The global collectibles market is estimated to be worth USD372 billion and is poised to reach USD522 billion by 20281. From whisky to handbags, stamps to toys, we explore six of today’s most highly sought-after collector’s items.
One of London’s premier wine merchants recently reported a notable jump in sales, as well as record demand for its collecting services. A remarkable 37 per cent more people now subscribe to its wine cellar than before Covid, and sales for its en primeur season — the opportunity to buy the vintages as they are bottled — are up 43 per cent this year compared with 20192. But what is behind this trend, and what does it mean for the high-end collectible market in general?
According to The Guardian, toy-makers are said to be targeting the ‘kidult’ market this Christmas3 in a bid to cash in on the fact that, as we hopefully edge closer to a post-pandemic world, people are keen to own items that, in the words of Marie Kondo, ‘spark joy’.
In a similar vein, experts such as Harry Rinker, the Head of the Institute for Antiques and Collectibles, say that entering into this world tends to link back to childhood memories and to a desire for “bygone days, when life was simpler and happier”4. When you consider the fact that comic books, movie posters and even trainers remain some of today’s most highly sought-after collectors’ items, it’s a sentiment that clearly resonates.
From steadiness to scarcity, there are a number of factors that make collecting and investing in wine such an attractive opportunity. In fact, the value of fine wine increased by 13 per cent during 2020, and 127 per cent over a decade5. It’s a steady asset, and unlike art, cars or watches, as wine is consumed, the remaining bottles of that vintage gain in value. In general, the longer you keep it – as long as you’re making sure that it’s within its drinking window – the more it’s going to appreciate.
Although it suffered a slight dip in 2020, dropping by 3.5 per cent, according to Knight Frank’s 2021 Wealth Report6, rare whisky, or ‘liquid gold’, has seen a 478 per cent growth in value over the past decade7. Bottles remain the most popular way to collect – in 2018, Christie’s sold a single one for GPD1.2 million8, setting a new world-record price for any single bottle of spirit – but investing in whisky casks and in single-cask varieties has recently emerged as a new trend.
In 2020, handbags knocked whisky off the number-one spot of luxury collectible investment items9. The Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index, which tracks the performance of selected collectable asset classes such as art, classic cars and wine, states that prices rose 17 per cent. This is, according to the report, the result of “an established online auction presence and the appetite for relatively affordable luxury pick-me-ups during the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly in Asia where many bag collectors are based”10.
There are a number of factors behind stamps topping the bill of any collectibles list: they are small and lightweight, making them easy to store, as well as low cost from an initial investment point-of-view. They are also frequently released in limited-run batches, which drives up prices over time. As such, and despite the fact that the market has declined over the past few decades, prices have increased by more than 13 per cent annually since 199111.
Over the past five years, there has, according to Caitlin Donovan, Head of Handbags, Streetwear and Sneakers at Christie's auction house, been an “explosion” in collectors spending big money on rare shoes12. Surging auction prices – a pair that Kanye West wore to the Grammys in 2008 fetched USD1.8 million in April this year13 – reflect the robust growth of this market, which is said to already be worth USD10 billion and is predicted to climb to nearly USD30 billion by 203014.
Childhood toys are of course one of the original collector’s items. In the US alone, the market is expected to hit USD3.75 billion by 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 4 per cent15. Meanwhile in Asia, designer toys are seeing a real boom, with ‘blind boxes’ taking China in particular by storm. This trend, which originated in Japan in the 1980s, sees collectors receive a box containing a mystery figurine. Sales increased 600 per cent between 2018 and 201916, and the industry is predicted to be worth 30 billion yuan by 2024. Interestingly, women account for more than 62 per cent of blind box sales and 74 per cent of consumers fall between the ages of 18 and 3417.