So what’s the next Big Thing?

I have been a scavenger all of my life, finding joy in picking up stuff from the street, dumpsters and flea markets. I started out as an all-eater but have since refined my taste to a bare minimum. Even though I can afford it, I have never had an urge to populate my home with new soulless things, much to my wife’s dismay. Therefore I’m saddened that an era of thrifting is now coming to an end. This is not due to my own choosing but a result of a tapped market and a commercialization of an previously amateur based business. That is why I’m looking forward and asking myself, what comes next? What is the next big thing… in second hand and vintage?

During the early 90’s, Finland experienced a deep depression and as a direct result people suddenly found a reason to clean out their or their grandmother’s closet to make a few extra bucks. This meant that objects that before only entered the market through auction events or antique shops now reached people directly. Not to mention that previously much was probably thrown away. Needless to say, it was a design or antique lover’s dream come true.

Much of the most wanted goods were however bought up by knowing fanatic amateurs or experienced dealers, who have later sold much of it abroad. They knew that the handicraft and the unique design would make the items more sought after once the economy recovered and people’s taste changed. This got me thinking: What are the sought after objects of tomorrow?

1. The postmodern 1980s

The Italian design collective The Memphis Group who in the early 80’s gave the establishment hiccups with colorful anti-design pieces stands as an example of how a brief innovative strike can influence a whole generation and change the general course of thinking. Relatively few pieces were created during the Memphis Group‘s period and they were naturally expensive at the time. After this followed a period when the design experiment and the 80’s in general were largely ignored and ridiculed for its excess. Most extreme movements take some time to digest and it was only 20 years later that the Design Group was yet again brought into the limelight. Among others Dennis Zanone and Karl Lagerfeldt have/had amassed large collections of Memphis objects and it goes without saying that collections are worth hefty sums these days.

The Memphis example is typical of how a value increase is created: Create something that’s atypical of the times, create buzz and perhaps a bit of controversy. Manufacture only a few items and make them accessible to a large group of people. Wait for 20-50 years to make sure that enough of the original pieces are lost and that nostalgia is formed. Get an article into Wallpaper, the New York Times and/or Core77 and you are set. Submit a few pieces to an esteemed auction house and watch the demand rise.

2. Old handicraft

In this age of zero cost mass created abundance there is an ever increasing search for stuff that’s real – anything which makes you the owner stand out as an individual. These objects make you an person who a) knows what’s hip, b) cares about where your stuff comes from and c) has something that no one else has. Every object created by hand will be unique, more expensive to produce and thus have larger value to the buyer. Of course many of the products on the market are produced using low cost labor but the principle of the value of uniqueness is generally true when it comes to hand made versus industrially produced goods. This especially applies to things that aren’t created anymore due to the time and labor it involves but especially the lack of know-how.

3. Prototypes

I had the pleasure of visiting Prototyp Köln a few days ago. On display were prototype goodies by upcoming Finnish and international designers. Were the objects expensive – yes. Will they keep their value – no and yes. Were they unique – yes! It is the fact that you are possibly buying an early piece of a future star which makes the prototype a valid investment, but it is best to buy them during the down period when the designer is no longer fresh but not yet booming. Forget art and limited edition collector’s items. If you want something you can really use, keep as a conversation piece or you just want to support a struggling designer – go for a prototype. You might even make a buck later on.

4. Selected IKEA and other low cost/value items

I have already written a post about IKEA and their future possibility of exclusivity a few years ago and I still believe it rings true. This is partly due to IKEA’s willingness to experiment, partly due to the common nostalgia reference frame IKEA creates, partly due to the contemporary cheap production environment but mostly due to the fact that over time most objects will be treated as commodities and will thus be thrown away. The pieces left standing will in due time again be sought after and since there aren’t that many to come by they will also fetch a high price.

5. Old electronics

Today you are able to buy electronic objects at close to nothing in spite of the hundreds or thousands of parts they consist of. This has only been possible for some 30 odd years and it is only in the last ten years that the trend of low low cost electronics has really come into effect. I predict that old mobile phones will be all the rage in a few years. Having an old Nokia 8110 banana phone will tell other people that you are as hip as you were back in 1997. Preferably the phone has been kept in its original package. You can already see the demand for old Bang & Olufsen stereos, Sankyo alarm clocks and Casio wrist watches.

These were some of my guesses – please comment on what you think are tomorrow’s antiques and sought after objects!

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