When most of us imagine investing in art we normally think of multi-million dollar paintings by Picasso, Van Gogh or Gauguin hanging in the secluded, highly secure mansion of some eccentric billionaire who may or may not be plotting to take over the world. The concept of the fabulously wealthy art connoisseur has been reinforced for decades via movies, novels and countless other works of fiction. An unfortunate side effect of this myth is for art - particularly art for investment purposes - to seem distant and inaccessible. It gives the illusion of art investing as a hobby of the rich and powerful - the sort of hobby an average person could never hope to pursue.
This long-held idea of art belonging solely to the realm of the obscenely wealthy is a complete lie, though. Yes, there are ultra rare and desirable artworks in the world that you and I will never be able to afford. But the vast majority of art and antiques are surprisingly affordable. In fact, one can start investing in art for only a few hundred dollars - and sometimes even less! So how much money does a prudent investor really need to start a serious art or antique collection?
While art can be hideously expensive, this is not the norm. In fact, I would argue that vanishingly few pieces exceed the $10,000 (USD) price point. The bread and butter range, where many dealers and artists do the majority of their business, typically rests in the $250 to $2,500 area. However, even these more modest values might appear intimidating to the aspiring novice collector. Happily, there is fine art available at even lower prices, and I don't mean junk collectibles either. Very high quality antiques that are artistically interesting and sometimes centuries old can be purchased for remarkably little money.
For example, many series of beautiful medieval and ancient coins can be started for a shockingly small investment. Indian Mughal silver rupees are impressively large and seductively exotic silver coins from the 16th and 17th centuries that are often available in excellent condition for less than $100 each. Struck before the birth of Christ, good quality ancient silver denarii of the Roman Republic can be bought for $200 a piece - and occasionally even less!
Ancient Silver Denarii from the Roman Republic
Vintage fountain pens are another area where a decidedly modest investment can net choice specimens. Many fine examples of World War II or Mid-Century era Parker, Sheaffer and Wahl-Eversharp fountain pens are commonly less than $100 each. These stunning pens prominently display the characteristic zeitgeist and style of their age - a must for any desirable work of art. Some of them even come with their original cases, a factor that greatly enhances desirability.
Silver liquor labels - indispensable for a well appointed liquor cabinet - are another great example of antiques that can be surprisingly inexpensive. During the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, wealthy British families hung these solid sterling silver objets d'art on wine, rum, sherry and whiskey bottles (among others) for identification purposes. Prices are modest, given their tremendous beauty and history, with wonderful specimens readily available for just over $100 a piece.
Vintage Sterling Silver Liquor Labels
While I've only touched on a few different examples, there are many more artworks available for only $100 or a bit more. There is no need to be intimidated by the world of fine art and antiques. There are styles, sizes and price ranges to fit every imaginable palate. The only requirements before you start investing in art are to have a few hundred extra dollars and the desire to learn about the most gorgeous and overlooked parts of the art market. There really is something for everyone in the world of art and antiques and the price of admission is oftentimes only a $100 bill.