Florentine merchants are considered to be the first collectors of antiquity: they began stuffing their chests with rarities already in the 14th century
A thing that is over 50 years old is considered to be antique. In fact, genuine antique things are a synthesis of antiquity and beauty. There are hardly 20 shops dealing with antique things in the capital of Ukraine, Kiev. To compare: the number of antique shops in Moscow is over 200, there are entire city blocks with antique shops in Paris.
Antique articles are subdivided into elite and ordinary. Elite antiquity includes things produced by famous masters, while "younger" and less precious things are more widely spread on the market, that is why they are referred to ordinary antiquity. For instance, tea-sets produced at the Kuznetsov Porcelain Works (blue flowers on the white porcelain) were popular in practically all well-off families. Although such sets are antique now, they are all the same the mass antiquity. Things owned by aristocracy, produce of the Emperor Porcelain Works, things made by Gardner or Faberge belong to the elite antiquity.
The author of antique things is usually determined by a stamp which was obligatory for all masters, jewelers, armourers or potters. There is a special catalogue of old stamps belonging to different masters and works. So, if you want to sell some of the old things of your grandma, look them up in the antiquity catalogues first. It may turn out that the thing you want to dispose of costs quite a fortune.
Different styles, things made by different masters and in different epochs come in and out of the fashion. After the Great October Revolution, the interest to the Russian art declined; noblemen escaping the country took the most precious things, including antiquity, out of the country. When they ran out of money being abroad, they had to put up the antiquities for sale there. Antiquity from Europe was in great demand in the USA after WWII, as in the years of the Fascist occupation the antiquity flooding the USA ran short almost completely. It is not ruled out that interest to the Arab culture will arise after the war in Iraq where the largest museums have been plundered. Sooner or later, treasures smuggled from Iraq will come out to the world market and settle in private collections.
A great bulk of antiquity (furniture, painting, crockery, icons, watch, jewelry) that are now offered for sale in antique shops are things produced at the end of the 19th – beginning of the 20th centuries; older articles are rare.
There are about 4,000 private collections in the world now. Florentine merchants are considered to be the first collectors of antiquity: they began stuffing their chests with rarities already in the 14th century. Modern collectors often prefer to buy antiquity to invest money advantageously. Specialists say that cost of any antiquity automatically goes up by 4% a year. Some good things that are in permanent demand may go up in price even quicker; the rate may be even higher than the bank dividends.
Owners of antiquity shops say that painting is highly valued now. Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" is still the most expensive painting in the world: the insurance cost of the picture made up $100 million already in 1962. The painting always belonged to France: in 1517 it was bought for 4,000 gold florins (the equivalent of $200,000) and was never sold again. Now it is kept in the Louvre. It is interesting but painting painted by women is evaluated at a lower price.
Works of art are often stolen in real life as well, not only in movies. The disappearance of "Mona Lisa" is still considered the theft of the century. It was gone from the Louvre in 1911 and later, in two years it was found in Italy. 20 paintings to the sum of $500 million were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 1991. However, the stolen works of art were discovered in a car abandoned in the street not far from the museum already in half an hour.
Unfortunately, not all stolen works of art are found later. Part of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's collection to the sum of $200 million was stolen in 1990. None of the stolen pictures by Rembrandt, Jan Wermeer, Degas were discovered later. Experts say that the works of art are now kept in some private collection.
Who painted the greatest number of masterpieces? Indefatigable Pablo Picasso whose career lasted for 78 years is considered the most industrious painter. He painted 13,500 paintings and sketches, 100,000 engravings and plates, 34,000 illustrations for books, 300 ceramic and sculpture works. The total cost of his works is about one billion dollars! Picasso's works are the most popular auction lots.
Not only original paintings but even imitations of these paintings are of artistic value. If an imitation is talented and resembles the original wonderfully, it speaks well of the artist who painted it; thus the cost of the painting goes up several times. Imitations of famous artists are more expensive: everybody wants to have if not a masterpiece but at least a copy of the painting. Artists even employ special technologies that make paintings look older.
The first auctions where antiquities were sold appeared at the end of the 18th century in London, Vienna and Paris. Sotheby's and Christie's are the most famous auctions where the main rule of the elite business is strictly observed: it is quality that matters, not quantity.
Half of the antiquities in our antique shops have been brought from Germany. As it usually happens at wars, echelons with trophy things were sent to the Soviet Union from Germany after WWII. Almost all porcelain statuettes are trophy articles. They cost more than $100 and are very popular as presents.
Antiquarians say that the Russian art, especially painting has become really very popular now. Russian graphics, avant-garde and modern works are in deficit. Bronze articles and old weapons are in steady demand among average customers. As there are few people collecting books, old books are sold badly. Icons are sold wonderfully: icons in silver and gold framework always whip up emotions.
Some Soviet symbols are now considered antiquarian; they are very popular among foreigners. For example, there is a huge portrait of Joseph Stalin in one antique shop in Ukraine. As consultant of the shop says, almost all customers ask about the portrait but nobody buys it (the price is $380). Old toys can be found in some antique stores; they are usually bought for collections. Some toys may reach a price of a car. An antiquarian Steiff teddy bear was sold for a record price of 100,000 pounds at Christie's in 1984 which was 18 times higher than the starting price.