Market value: The legal definition of market value is the price agreed upon by a willing buyer and a willing seller. It can be stimulated by design trends or diminished as time passes and interest fades. Witness the late twentieth-century fashion for midcentury furnishings, sparked initially by interior designers and vintage dealers simultaneously discovering a neglected, but aesthetically worthy field. As the design world moves on to the next discovery, however, second-tier midcentury furniture (not the top-of-the-line things) becomes correspondingly less desirable. And while badly designed or manufactured objects may be collectible for a moment, in the long run they don't hold up in a volatile marketplace.
An example of a collectible that might have all the bells and whistles, so to speak, would be a platinum Patek Philippe wristwatch worn by your uncle John Fitzgerald Kennedy during his presidential debate with Richard Nixon. Here you have not only sentimental, historical, aesthetic, intrinsic, and market value, but you have celebrity value, too. Because the same market may have differing values worldwide, our hypothetical wristwatch may not be as desirable in Brazil, for example (because JFK is not as much of an icon there) as it is in the United States. Other collectibles, however, such as certain types of entertainment memorabilia — say, Beatles collectibles — do enjoy worldwide currency, and for these, international interest magnifies market value. (An aging collector base, however, weakens a market, and the Beatles, and their fans, are aging. Imagine.)
A Final Word
Have faith in yourself and your love of dolls, toys, furniture, glass, ceramics, vintage clothing, textiles, posters, photographs, fishing tackle, entertainment memorabilia, baseball bats, costume jewelry, and watches, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. If you're not an expert now, you will be.
Excerpted from Antiques Roadshow 20th Century Collectibles, by Carol Prisant, copyright 2003, courtesy of Workman Publishing.
Antiques Roadshow is a trademark of the BBC. Produced under license from BBC Worldwide. Antiques Roadshow is produced for PBS by WGBH/Boston.