Top 10 Sellers of 2020
The Year in Review
What a difference a year makes.
It is safe to say 2020 was not a normal year.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say it was the least normal year I have experienced in my 50 years on this earth.
Frankly, I think the intellectual stimulation from immersing myself in buying and selling collectibles kept me sane.
I was not alone…
As I’ve said before in recent communications, collecting has seen a huge resurgence during the pandemic with the consequent lockdown of societies across the world for lengthy periods.
Looking back over the past year, it is interesting to see how much demand has increased for certain collecting categories.
Let’s look at the chart of our top 10 selling collectibles categories, by total sales value, in the past year…
Our Top 10 Sales Categories of 2020
- 1) British stamps
- 2) Music memorabilia
- 3) Historical figures
- 4) Literature
- 5) English coins
- 6) African stamps
- 7) Chinese stamps
- 8) Celebrity hair
- 9) Limited edition art
- 10) Indian stamps
Understanding the highest areas of demand is important to us. It helps us to focus our buying efforts where our customers want us to.
The inherent problem we always face is that those areas in most demand become the areas where supply becomes the big problem. It is usually the case that this demand against such scarcity, when it comes to quality pieces, causes prices to rise.
I would also like to share with you my recommendations to add to your collection within each of our top 10 selling categories. I have deliberately selected items across a range of prices to fit every budget.
1. British stamps
British stamps were principally our biggest seller because we had a large number of clients selling in the year (sometimes at discounted prices) meaning we had an abundance of fantastic quality rarities on offer.
It is encouraging that there was sufficient demand to take up this larger than normal supply leading to British stamps remaining our top seller in the year.
Classic stamps from Great Britain have proven a sound long term investment and there is none better than the very first postage stamp, the penny black…
Great Britain 1840 1d “penny black”, plate 11, SG2
- The holy grail of penny black collecting from the elusive last printing. Only 168,000 were printed from plate 11, representing a mere fraction of the 68 million penny blacks printed in total. Very few have survived from this plate number, particularly in fine condition.
- A very fine used example with four good to large margins, in the characteristic greyish black shade, cancelled by a black Maltese Cross
- Accompanied with a Royal Philatelic Society (RPS) certificate of authenticity (2004)
- Our offer price is at a 14% discount to the current Stanley Gibbons catalogue value of £4,600
2. Music Memorabilia
I’d say this was the biggest surprise to me in the year.
Practically every item of music memorabilia we offered sold in the year. This included some fantastic pieces across a range of artists including The Beatles, Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Elvis Presley… the list goes on.
It was also interesting the number of new clients recruited in the year who found us from Google searches.
In particular, we are starting to see heightened demand and higher prices for artists from the 1970’s to 1990’s.
This is because the people who grew up when these artists were at their peak are now reaching the age where they have the disposable income to secure pieces of memorabilia, which effectively define their generation.
In this vein, I would recommend you look at the biggest bands of the early 2000’s, where the prices are still very affordable.
I would expect to see the prices of pieces like this rise considerably in the next 10 years…
Coldplay signed photograph from 2003 Brit Awards
- Signed at the peak of their fame at the 2003 Brit Awards, which is much more desirable, and ultimately will prove more valuable, than later signatures
- A huge press photograph (12 x 16 inches), much larger than normally seen and an impressive display item
- Excellent quality signatures from all members of the band, bold in black marker pen
3. Historical Signatures
We have witnessed a marked increase in demand for iconic photographs and documents signed by some of the most famous people in history.
Our sales in the year included greats such as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Einstein.
Demand has risen sharply for Nelson Mandela signed photographs since his death seven year ago and this is one of the best you will find…
Nelson Mandela autograph on photo, taken during his historic first state visit to Britain in 1996
- This is an iconic piece of history. The colour photograph depicts Mandela giving his historic speech to Parliament on July 11, 1996. Such important association is the holy grail of autograph collecting.
- It is an exceptional quality piece. The image is sharp and the photo is in pristine condition. It is presented framed and glazed and is much larger than most signed Mandela photographs you will find at a size of 13.4” x 9.6”.
- The piece is made ever more special as it also features bold signatures in black ink of Lord MacKay of Chashfern (the Lord Chancellor) and Betty Boothroyd (Speaker of the House of Commons), both of whom also gave speeches that day.
- Mandela signatures have been soaring in value and are up 13.4% a year on average since 2000. This was recently evidenced with an auction realisation of over $14,000 for a single photo print by David Bailey (which wasn’t even signed).
Our sales of signed literature from famous authors benefited hugely in the year from the huge demand and high price realisations for unique pieces from J.K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series of books.
I’ve long been a big fan of collecting the classic such as Dickens, Carroll and Tolkien. These have proven really strong and reliable investments over the past 20 years, steadily rising in value.
We currently have something quite special available in this genre…
A pair of handwritten letters by one of the most influential writers of the 19th century, Lewis Carroll
- I strongly recommend you click on the link above to read the full story on these letters written by Lewis Carroll, creator of Alice in Wonderland. Only then, will you truly appreciate the unique nature of these letters.
- Lewis Carroll handwritten and signed letters rarely come up for sale and this is an opportunity to own, not one, but two.
- Both letters epitomise Carroll, with his wonderful riddles and turns of phrase, written in his trademark violet ink.
- The personal content of the letters turns them into unique literary works of classic literature in their own right.
5. English coins
English gold coins have clearly become more in demand during the pandemic. This is partly because of more investors becoming involved in the market as a hedge in a precious metal tangible asset investment, which has a history of performing the best when the stock market performs badly.
Veteran collectors found themselves competing with technology savvy investors at auctions resulting often in explosive results during the year.
Prices have clearly been rising at auction this year and some new record realisations were set. In a recent sale a major auction house reported after the sale, “After 6 hours of frantic bidding we sold over £3 million and left only one unsold lot.”
Our personal experience was that we rarely even had the chance to describe any coin acquisitions for sale. We effectively always had a buyer in waiting and they would be in our possession sometimes for only a matter of hours.
We have one mid-priced item available at the moment. You might want to consider snapping it up before it goes…
England, Stuart, James I (1603-1625) Gold Ten Shillings (Double Crown), Good to very fine
- A well struck coin producing a very good attractive and clear portrait of James I, with very fine details in facial features and drapery.
- It is a rare and difficult coin to find in such good grade and strong striking.
- These 10 shilling pieces of this second issue referred to as the “double crown” were only in circulation a short time as rising inflation caused an increase in the price of gold and these coins were revalued to 11 shillings in 1619 and a lighter 10 shilling was issued, the “Half Laurel”.
- Interesting historical context with the reverse legend – having become King James I of England, James VI of Scotland was very keen to unite the two Kingdoms.
6. African stamps
Demand has been buoyant for stamps from countries across the whole British Commonwealth and Empire this year. Stamps from African countries have been in particular high demand.
It was a regular occurrence for me this year to attend auctions, looking to pick up some key African stamp rarities, only to see them sell for four or five times the estimate and a multiple of the retail price I had in mind.
Despite these challenges, I managed to pick up a few choice African stamps in the year, all of which sold. I have just recently managed to acquire a couple more and this low-priced item looks particularly appealing I think…
South Africa Cape of Good Hope 1871-76 5s yellow-orange, SG31
- A stunning stamp depicting the allegorical figure of Hope seated with a ram and vines.
- Until 1893, this was the only design from the Cape of Good Hope except for the Cape Triangulars.
- This high value 5 shilling stamp is the most difficult to find in mint condition in the set.
- Despite being slightly off-centre, it is a stamp rarely found in such fine mint quality.
- It is available to purchase today at a 29% discount to the current Stanley Gibbons catalogue value of £700, which represents excellent value in an area of the market, which is currently strongly contested
7. Chinese stamps
Despite stagnant prices over the past five years or so, we have continued to experience solid demand for Chinese stamps. Encouragingly, recent auction realisations are showing some upward price movement again in this market.
I think you won’t go far wrong by acquiring key Chinese stamp rarities, particularly where you can get them at discounted prices.
This is the biggest bargain I have available right now…
China 1897 (May) large figure surcharge on Dowager Empress third printing ½c on 3ca dull yellow variety, SG78d
- A major Chinese stamp rarity. There are less than twenty recorded examples of this colour variety.
- A hugely popular stamp issue from the very first commemorative stamps issued by China. They were issued to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Birthday of the Dowager Empress.
- One of the best quality used examples known, fresh in colour and with a fine part dollar chop cancellation in blue.
- It is available today at a 50% discount to the current Stanley Gibbons catalogue value of £6,000 and, at that price, I think presents a strong investment proposition
8. Celebrity hair
We have sold more celebrity hair than anything else this year, although at a price of £399 each, the overall value does not compete with the higher value categories of collecting.
The transition of the collectibles market online has created new demand for us this year.
Historical hair gives you an unparalleled level of intimacy with the famous figure. It’s a step beyond owning an autograph or a piece of clothing they wore. Hair wasn’t just touched or used by a celebrity, it was the celebrity. That is unique in the world of collecting.
We have a wide selection of celebrity hair available, which you can view here…
If I was to buy just one, it would be this one…
A guaranteed genuine half-inch strand of John Lennon’s hair
- The hair comes with exceptional provenance originating from a lot sold by Heritage Auctions in 2016.
- The hair was trimmed from John Lennon’s hair in September 1966 in preparation for filming “How I Won the War” and is sold along with a photocopy of Lennon’s signed call sheet and a certificate of authenticity from Heritage Auctions.
- Genuine John Lennon hair is extremely rare. We believe these to be the only strands of Lennon’s hair available on the market.
- It makes an eye-catching display item presented on a display card inside a 7” x 7” frame ready to hang or stand.
9. Limited Edition Art
Limited Edition Art, signed by the artist, is an up and coming area of the collectibles market and we have seen a marked increase in demand and sales over the past year.
It is an area personal to me as I have quite an extensive collection hanging around my home including Picasso, Dali, Chagall, Renoir, Richter amongst others. Guests always gape in awe at my collection.
I love the fact you can own such visually appealing pieces of limited edition art at a mere fraction of the price of an original artwork.
Not only that, I have watched the value of my collection rising rather pleasingly over the years.
Here’s an example of what I mean you can take home today…
A limited edition Salvador Dali print from the 'Dali’s Horses' series of prints, produced circa 1970 – 1972, signed and numbered by the artist.
- A limited edition high quality colour lithograph entitled “Le Cheval du Printemps” (“the Horse of Spring”), numbered 190 out of 250 and signed by Dali.
- Excellent size for display measuring 21” by 16”.
- Salvador Dali was one of the 20th century’s most important artists and a leader of the Surrealist movement.
- Salvador Dali limited edition signed lithographs show average growth in value over the past 10 years of over 150%
10. Indian stamps
Indian stamps would have, quite possibly, been our top selling category this year, but there was a big problem…
We simply could not get our hands on the kind of high quality rarities we demand for our clients, at a price we were willing to pay. The prices in the market have been escalating at great pace, with each auction beating the records set in the last.
Needless to say, every single Indian stamp we did manage to acquire this year was sold almost immediately as demand is so high.
Right now, we have just two available, recently arrived. This is the best one, and you will need to be quick to get in first before it is gone…
India 1860 (9 May) no watermark 8p purple/white, imperforate, SG52b
- A major early Indian stamp rarity as imperforate, with the normal issue including perforations.
- Indian stamps are notoriously challenging to find in fine condition. This is a very fine quality example with large to very large margins and, most rare to find with brilliant large part original gum.
- Superb provenance as it once belonged to King Carol of Romania.
- It is available at a 28% discount to the current Stanley Gibbons catalogue value of £5,500
Here’s looking forward to a new and better year.
There is so much to worry about right now…
I hope that, like me, you can find some peace and tranquillity by immersing yourself, however briefly, in my world.
Collectibles have brought me such joy and financial reward throughout my life; they have become the one constant friend I can’t live without.
I hope, in 2021, I can continue to find you high quality rare collectibles to bring you pleasure, help you diversify your wealth and to build a family heirloom your descendants will cherish.
If you need to get in touch with me about anything, you know where to find me:
Phone: +44(0)1534 639998
Happy Collecting 2021.
PS. Watch this space… 2021 will be a breakout year, in my opinion, for the rare collectibles market.
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