in them (think Clint Eastwood and Phil Collins), have also been on the rise with collectors. Vintage paper board games like Parker Brothers “Sorry,” and 1950s Milton Bradley’s “Forest Friends,” have all seen steep increases in valuations as well.

Ages 60-80

1.       Mid-Century Modern – A rise of almost eight spots up the charts over the last five years is indicative of how positive many dealers in this age group feel about the staying power of the Mid-century movement. While many acknowledge that sales are heavily influenced by geographic and architectural considerations, they also note that even in less urbanized areas, the popularity of the style is still very strong.

2.       Art Deco – Demand is currently greater than supply, according to many dealers, although with the easing of COVID restrictions, garage, auction and estate sales are all back up and running and will be bringing new, especially furniture, items to market.

3.       Vintage Outdoor Furniture – Vintage and Mid-century pieces – think cantilevered garden chairs inspired by the famous Willem Hendrik Gispen, or the return of round Victorian black cast-iron garden chairs, have all been selling out. While reproductions are numerous (and cheap), dealers say customers are still willing to pay premiums for original vintage and antique examples in tip-top shape.

4.       Georgian (Style) Furniture – While still nowhere near the heyday values from the early 90s, collectors and dealers are nevertheless encouraged by the relatively strong numbers that have appeared on multiple sales platforms over the past twelve months.

5.       Victorian Furniture -While prices are still depressed overall, certain styles from within the era, along with particular pieces, such as marble-topped washstands and side tables, are not only selling well, but are back to commanding almost full price. Supplies remain plentiful and dealers are hopeful that interest will once again spread back over to a broader cross-section of the population.

6.       Chinese Antiques – Traditional furniture, vases, robes, and silk paintings continue to post solid gains, while Jade, which has dominated this category, have shown signs of weakness as top-tier pieces failed to reach their reserves at auctions in Hong Kong this past year.

To read the complete survey, click here