Looking back over the past 18 months, it’s difficult to identify any single aspect of life that’s been untouched by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst it has, of course, wrought devastating consequences on the lives and health of many, it’s also had a profound impact on the world of antiques and collectables, influencing buying patterns, the type of consumers engaging in this area of retail, and shaping the people’s priorities.
At the start of 2020, online auctions were already gaining traction amongst consumers, been deemed a viable way of scouting out some of the best purchases with minimal effort exerted in the process – basically, a handy way of selling and shopping that could be moulded around the hectic lifestyles demanded by society.
And then the pandemic hit.
The UK – along with other countries spanning the entire globe – swiftly entered into ‘lockdown’, where the vast majority were confined to their homes for the foreseeable future. Collectively, we faced day-upon-endless-day within the same four walls, with ample time for us to dwell on our heightened sense of anxiety about the state of the world. More hours were dedicated to scrolling through social media; money was spent on finding new hobbies to pass the time; a focus on nostalgia for the purpose of comfort increased and many had to navigate the complex world of ‘working from home’ and Zoom meetings. Meanwhile, online auctions continued to surge in popularity, with younger buyers notably impacting sales more than ever before.
Interestingly, the trends that began to emerge in retail as a whole – including the ever-increasing popularity of online auctions – were chiefly being driven by younger consumers. And these trends, which lean towards sustainability, nostalgia, and a focus on ‘the home’, have continued throughout 2021 (so far, anyway).
But how have these trends determined the most collectable items being purchased via auctions, you may wonder? Well, you’re in luck: we’ve narrowed it down for you in a handy Top 10 list so you can get in on the action yourself!
Every generation enjoys reminiscing about their era’s pop culture scene, right? Many a tipsy conversation at family events is testament to this, as the younger members are lectured on how good things were ‘back in the day’: how the older generations were privy to ‘real music’ with actual meaning and skill attached to it; classic films that didn’t rely on CGI or any other cinematic tricks but on stories and characterisation, instead; and stars who were known for their talent rather than their antics.
Although much of today’s youth disputes these claims, trends within the purchase of collectables counteract their argument: 2021 has witnessed a resurgence in the popularity of memorabilia related to the pop culture of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, with old movie and band posters being sought, figurines linked to classic franchises such as Star Wars and Star Trek hunted down in online forums, and vinyl music becoming more and more popular (following a dip during the initial CD and MP3 ages).
As the world shut down for extended periods over the past 18 months, society was able to witness the various ways in which the environment began to thrive once again without excessive human pollution and interference. This, in addition to the extreme weather events occurring more frequently across the globe, has spurred on people’s desire to live a more pared down, eco-friendly, and sustainable lifestyle, shunning big brands and corporations peddling fast fashion and fossil fuels.
This desire to be kinder to the planet has led to a veritable boom in the world of vintage fashion collectables, with Millennials and Gen Zders at the forefront of this trend. The age of vintage fashion proponents has meant that clothing from the 80s, 90s, and early 00s are in high demand, with people generally preferring to reuse and recycle older fashion items as opposed to buying new.
Certain brands – such as Doc Marten, Reebok, and Levi – have reached peak ‘collectable’ status, with many coveting various vintage items from such brands and bulking up their wardrobe with them. Band merch, including tees and sweatshirts, has become particularly in demand, with collectors constantly on the lookout for rare tees and limited edition prints, willing to pay a pretty penny to purchase them.
With the climate crisis worsening, this collectable trend looks set to continue well into 2022.
The past is often viewed through the lens of rose-tinted glasses, with sepia hues permeating our collective childhood memories. As such, the nostalgia induced by the items that we strongly associate with our idealised depictions of childhood create this sense of being embraced by warm, fuzzy arms, reminding us of simpler times; in short, the things from our youth offer us a sense of comfort in an increasingly scary world.
The global pandemic and climate crisis have caused many to seek comfort in the past – specifically via collectable toys and related memorabilia, with those produced between the 1960s and late 1990s being the most popular. Disney collectables, in particular, have proven popular, with books, toys, and theme-park souvenirs being in increasingly high demand by consumers. Some people will even spend their money on blank cheques featuring Walt Disney’s signature!
Lots of us have spent a large proportion of 2020 and 2021 at home, which has given us the opportunity to decide all of the ways we’d like to change up our homes and style. This has also coincided with the numbers of workers who’ve had to work from home, necessitating the creation of home offices and furniture to fit that remit. Thus, interior design has been a huge focus amongst collectors, with many looking to feather their nests or build a viable workspace in their home.
Chairs, desks, and decorative ornaments have been in high demand as a result, with items sourced from the middle of the 20th century up to the 80s being especially popular, with a focus on teak and walnut furniture, and decorative items that shun minimalism in favour of gilt and pastel colours.
This trend for second-hand, vintage, and antique furniture also aligns with society’s drive toward a more sustainable lifestyle – buying brand new from companies mass producing products has never been less fashionable.
Jewellery will always be popular amongst collectors, it seems, but none more so than the oft-desired engagement ring. As well as possessing an old-world charm and uniqueness that sets them apart from their modern contemporaries, antique engagement rings also – once again – align with the overall drive toward a more eco-friendly lifestyle that encourages reusing and recycling. So, essentially, by choosing to indulge in the purchasing of collectables such as antique and vintage jewellery, you’re helping the planet and reducing consumption – who can argue with that?
Trends have indicated that Victorian kitsch has soared in popularity over the past year and a half. Unusual, one-of-a-kind pieces that are relatively inexpensive (yet nonetheless enchanting) have been incredibly popular at online auctions in general, with members of the younger generations enjoying their individuality and quirky nature.
Living rooms, bedrooms, and home offices across the UK now feature decorative collectables hailing from the Victorian era, signalling a growth in the desire of consumers to purchase such items for their homes.
Technology has rapidly advanced since the 1990s, with the vast majority of people owning a smartphone with access to the internet. But, alongside this rapid expansion of the tech world, there has been a nostalgic desire amongst certain groups in society to collect some of the first electronic and techy gadgets that came into existence.
Games consoles that were birthed in the 80s and 90s – the SEGA Megadrive, the Nintendo 64, and the original PlayStation, to name but a few – and older games are in high demand, alongside some of original, packaged Apple products, particularly if they’re still in mint condition and can be used to fill the spaces of shelves heaving with related items.
As the trend towards nostalgia continues to grow, demand for these items also looks set to continue increasing amongst collectors and casual buyers, alike.
Although this may seem unusual to many, auction houses have reported that Chinese antiques – including bronze figures and porcelain items – have become a niche portion of the collectable’s world. Whilst this may be the case, such items often retail for incredibly high prices and are purchased by those with a fair amount of money to burn, meaning that more casual collectors are predominantly priced-out of this sector.
However, amongst those with cash to splash, Chinese antiques look set to continue growing in popularity.
From trading cards, event/ticket stubs, and jerseys to newspaper and magazine clippings, posters, and any autographed pieces, sporting memorabilia has always been popular among collectors. This is due to the pride and nostalgia associated with such items, as well as the value they possess, and has led to such memorabilia remaining popular for collectors. This has expanded to include completed sticker books related to different sporting tournaments – such as the Euros and World Cup in football – with many willing to spend thousands just to own one!
Money – including limited edition coins, old currency, and now-obsolete foreign coins – has always proven valuable to collectors, and this fact hasn’t altered. In fact, with many finding themselves with time on their hands over the pandemic, coin collecting has become a hobby that many have found themselves indulging in, with people spending hours scouring the internet and various auction sites to obtain rare currency to add to their collections. Whether choosing to display their coin collection in frames or in a type of scrapbook, it seems that, for many such collectors, the showing and sharing of their coins drives their pursuit, with many taking immense pride in their hard-won collections.
So, if you’re wanting to pick up a new hobby, furnish your home, become more sustainable, or find comfort in nostalgia, it’s well worth having a look at our live and upcoming auctions to see which of these popular collectables you can get your hands on! Or, perhaps you have collectables you’d like to sell? Check out our Seller Hub to find out more.