Collecting and Investing in Chinese Antiques

china_the face of BuddhaThe market for Chinese antiques has been hot in recent years with auction records being broken time and again for relics from ancient China. This trend has led a number of investors and speculators to seek out Chinese antiques such as porcelain, silver and jade.

These antiques are valued not only due to their status as historical treasures but also for the artistry that goes into each piece. Collectors bid substantial amounts of money to attain these at auctions or through more direct negotiation. For instance, a porcelain vase of the Qianlong dynasty ranges in price between $1.2 million and nearly $2 million. Surprisingly, the record purchase for this type of vase occurred in 2010 at an auction in a warehouse in Ruislip, not at Sotheby’s or Christie’s. It was valued at about $83.5 million, including tax and commission.

Such rare and desirable pieces have gone up in price as a result from demand by wealthy bidders. One other such example is a silver 18th century wine cooler valued at $2.5 million which ultimately closed at Sotheby’s London with a hammer price of nearly $4 million. More “mundane” unique antique silver tea sets of good quality sell between $10,000 and $20,000. Individual pieces sell at about $500 minimum.

Most people do not notice how much these antiques have increased in value. The fluctuations of the stock market and traded hard commodities like gold are more visible. Gold, for example, has been grabbing a lot of attention in the first decade of the 21st century because of the sharp rise in its price — about triple what it was at the turn of the century. What most are not aware of, however, is that the price of Hetian nephrite, the highest quality raw material for jade, increased a hundredfold in the same span of time.

The biggest drawback in collecting Chinese antiques is the danger of acquiring fakes and the considerable knowledge required so as to avoid making costly mistakes.

Chinese porcelain, which generally commands the highest price when compared to Chinese silver and jade, has a long history of fakes being sold alongside authentic pieces. To make matters worse still, many of the kilns that produced genuine antique pottery are still in existence and sell copies of the original. Seasoned collectors say that this makes collecting very challenging and frustrating indeed. Silver and jade collecting also presents such challenges, some of them similar to porcelain collecting and some of them unique to the field. The experts say that it is prudent to invest in and armor yourself with the knowledge first before spending your money. This is why we at ChineseCoins.com, are opening up our archives of sale prices and information. We are always here to answer your questions.

If interested in Chinese antiques and you are just starting out, the following should stand you in good stead:

– Buy the books and materials
– Researching the field by finding and talking to reputable vendors in the particular antique you intends to collect, be it Chinese porcelain, Chinese silver or Chinese jade
– Visit trade shows and pay attention to upcoming and past auctions

Knowledge is power.

Chinese antiques have been lucrative for many collectors in recent years. That said, outright speculation without an inherent appreciation of the items as a work of art is unhealthy for any market and often leaves people holding the can.

Those interested, however, should take the time to study with care the challenges this type of asset presents, and should treat it like any other business endeavor or form of investment.