Buying Luxuries On A Budget

How to save and invest on big ticket luxury items, just like the experts do

10-20 times more, and you can congratulate yourself on your farsightedness. Tip: When you go to buy, the work by the unknown characteristically has a larger percentage of markup than the Picasso and thus is more susceptible to haggling.

If you don’t want to treat the art world like commodities trading but you do want to feel a modicum of security in your choices, here’s how.

Buy the best that you can. Of course, the Ferrari is more likely to appreciate than the Ford Escort, and it looks better. But there’s more: Choose an artist who has some significance, yet whose best works you can afford to buy. Ask the curator and the gallery staff if it’s plausible to get good things with whatever money you’re starting with. Is it $100-$5,000, $5,000-$10,000 or more? Keep asking questions and “kicking tires”–eventually, they’ll line up your interests with your pocketbook.

Stick to the typical. Stay with items that are typical of that artist. Do not be seduced by a piece that looks interestingly offbeat. As Rosen puts it, “You want to be sure that you have something that anyone can recognize as a work by that artist. You definitely don’t want the one thing that doesn’t look good, that nobody would guess was by him.”

Plan your collection. Make a plan that gives you room to acquire over time a meaningful body of material, either by one artist or one school or one type, whether Renaissance bronzes or Victorian landscapes or Dutch fruit bowls. “Some people do it by having one major drawing by each artist they’re interested in,” Rosen says. “Others like to get a small collection of works by one or two artists.”

“Most Americans don’t seek out wine for the pleasure of collecting or of studying what makes a wine taste the way that it does,” says David W. Dickerson of Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America. We do seek it out, though. Wine is the all-around winner of the numbers games, since volume went up 2.1% in 1995 and dollar sties climbed 1.6%.

Suppose that you want to find the ultimate $6 bottle of wine. First, Dickerson says, pick your type: zinfandel, Merlot, Chardonnay or whatever. Buy a few bottles. When you find one you like, remember the label.

Find a good wine store. Rick Genderson, co-owner of Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, a liquor store in Washington, D.C., says that seeking recommendations from friends is a good way to find a vintner. “The first thing to look for when you cross the threshold is a big selection. If the store doesn’t have many bottles, you’re not going to get good merchandise or a good deal. Big isn’t automatically good, but a store with a larger selection will have an easier time fitting your taste and pocketbook,” he says.

Target that taste. “Talk with the dealer,” Genderson says. “Show him the labels of the wine you like and ask if he can duplicate the taste at a price you’re willing to pay. There

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