The Wall Street Journal discovers that Antiquities are having a very nice run up in prices even if the works are considered “priceless:”
The prices of antiquities, defined as artifacts mainly derived from the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean, including Egypt, the Near East, Greece and Rome, have soared tenfold over the last decade, according to G. Max Bernheimer, Christie’s International department head of antiquities.
Since 2006, sales at the privately-owned auction house have quadrupled from $10.2 million (€7.5 million) to $42.7 million. What is more, unlike other parts of the art market, sales have steadily increased throughout the recession. […] John Ambrose, director of U.S.-based antique dealer Fragments of Time, says: “We see more than 10,000 ancient objects each year but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find good quality objects. This is not just in the traditionally difficult areas of Attic pottery, Egyptian objects and glass, but in every area including Roman pottery. The lack of supply is pushing up demand.” […]
In the 1970’s, the British Rail Pension Fund invested 2.9% of its portfolio – around £40 million – in more than 2,000 objects including antiquities. Fifteen years later the fund sold its art investments – gaining an annual compound return of 11.3%. Around the same time U.S. bank Merrill Lynch set up two funds –Athena I and II – to invest in ancient coins and antiquities. It poured over $30 million into these under the management of coin and antiquities dealer Bruce McNall. After two-and-a-half years the managers reported a 36% net gain.
Pricing the Priceless (Wall Street Journal)