By Emma Reynolds
With the property market seeming ever further out of reach for so many young people, one 22-year-old has an alternative suggestion for how millennials can get rich.
James Stanton, from Kangaroo Point in Queensland, is an antiques aficionado who says investing in objects can be a goldmine - one that's going virtually untapped by the younger generation.
With period dramas such as Downton Abbey and The Crown more popular than ever, and sellers posting beautiful images on auction websites and social media, there's a growing interest in the field.
And you don't need much in the bank to start. James was recently at a University of Queensland booksale. "They have a massive alumni booksale every year - you can pick up bargains," he tells news.com.au. "I picked up a David Hockney book about posters, a first edition, for about A$6 (NZ$6.70)."
A similar book is on sale for more than A$600 on the website 1stdibs.com right now, A$100 for every dollar James spent.
"I definitely think it's wise as opposed to investing in, say, a car," he says. "You're investing in something that's always going to retain its value - jewellery that's 18-carat gold, lalique crystal is always going to be worth money. And they're physical objects as opposed to cash."
The young antiques investor says the site is a good place to start, since it showcases a "sexy way of doing antiques", making older pieces "look amazing to a young eye."
He suggests rookies begin by going to smaller auctions rather than looking at somewhere like Sotheby's. "They're not fancy, but you can find some gems," he says. "I bought a Cartier Tank watch for less than A$1000 right at the end of an auction in Melbourne. After three hours, when it's 10pm and everyone has gone home, you can pick up a bargain."
Look out for the items that might not be in perfect condition. "A piece of furniture might need extra polish, the veneer replacing," he says. "I recently purchased an Eric Thake lino cut print for just over A$100, it was at the end of the auction and in a terrible frame, it was really quite unappealing.
"Now that I've reframed, it would easily sell at auction for A$1500 upwards."
James is a big fan of the Australian artist's beautiful lino cut prints, and says it's all about getting to know your subject. "I grew up around antiques, I've always worked around beautiful items," he says. "From 14 to 20 I worked in one of Queensland's oldest homewares stores, now I work at an antiques store ... being surrounded by beauty refines your eye."
And he's always on the lookout for a new hunting ground, checking out markets like next month's Sydney Antiques & Art Fair or overseas stores. "One of my favourites in the world is a store in Nuremberg that sells art deco glassware," he says. "We've got a couple of antique centres here in Queensland and in other states, large venues where you can pick up little something quite reasonable to start a collection or add to one, a collection of espresso cups, for example.
"You can get lost in there for a day. In some of the better suburbs, Rose Bay and Woolhara in Sydney, check out the second-hand stores, Vinnie's and so on. There might be a lady gone into a retirement home and you can find a piece of silverware, furniture, a little investment."
The 22-year-old doesn't just restrict himself to antiques. "Plenty of contemporary artworks are fabulous investments," he says. "Not everything in my collection is antique - there's mid-century, art deco, jewellery - fabulous brutalist rings from the early 70s. Vintage solid gold watches, some of my grandmother's things.
"I'm a big fan of mixing old and new. The owners of the store where I work love Dinosaur Designs ... we love contemporary lounges, desks - you put things that are 100 years old with it and it looks really cool."
James says it's clear there's a whole new audience slowly catching on to the way way to do objects of desire. "Instagram and Pinterest are big players in spiking interest," he said. "Vogue Living will let you know about beautiful things. Many stores sell online, many are craftspeople, there's First Dibs, the sexy way of doing antiques.
"Especially for young people, people my age, they see a piece of silverware, crystalware, it fosters an interest in researching, going into antiques stores like ours - we often hear, I saw it in Mad Men, Marie Antoinette, do you have anything like that?
"It makes people want to be a part of that."
JAMES'S TIPS TO BE AN ANTIQUES WHIZ-KID
When starting out avoid the larger auction houses that everyone associates with antiques, jewels and design pieces. These will have higher buyers' premiums and be at a far higher price point. Look for smaller auction houses, which often do online catalogues and allow absentee bids, and remember to look through the whole catalogue.
2. Look past things like bad framing or a bad finish on a piece of furniture. Often, a piece of art might get overlooked because of a horrendous frame that detracts from the piece. The same goes for pieces with minor damage or poor finishes, which can often be easily addressed.
3. Remember gold and silver retain their value. They'll always be, as the saying goes, 'worth their weight in gold.' On top of the weight, you may be able to add value for the provenance.
4. Buy one really good little piece as opposed to several smaller pieces of less value. Wedgwood is one great example. Instead of accumulating large numbers of little pieces made in the last 60 years, buy one really lovely piece of Victorian Wedgwood like a piece of black basalt or a Portland vase.
5. Remember antiques and pieces of age and quality require love and attention. If you buy a really good quality piece of jewellery which is also an investment, look after it! Don't wear it in the garden or when exercising. The same goes for beautiful furniture, it will periodically need waxing or polishing to retail its shine and lustre, and avoid putting drinks and sharp objects directly onto the surface. Dishwashers are a death sentence for fine crystal, antique porcelain and china - handwashing will prevent disappointment!
6. Do your research and be aware of fakes. There are plenty of good quality fakes and modern reproductions on the market. Also be aware that just because something is marked a brand name doesn't necessarily mean it is valuable. Sometimes you'll need to do a bit of background research to ensure that what you're buying is worth it, and isn't a lemon.