Vintage cars and watches as investment classes? Here’s an overview of collector’s items as investments

Oct 11, 2019 | 1 month ago | Read Time: 4 minutes | By iKnowledge Team

Sunil worked as a sub-editor in a newspaper. His shift started at 3 pm in the afternoon and his work ended at around 11 pm. By the time he reached home, it would be usually close to 1 a.m. in the morning. He rose late between 8 and 9 in the morning and after his second cup of coffee at around 10, he would start on what he was passionate about – collecting war and military campaign medals.

This was his hobby and passion. A history buff, he had been collecting medals for over six years. In the initial couple of years, he was only collecting them for his personal pleasure. He had some army friends and through them he had managed to collect an impressive number of medals. He found an online society of collectors where transactions took place. He also registered on an auction site where medals often came up for sale.

Sunil then discovered that his passion for war medals was also a means to make money. Some of the medals fetched him neat profits – it all depended on the demand for a particular medal in his collection and how much the collector was willing to pay for it. Sometimes he was able to get a rare medal at a bargain price because of his deep knowledge of the space, while at other times he had to pay hefty premiums.

Collectibles as Investments

War medals, stamps, vintage cars, paintings, antique watches, gramophones, long playing records etc., are some of the collectibles or collector’s items that can also serve as investments. They serve as long-term investments due to the value attached to them on account of rarity and demand from collectors.

Sometimes you may have been left something by your grandparents, which may have belonged to an even older generation. It may be an antique silver or gold watch, a vintage car, an original gramophone player, the first edition of a classic book etc. For those who possess these items after having inherited them, it has large sentimental value. There are however people willing to pay a high price to acquire such items. There are private museums which buy such memorabilia and then hold exhibitions for a generation which may be curious to see them.

The funny thing is that today’s ordinary items become valuable collectibles about 50 years hence. Those who grew up in India in the sixties and seventies would remember the comics, which they used to read during their childhood – Indrajal comics, Marvel comics, Archies’ etc. Decades later, the first editions of some of these comics have become valuable commodities.

Returns on Collectibles

Whenever we talk about investments, it is always in context of expectation of a return. While in the case of stocks, bonds, gold, real estate etc., it is easy to track their prices and estimate returns, in the case of collectibles, it is rather difficult. First of all, the volume of transactions is sparse. Secondly, what a collector is willing to pay for a particular item is subjective depending upon the value it adds to the individual’s collection, its state of preservation (the condition in which it is) scarcity, current ownership (a vintage car owned by a personal of royal descent will have more value than if it is owned by someone more ordinary) etc. The appeal is more to the emotions. Before he became famous, painter MF Hussain used to work on advertisement hoardings. If, by some luck, you chanced to get hold of one of these hoardings, you can be sure to make a killing.

If you already have a collectible with you and you wished to make money out of it,  it is possible, though not guaranteed, that you can sell it for a high price and get a good return. However, if you are intending to invest in a collectible now with the intention of selling it later for a profit, then the returns you may get will not be high. This is because you would have already paid a premium for acquiring it.

Risk in Collectibles as Investments

The risk as we said above lies in sustaining demand for the item. Not everything old or antique is a safe investment or fetch a high price. Then there is the problem of originals and copies.  If there is an item in your possession, which you know to be the genuine article, you will still have to prove its authenticity to a prospective collector or buyer. Then there are so many fakes flooding the market that it takes some time to verify their legitimacy. If you decide to buy something online or even offline, you should have the expertise to conduct an examination, or appoint someone to do that. Even experienced collectors have been duped by fakes. Maintaining collectibles such as vintage cars and valuable paintings require time, effort and money as well. If your intention is just to keep them with you and show them occasionally, then it would not matter. If you intend to profit from them later, you have to store them properly and guard against their destruction. 

If you are not ready to enter the exotic world of collectibles as an investment class yet, you can look at a more low-effort and reliable option such as a Unit Linked Plan (ULIP). ULIPs give you exposure to the equity markets while also providing an element of life insurance protection.

Meanwhile, go ahead and collect memorabilia by all means, if you are passionate about them. If you are examining them as an investment class, be sure to steer away from fakes and buy genuine articles from certified sellers such as auction houses. To know about Aegon Life’s life insurance products like term insurance and other products, visit our home page.


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