Why are Chinese Antiques rising in Value and Price?

Chinese Antiques are Rising in Value and Price. Why?

Shanghai Antique Vendor
Antique vendor in Shanghai
The simple answer is supply and demand. But again, why?

Historically, around the world Chinese antiques have been highly valued. This is mainly because of their status as historical treasures, and also because of the amount of artistry that went into designing and crafting each piece. Then there's the obvious - their enduring beauty. These rare and desirable pieces are going up in price as a result from increasing demand by wealthy bidders. But who are the new bidders and buyers of Chinese antiques?

Beijing Wholesale Antique Vendor
Major wholesale antique vendor in Beijing
When we started traveling to China in 2005 to purchase Chinese antique furniture on behalf of our customers, we found a plentiful and affordable supply of beautiful antique furniture in the cities we visited. The Chinese vendors we met and dealt with were eager to do business with us. Today, similar pieces of antique Chinese furniture cost us four times or more the prices we paid in 2005, if we can find vendors that have Chinese antiques. And negotiating with our Chinese vendors is not as easy as before.

Prior to 2005, there was practically no market for Chinese antiques in China: almost all buyers were Westerners and/or were exports to the West. Today, the millions of "newly wealthy" Chinese themselves are the largest and most energetic market for acquiring and purchasing Chinese antiques.

Remember that in China until recently there were only the royals, their court, merchants, government officials, and the very poor. China had no middle class that needed or could afford any type of furniture. As a result of the additional demand from this new domestic Chinese market, there has been a significant rise in price and a significant decline in the supply of authentic Chinese antique pieces.

PanJiaYuan Market in Beijing
Reproductions at the PanJiaYuan Market in Beijing
More antiques cannot be made. The fixed supply and the rising amount of people who can afford high-end antiques (more demand) means the price for antiques is expected to continue to rise. Many Asian art objects, including furniture, are unique compared to other types of antiques; with production levels rarely reaching the factory-like production level, such as English period furniture.

In the West, interior designers and many individuals have incorporated Chinese antique furniture, art and décor into their residential and commercial designs for decades. The classic style and design of Chinese furniture, and the beauty and craftsmanship of the porcelains and home décor, blend beautifully with contemporary items and antiques from around the world. Add to this the increase of Western reality shows that are focused on buying, selling and salvaging antiques. This is helping more and more people to learn of, appreciate, and to collect antiques.

Another interesting aspect fueling rising prices is that many pieces of antique Chinese furniture need some love and attention to their structure and/or to their finishes. Chinese craftspeople skilled in the ancient methods and techniques of finishing and repairing furniture are diminishing, with their services becoming more valued and pricier.

Investing in Chinese antiques?

The international art and antiques market is worth around $50 billion annually. Authentic Chinese porcelains, and some Chinese furniture crafted from rare woods, like huanghuali, are being purchased at auction for record amounts around the world. Investors can create wealth from these investment opportunities when Chinese art and furniture is bought and sold.

Xi'an Crafts Market
Crafts market in Xi'an China
So why invest? Art and antiques are tangible investments that can be visually enjoyed while they create a monetary profit for those collectors who are willing to hold onto their pieces during the time their value gradually increases. Most of our clients select and acquire Chinese antique furniture because they love the look, and the craftsmanship, and structural integrity of the pieces. But they also understand that they are buying a treasure to pass down to other generations and they know that the value is increasing. Art pieces are not correlated to stock prices or commodities like gold, and finding unique and promising pieces can be exciting.

The Chinese market is proving to be a good liquid market for these hard assets, with increasing price appreciation as a result of strong Chinese and world demand. Due to these factors and due to the growth of the Chinese economy and the gradual appreciation of the Chinese currency, it is a reasonable assumption that this trend will continue.

Another interesting development helping to fuel Chinese demand is the drive by the Chinese government to reassert its ownership of national treasures, which in turn is inspiring the newly wealthy Chinese private collectors to seek their countries artifacts as part of a patriotic duty.
Container Unloading
Unloading a continer.
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Investing in Chinese antique furniture and artifacts can be fun, rewarding, and can be a very good choice. However, be cautious. There is a large amount of faked or forged artwork and antiques. In 2012 the Chinese government closed a private museum because it was believed that all or most of the 40,000 "antiquities" inside were fake.

We recommend that you do your homework, read about the items you are interested in, and work with reputable antique stores, e-commerce businesses, and auction companies.
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