We hope collecting floats forever downstream, navigating safely between the markers of quality and craftsmanship. But people love to pioneer and so often new collecting interests emerge that for a time slap the face of convention, before they too join the main flow. This being an edition about time, I thought it interesting not to glance back to the past as usual, but to peer light-heartedly and speculatively into the distant future at a few unconventional things that may just be tickling (and stirring up) our collecting habits in decades to come. If today you feel antique collecting is straining under the mantle of change…….at least feel comforted in the knowledge that in the future things are probably going to get even more confusing!
If condition still equals value
Auctions teach us that rarity and condition, especially when its against the odds, is a magical match. We all know a book with its dust jacket far excels those without and vintage toys stored wrapped as new in a box make headline figures. So its worth considering how this tried and tested equation may manifest in the future amongst our current consumables? After too many hours pondering the many things of our throw away culture, I would hedge my money on our pesky household appliances that seem to barely make it out of the box before breaking, or perhaps more pertinently, everyday flat-pack furniture. Epitomised by the likes of Argos and Ikea and now found in all our homes (admit it, you have some somewhere) these currently cringe-worthy items must surely suit the future collectors criteria. Formed of both thin plastics and chipboard that can never be properly repaired once damaged, they are usually and inaccurately screwed together by amateurs and become the first thing on the bonfire during the annual spring makeover. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if in the future choice flat-pack melamine items by key designers or retailers (obviously still boxed and in their shrink wrap) do indeed find their way proudly into prized collections and museum vaults to attain financial values we can only laugh at.
Collecting the Virtual
Of course its not just our perceptions of quality that may have to change in the future, but indeed our whole idea of antique and vintage collectables as 3D objects. Take for instance the laudable fields of photograph and ephemera collecting. Did you know that Facebook alone holds on its servers over 250 billion of our photos with an eye watering 350 million more uploaded per day. Add to this all the other popular programmes we now use, and according to one person’s calculation that means that we are currently uploading more digital images per year than was produced in the whole previous history of photography. Image sharing as we can see is one of the fastest growing activities on the web and while sharing your selfies with your friends may not be everyone’s cup of tea, with the rise of cheap or free online file depositories, more and more of us are choosing to upload and store online not just our precious images but billions of documents and sound files as well.
Its an interesting thought to conjure with: A large percentage of the things we are creating and enjoying today, will have no physical presence decades in the future. Ok the cynic within us may laugh and see that as a good thing, but its fair to say that much of the social and cultural history of today is being recorded and preserved not on paper, but on the virtual memory space of someone else’s server.
It stands to reason that in the future there will be wide spread interest in collecting this digital past by ‘mining’ the internet. Though current confidentiality rules make such a trade in files impossible, within a few decades there will exist a giant seam of data (still probably owned by the former superpowers of the web) that will be viewed globally as the unclaimed baggage of the internet: abandoned, effectively untraceable and thus able to be sold off regularly by public auction. For any future collector or investor, who wouldn’t want to buy an unopened data bundle in the hope of unearthing a rare forgotten photo of some celebrity in their youth, or to rediscover the original raw copy of some infamous song or perhaps just read the thoughts of an everyday person from decades ago, one staccato twitter message at a time. It will be like a virtual version of that TV show ‘Storage Wars’ but probably less dramatic. As amateur archaeologists, people will painstakingly peel back the layers of photoshop to reveal the ‘authentic’ image below and to those who cherish individuality and the adventure, every file explored will be unique in its own way.
In the future our most cherished finds may no longer sit in glass cabinets away from the clumsy hands of grandchildren, but will be projected instead safely and securely onto the walls of the home like a trophy. Such a future collector may thankfully be a long way off still, but one thing is for sure…..we are certainly floating downstream towards it!