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Is Collecting Immune to Recession?

Recession: Depression for Some,

Opportunity for Others

I am often asked "how is business in this stinky economy" ? My answer usually surprises them, "Fantastic"!. As a matter of fact I just had the best Summer in 20 years. But, WHY is my business and the Collectibles Industry as a whole doing quite well, and even thriving in this recession?

For over 30 years as a collector, I have always noticed during each economic cycle (i.e. downturn), that the value of collectibles never goes down Not in any of my collecting niches anyway. During the past two months I have attended about 25 auctions. Ironically, the values of quality collectibles seem to be “going through the roof” despite the badgering by the media of current economic gloom. In particular, historical and certain vintage Hollywood autographs shattered auction estimates consistently. I don’t know if any experts can explain this phenomenon with any accuracy, I have my own opinion. But, read what one of the world’s largest collectible auction houses, Heritage Auctions in Dallas, has to say about the connection between the troubled economy and the collectibles industry.

Collectibles, especially coins, remain extremely liquid. Over the last three months, as Wall Street has been reeling, our auction and private treaty sales have risen steadily.

Conversely, our buyers continue to vie aggressively at auction for coins and collectibles they love, knowing that they are diversifying against inflation, and through that diversification, protecting their holdings of paper assets for the future. In fact, we cannot remember a time when our clientele has been more engaged, or when we’ve seen as many new and active buyers.

Our $35 million September 24-27 Long Beach Expo auction of coins and currency registered more bidders (over 14,000 of them!) than any auction in our history. Our Entertainment, Space Memorabilia, and Natural History auctions over the past 10 days were consistently strong events with above average sell-through and very happy consignors. And here are some hard and fast facts on Heritage weekly coin, currency, movie posters, comics and sports auctions for just the last quarter (i.e. the last 30 days versus the 30 day period starting four months ago):

*Our number of successful bidders is up by 11.5%.
*Our number of lots actually sold in each weekly auction is up 39.95%.
*Our average lot value is up 8.49%.

*Our total sales volume is up 43.34%

Coins and currency may not garner the headlines, but our market has held steady, and risen in many areas, even throughout these difficult months. Coins in particular, and collectibles in general, are a wonderful hedge in a market like we’re seeing now. This we know from experience and study of history.

Rare coin prices, along with many other collectibles, actually rose during the Great Depression, as well as during the recession and accompanying real estate and stock market collapse of 1974. During the oil crisis of 1979, we saw coin prices rise dramatically, rewarding owners at a time when their stocks and many other assets were plummeting. Many of our clients saved their houses or businesses with funds from prudent coin investments made with us that we sold for them at auction in early 1980. And the 2 years following the 1987 stock market collapse saw rare coin prices more than double, on average (source: PCGS 3000 Index).

Collectibles markets are often counter-cyclical to widespread turmoil, meaning owners can actually profit when they need money the most. At worst, these categories are generally only minimally affected, in the short-term, by Wall Street’s wild fluctuations. And coins and collectibles have a steady record of bouncing back even if their value takes a hit.

In addition to Heritage observation above, I would also add there are many emotional drivers of collecting. Collecting is a passion and a distraction to a better place, a better quality of life then we can get from say for example, following stock prices everyday.. What fun is that? Plus, collectible values will NEVER go to zero as many stocks have. My most loyal customers have been investing in choice pieces more than ever during the past three months. And, all I can tell you is as a collector myself, I find myself doing the same.

So, if you have a passion for choice collectibles, be it coins, autographs, vintage movie memorabilia, historical or sports memorabilia, you "get it". I don't have to advise you to ignore the media obsession with making us all feel as though the world is coming to an end, and to instead just keep on enjoying a great "quality of life" as an enthusiastic collector. You're already doing it!

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