Your private collection of wine, miniature dolls, vintage comics or video games might have a valuable place in your portfolio. Read on to understand how your collectibles add to your wealth.
I officially became a collector about 10 years ago. Since then, I have scoured auction houses, fairs and online marketplaces to pursue my passion. What has always amazed me is the incredible variety of things that can be collected: wine, coins, stamps, artworks, books, video games, posters, figurines, vinyl records, cards, furniture, jewels, memorabilia…militia! And I am no exception: I collect rare mathematics books from the 16th century to 1980. While there are multiple reasons that motivate collectors (acquiring social status, satiating psychological and aesthetical needs, gaining historical knowledge, making money, etc), the notion of collecting is inseparable from the one of investing.
Before an item joins a collection, a financial transaction occurs, and even if return is not always the primary objective of the collector, the better the deal the higher the pleasure. Who has never dreamed of finding a treasure (like a forgotten masterpiece) in a flea market or a garage sale? You would not be surprised to hear that some collections are worth a fortune. Some investors even became wealthy by building collections. Yet, the place of collections within wealth management is not clear. While a few financial intermediaries recognize the value of collections (for example, some wealth managers offer art financing services or valuation services), collections have not yet acquired the status of “asset class”. While they fit with the definition of asset class (an asset class is a group of assets with similar exposure to the fundamental drivers of the economy), we fail to understand how they behave and interact with other asset classes from a financial perspective. There are multiple reasons for this, but the variety of collectibles and the lack of data available (cars and artwork might be the exception) makes assessment difficult. How can we estimate potential return rates and risks associated with collections (illiquidity, price volatility, etc.)? How can we assess the degree of correlation of a given collection with other traditional asset classes?
It is often said that collectibles display low correlations with traditional investments like stock and bonds, but it could just be an artefact of illiquidity. For example, if specific collections may have specific behaviour, broad indices and proxies such as auction house results tend to correlate with the financial markets.