From a fairly new collector's perspective
Re: Did Chinese chevrons kill the trade bead collectibles? -- beadiste Post Reply Edit Forum Where am I?
Posted by: Rosanna Mail author
04/02/2015, 14:18:32

I have been collecting trade beads and other old beads for less than 6 years (my "anniversary" will be this summer). If I had $5 for every "senior" bead collector who has told me how they did all their collecting when trade beads were $5 a strand, well, I could justify buying a whole strand of 7Ls now! Maybe even the green ones!

So my main observation is that it's all about the money. Most trade bead collectors I have met in the last 6 years got used to very reasonable to downright cheap pricing for decades, right up to the big run up starting a little before the time I entered the bead collecting hobby. Now many of them have dollar signs flashing every time they look at their beads, wondering how they can "cash out" for 10 times, 20 times, or more, than what they paid. They are not likely to turn right around and pay a large premium (in their way of looking at it) for additional beads.

For myself, I understand that the glory days of inexpensive African trade beads are long over, and that I have to spend some serious dough right now to get some good to excellent quality rare old beads. And, I agree with the people who are finding that the number of collectors willing to make large purchases right now is quite small. I am lucky that a small group of these people live nearby and generally their purchases result in half or more of any sales I achieve at local shows. Probably other sellers in large urban areas have the same experience. EBay allows me to reach buyers worldwide, but I find that sales are tough to make, and I have to offer pretty low pricing to attract attention to the more common beads.

There is a glut of trade beads on the market, and the only ones that get any reasonably competitive bidding are the very rare specimens - and blue 7L's are not very rare or at least they have not been since I started collecting. They crop up all over the bead shows - for example in one show a few years ago where nice ones were being offered for $15 each from a dish at one booth. I got the distinct impression that the seller had gotten them for maybe a buck a piece about 40 years ago and was happy with his $15 (yes I bought some of them!).

So to sum up - today a collector needs to have the financial reserves to be able to do any significant collecting of trade beads and other expensive old beads. With the general financial decline of the middle class I expect that new, younger collectors entering the market will be pretty scarce and will likely be from a wealthier demographic that what the long-time collectors are used to seeing. If you manage to attract any new people into this area, be very, very grateful!

Final comment - one bead seller said recently that we all have to hope that the Chinese become as interested in old European glass beads as they have been in amber and coral, then we might see another run up in prices. Personally, I'm not buying beads with the idea that I'm investing for the future. One person in particular whom I know bought trade beads at more or less the peak, thinking that their $2000 strands will go to $20,000 in the near future - well let's just say that I really, really hope this happens, but I'm not holding my breath.

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