As is typical in periods when there’s the prospect of higher inflation, investment interest in collectibles is growing, and art prices in particular having been setting records. But do these represent safe vehicles for protecting your clients’ assets?
Not in the opinion of Lewis Altfest, a Financial Planning Influencer Award winner, the eponymous head of Altfest Personal Wealth Management, a fee-only financial management firm based in Manhattan, and an associate professor of finance at New York’s Pace University.
Beyond the major concern that such investments are illiquid, Altfest says the markets for most collectibles are not reliable for most investors. Whether it’s art, gold, comic books or antiques, the problem is the same—these are all investments that don’t provide a cash dividend, so when the category loses favor the investor is stuck holding them without a return.
For all of these categories, “Investors are fickle and demand is not assured,” Altfest maintains. And without a return of some sort, there’s nothing to underpin the price.
The exception is gold, which Altfest says is not a typical investment and falls into its own category, since it can almost always be sold. After gold suffered a bruising in 2012, the SPDR Gold Shares ETF (GLD), for example, is down 27% year-to-date. And though Altfest is considering gold mining shares that are selling at a discount to gold and tend to move in opposition to the overall market, he says, “I’d like to see gold at under $1,100 before putting any money into it.”
As a side note, for investors that are still drawn to the art market, Altfest notes that the prices on the masters have been moving to new highs, which means that as investments they’re not especially promising. “If you want to make money,” he says, “you have to get involved with the ‘small caps,’” Altfest’s term for emerging artists with appeal and who are just becoming known.