The rise of the collectorator; A new breed of buyer has taken over the auction world. Part-investor, part-interior decorator, they’re becoming known as ”collectorators”

The rise of the collectorator

January 29, 2014

James Cockington

A new breed of buyer has taken over the auction world. John Albrecht, managing director of Leonard Joel in Melbourne, has defined this part-investor, ”part-interior decorator” species as ”the collectorator”.

This is, as he outlines in Leonard magazine, ”the new dominant buyer in the marketplace once dominated by the traditional collector – the collectorator is the new buyer that combines sophisticated aesthetics with an eye for all periods and designs.

”The collectorator treats his or her entire living environment as an opportunity to showcase visually fascinating and stimulating items with utility and space in mind.”

Albrecht says this new demographic – younger and very savvy about what they do and don’t want – has emerged during the past two years.

Females of the collectorator species are now more likely to be bidding on the floor, with great confidence, and are obviously after a signature piece for a room.

”They are after a look as well as a history,” says Albrecht. This explains the increasing popularity of modernist furniture and post-1950s design objects.

Leonard Joel has embraced this scene during the past decade while, in Sydney, Shapiro Auctioneers specialises in it.

In December, Shapiro sold a 1953 Grant Featherston Z300 chaise longue for $8800 IBP, and a Piero Fornasetti ”Zebra” cabinet for $19,200 IBP.

In the same issue of Leonard is Albrecht’s list of ”twelve interesting things we sold in 2013”. These range from a Matchbox model of a 1967 Mercury Cougar (sold for $5612 IBP) to a pair of Joe Colombo 1963 Elda black leather chairs (sold for $9760 IBP).

Both prices would have been unthinkable 10 years ago. Traditional antiques – such as the Lloyd’s Patriotic Fund ceremonial sword presented to Lieutenant Charles Menzies in 1806 (sold for $91,500 IBP) – are still in demand for selected items, but now these share the room with the Birkin handbag by Hermes, which fetched $9760 IBP at one of Leonard Joel’s regular sales of pre-loved luxury items.

Albrecht still remembers being told a few years ago that these auctions wouldn’t work here because Australian buyers were reluctant to buy second-hand clothing and accessories. Not so.

Funky Fitzroy

This new category has been a boon for Leonard Joel, as it has for sharp operators in Europe. Today’s auction experts have to be flexible, because the rules are being re-written by the year. Albrecht writes that he recently spotted a new design trend over a coffee in a funky breakfast venue in Fitzroy.

”I was thrilled to see old china plates from various makers decorating the walls in an eccentric fashion [”nanna” plates, as he calls them], and my pleasure was only heightened when my latte in a glass was served on a randomly chosen old-fashioned porcelain saucer.”

He believes this modern reinterpretation of the old and unwanted has a direct influence on what he sells.

There was a time not so long ago when those Grant Featherston chairs, now worth $8000-plus, were freely available from nature strips on chuck-out night.

According to the theory that anything old will experience a revival sometime soon, he’s predicting that the Victorian dark-brown furniture that even the Salvos won’t take away will also make a comeback.

All it will take is for some clever young designer to reinvent this style.

”I don’t know how or when,” he says. He notes that modern versions of grandfather clocks are now being sold.

If you have this stuff and despair of ever selling it, just wait for the next hot young decorator to emerge.

Albrecht is upbeat about the future of the auction world, following its couple of years in limbo. Prices at auction are increasing in most areas, and Leonard Joel is bringing in two new categories to the menu for 2014.

One is for rare musical instruments, the other is for gold and silver coins.

The latter is based on the surprisingly successful sales of the estate of Norman Stephens, the former owner of Kozminsky.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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