From digital art to classic cars, hot sauce to hairdryers, the world of collectibles is a weird and wonderful one. Here, we explore six categories for collectors to keep a watchful eye on over the next 12 months.
Not only do nonfungible tokens (NFTs) continue to make headlines globally, they are upending the art world while simultaneously becoming a multi-billion-dollar industry.
There were 5,436,295 sales of NFTs between October 2020 and October 20211. Christie’s, meanwhile, sold USD136 million worth last year. One particular NFT, which was created by the artist known as Beeple, fetched a remarkable USD69.3 million at auction2.
NFTs, which started as a way to legitimise digital art, allow people to buy and sell ownership of unique digital items and keep track of who owns them3. Technically, they can contain anything digital, from drawings and animated GIFs to songs or even items in video games; they can either be one-of-a-kind, or one copy of many, but the blockchain technology keeps track of who possesses the file4.
While exciting, this is an extremely new world. Both caution and expertise – in terms of estate planning (NFTs will endure beyond the lifetime of their owners) and digital assets – is recommended when dipping a toe in the NFTs water.
Unlike wine, handbags and even toys, classic cars are one of the few collectibles that can be enjoyed – at least a little – without losing value5. And while most everyday cars depreciate almost as soon as they leave a dealership, classic ones appreciate over time owing to factors such as rarity, performance and occasionally provenance.
Since its inception in December 2008 through to December 2021, the Historic Automobile Group International (HAGI) Top Index – which is used to track the value of classic cars – increased 264.49 per cent6.
Even a global pandemic didn’t dampen interest. Following a stagnant 2019, where the value of the HAGI Top Index fell by 7 per cent, 2020 saw cars race back up to third place in Knight Frank's Luxury Investment Index7.
In 2021, of the 10 most expensive cars that went under the hammer in the US and Europe, the least expensive was GBP4.3 million while the highest was a huge GBP17.4 million8. HAGI’s Dietrich Hatlapa actually believes that Covid could have made owners value their cars even more because, “they represented personal freedom”9.
Looking ahead, the market is projected to grow steadily from roughly USD30.9 billion in 2020 to USD43.4 billion in 202410.
It may be one of the more traditional collectible items, but the market is still a booming one.
At the start of the pandemic, Sotheby’s moved sharply, holding more than 100 online sales – which brought in nearly USD200 million – between March and June. By comparison, the same period in 2019 saw 40 online sales that brought in USD23 million. Remarkably, it’s thought that new clients made up around 30 per cent of each of the events11.
This trend hasn’t slowed, either. Transactions at Christie’s totalled USD7.1 billion in 2021, its highest sum in five years, and USD7.3 billion at Sotheby’s – its highest ever. Asian buyers made up a significant proportion of this – representing 31 per cent of Christie’s sales, and bidding on or purchasing 46 per cent of lots that sold for more than USD5 million at Sotheby’s12.
As a result, last July, Christie’s announced plans to move into a newly built 50,000-square-foot, four-story headquarters in Hong Kong, which is predicted to be ready in 202413.
Bags currently outperform art, classic cars and rare whiskies in terms of potential, with some brands collectively experiencing valuation hikes of an average of 83 per cent in the last ten years. By comparison, first-edition books have increased by 42 per cent and watches by 72 per cent14.
According to an Art Market Research (AMR) report, more than 3,500 designer handbags were sold at auction in 2019, amassing an incredible GBP26.4 million15. The report also demonstrates that a handful of rare and limited-edition luxury bags have become extremely collectable, with the greatest demand coming from Asia. Some are even making it into the finest museums in the world, such as London’s V&A. Meanwhile, there’s a museum in South Korea uniquely dedicated to these accessories – the Simone Handbag Museum16.
Admittedly, numismatics – more commonly known as coin collecting – might not seem as sexy as owning a fleet of vintage cars, but the currency market has seen tremendous growth since the start of the pandemic, both in terms of sales and prices17.
A 1933 Double Eagle gold US coin sold for USD18.9 million at Sotheby’s last year, with the auction house saying that this price nearly doubled the world-record mark for a coin18. This, according to David Tripp, a special coin consultant, acted as a catalyst for the industry, resulting in a record year19.
As well as coins, paper bills are worth keeping an eye on, too. A 1918 Alexander Hamilton USD1,000 bill can sell for as much as USD8,000, owing to the fact that there are only about 150 of them in circulation today20.
In terms of British currency, an extremely rare Edward VIII sovereign, of which just six were made, was sold for GBP1 million in 202021.
Other curious and captivating collectibles
Rare comic books are another area that would-be collectors might wish to consider – in 2014, one sold for USD3.2 million22. The world’s most expensive trading card, meanwhile, went for almost double that23. Some rare figurines can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and movie and sports memorabilia – think boxing gloves used in some of the most famous fights in history, original scripts or costumes worn on sets – can fetch millions24.