There may be Life On Mars

   Mars Bars. One way to diabetes (type 2). But also a way to measure the change in the antiques furniture market since 1968. Its actually a proper thing published by Antique Collecting magazine each year, and I think for propriety and to see it graphically you should go somewhere they have approved, like here.
   Essentially the author has tracked the price of the mighty choccy bar over that time and indexed furniture against it, as well as house prices, the Footsie and so on. Even thought these last two don't have the same diabetic potential of the Mars Bar.

   The furniture is divided into various categories: Oak, Regency, early Victorian etc. and each individual sector has a performance at slight variation to the average. For example, early Viccy peaked in the later 1990's and has been in decline since, while Regency furniture didn't peak for another ten years or so. I'm not sure there is any need to go into the nitty gritty of the index, but a general overview is quite interesting. Not least because there was an article in the papers this week which looked at household incomes.
   But first, a shock. I don't eat Mars Bars (that's not the shock, although you may be surprised to look at me) and probably haven't had one since leaving school. In those days it was a filling snack. It weighed, I am reliably informed, 67g (a bit more than 2oz in proper weights and measures). But I'm sure they were bigger than that (not talking King Size here – that's a MUCH more modern invention). My memory, failing as it is, is that they were a good chunky brick of a thing. But whatever, as they say. In the late 60's they apparently cost eight pence. Is that the same as three for 2/-? But now its all change. For 60p (that's 15 times as much) you get just 51g! Or 85% of the old, proper, Mars Bar. Swizz. I preferred spaceships anyway.
   Back to furniture. Basically, from the 60's it went up and up in value, so (depending exactly on what you had acquired) it was a good investment from 1968 to around 2008. It has been in decline ever since. The glimmer of hope is that while some elements of the mix are still falling (notable Oak), others seem to have stopped their downward trend. Regency, as a group, has shown a very modest increase (+2% as of 2015 index – the latest detailed breakdown I can locate)
   Averagely, prices for 2015 proved to be HALF what they were in 2008. That means, today, you are paying approx the same for antique furniture as your parents were forking out in the mid-80's. UB40 were still popular, the Jam were going to A Town Called Malice and Madonna was still Like a Virgin. Makes me a bit queasy to think what was yet to come: the appalling Pet Shop Boys for example. And wall-to-wall Bruce Windscreen. Awful. If only I could go back; there are some changes I would make, let me tell you. But I digress, again.
   It seems to me that there is nowhere left for furniture to go but up. Buying an antique chest of drawers now costs less than the value of the wood, let alone the time of a cabinet maker to knock it up. But there is another reason that I think we are finally at the nadir. 
   In the article I mentioned, it said that, according to YouGov, one-in-three middle-class families would struggle to find the cash to cover an unplanned expense of £500 (and 1 in 4 have nothing in hand at all. So that's more than half of all families with £500 or less in the bank, unspoken for). So no, Naomi, you may not go to Klosters for Kristmas with Skool. And Tarquin, your chances of Heavy Metal lessons for your birthday are zilch. And if they can't send the kids off skiing or pay for extra music lessons what chance has a nice antique got, when it is seen as a luxury and IKEA as sensible spending on essentials? The article went on the say the effects of the recent, long and deep, recession are still being felt. Average incomes have not risen at the same rate as outgoings. The consequence is that, on average, the modern middle class income is stuck at around, wait for it, 2008 levels. Look back at the index. Peaked when? Oh yes, 2008.
   That has to be coincidence, right? I hope not. I hope it is more than that, because if my gut feelings are right we are indeed seeing a slowing of the price falls: auction prices for clean tidy furniture that can go straight out are definitely firming up, and surely as the average household income starts to recover that can only get better. We must be in for a reversal of the norm. “Prices rise shocker” headlines! Hoorah

HA HA HA! Three years later (July 19) and I was so wrong. Comically so. Brexit doom and gloom. So not exactly a further drop in prices: they are already as low as they can go, pretty much. No, more of a stop buying altogether thing is happening. Anyone got any lawns they need mowing? Cars washing? Apparently I'm available.....

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