State of the Market, huh?
When my partner Marbeth Schon asked me to write
a 'state of the market' report for Modern Silver magazine, I quickly
agreed, thinking to myself, 'what's to do?' At most I thought I'd check
out a few online auctions on eBay, a couple of the online auction houses
that also do conventional i.e. non-online auctions, thumb through a few
auction catalogs, and talk to a few dealer friends. Boy, was I wrong!
First of all, the state of what market?
Even when you narrow the field to cover just
'modern silver', there is still a myriad of niche markets within that
umbrella, not to mention the other factors that affect the final prices
realized. Such factors as; online versus 'live' sales i.e. shows, shops,
fleas/swaps, auctions; the geographical location of these
shows/auctions/etc - though this factor is on the wane with the leveling
influence of the internet; and a host of other fluctuations, variations,
and permutations that produce a state of inflammation in the mind of
anyone trying to make sense of all this often-conflicting data.
Basically, though, it all boils down to common sense.
"Modern silver", in all it's various
guises, stylistic differences, designer appellations, period
designations, etc, is always going to be more popular (sell more quickly
for more money) in large metropolitan centers, especially at locations
that are well known for this very specialized segment of the overall
market. Of course, if a particular location outside of the modern
beltway is extremely well known, then there's a good chance that the
prices realized will still be comparable given the leveling influence of
the internet, and the fact that a lot more people are willing to travel
further to satisfy their collecting urges. Also of course, none of the
above is applicable to the Internet, as anyone anywhere can log on and
shop for modern all around the world at anytime.
Another important ingredient in the stew of
modern silver market values is 'what's hot'. Not as in cayenne or
jalapenos, but what is currently most sought-after by the most modern
silver collectors, or the collectors with the most money. This is often
a reflection of how much press a particular sub-genre has gotten
recently either in the form of new books on the subject, important
exhibitions, or other media exposure such as magazines, television, or
With the advent of the Internet several years
ago, the market for a lot of collectibles witnessed a leveling-off of
variations in prices due to geographical location, etc, and most other
venues saw a drop in their sales, but recently this effect has seemed to
be on the wane. The Internet is no longer the all-consuming behemoth
that inflated itself prodigiously at the expense of every other venue in
sight. Other venues like shows, shops, fleas and swaps, have witnessed a
resurgence in relation to the Internet, though none is likely to corner
the market anytime soon.
Overall, the market for modern silver seems to
be similar to most other collectible jewelry markets; the high-end is
holding it's own, and in some cases is on the rise; the mid-market is
stagnant; the low-end is open season for bargain-hunters.
Some recent success stories include the jewelry
of Bjorn Weckstrom and Antonio Pineda. In the case of Weckstrom, over
the last couple years vintage examples of his space-age jewelry have
gone from neglected and undervalued to shockingly inflated, especially
when you consider that almost all of his jewelry is production
multiples, even if small numbers. Antonio Pineda's jewelry has also
recently garnered increased interest, and a corresponding increase in
value. For some reason, this increased interest in modernist jewelry
from Scandinavia and Taxco has not seemed to help out the values of most
of the other modernist designers from those areas.
One area that collectors seem to be eyeing more
appreciatively these days is the work of modern artist/jewelers from
Israel, in particular the work of Rachel Gera. However, there are many
other Israeli artists that are noteworthy and deserving of interest.
Another new phenomena in the modern collecting world is the increased
overlap between 'vintage' modern collectors and collectors of
'contemporary' modern. For myself personally this is a happy
circumstance, as good design is good design regardless of historical
Some of the resources for current auction values
include the following auction house websites:
Some informational resources…
Of, course, don't forget to check out our
section for upcoming shows and exhibitions.