It goes without saying that COVID has had profound impacts on our social, political and economic circumstances, the results of which we are still bearing witness to. We hear much of the changes in antique buying behaviour and patterns at the consumer level – the raging demand for all things interiors, the (resurgence) of the dining room, the renewed importance in a beautiful bedroom or home office. However, what of the impacts of COVID on the supply level of the art and antique market?

Not since the middle of the 20th century have Australians felt the distance of geography so strongly. This distance has been one of our greatest blessings but there is no denying the significant impact this is having on supply and consequently prices. Prices of high-end antiques held through the GFC, and now through the pandemic, have gone through the roof all over the world and the causes of this are multi-faceted.

Huge demand right across the globe for fine and rare antiques is well known. From the initial quietening of trade in March 2020, when Australians realised for the first time they were not going to escape the consequences of a global pandemic, the turnaround in Australia and globally could not have been more stark from March through to April. The birth of the beautiful home office, a place one could escape the daily news onslaught and take refuge in what was safe, steady and comfortable became a very real requirement for many. Consumers took solace in the comfort of their own home – goodness knows we did!

However soaring global demand is not the only reason for the spike in prices. Conversely, it has been met with lower supply for all manner of reasons. Baby boomers, particularly internationally, once racing to downsize and offload are suddenly ‘sitting tight’, unwilling to relinquish long held assets in a new unknown world, and unable to liquidate due to COVID restrictions.

More significantly however, the closure of borders all over the world, with Brexit thrown into the mix, has seen the movement/supply of antiques across the globe slow significantly. Increased buying risk for dealers, unsure whether purchased goods would arrive at their intended destination, massively inflated carriage and shipping costs, and new and unknown taxes have all put serious pressure on pricing.

The result has been that exceptional antiques have become an incredibly scarce commodity, and this along with surging demand is being reflected in the prices at both the wholesale and retail level.

With interest rates at rock bottom levels, and no signs of this changing any time soon, many people have chosen to put their money into fine art and antiques.

Great news for anyone who own such pieces.

From Wallrocks perspective it has been a fascinating ride, not just in terms of our need to pivot quickly to accommodate the hugely increased demand and ensure that our clients are still receiving the same level of service they were before, but it has been a great challenge to remain agile to continue to source furniture at the standard that we have always provided and maintain quality control. We have always provided furniture that is authentic and uncompromised, and the idea of changing this because it is easier to do so in a pandemic, never has been and never will be an acceptable proposition for us.

Fortunately, we have an English team who have made it possible for us to continue to access some of the best pieces before they appear on the market, and we’re able to have them properly vetted – no dodgy workshop jobs for us thank you very much! We are able to properly vet, check and maintain each addition to the collection, ensuring quality is, as always, front and centre.

The lessons are several – in particular for all of us here in the antipodes. In our opinion, never before has buying pieces that are correctly sourced, vetted and provenanced mattered more – the integrity of what you’re buying right now really matters. ‘Made-up’ furniture, compromised furniture, run-of-the-mill quality furniture simply does not hold its value. This is as important to those consumers buying retail as it is for dealers, as if you’re buying in a surging market, you’re likely paying good money for your pieces. If your pieces adhere to the above criteria, it is hard to go to wrong however if the furniture is compromised, so will the price be when you go to sell it. With any outlay, integrity matters!

In short, buy what’s authentic, buy what is high quality and buy what is rare.

For our part, we commit to ensuring quality supply, proper authentication and beauty. For, in our opinion, what’s rare, fine and beautiful will always be desirable.

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