Sunday, June 17, 2007

Building an Estate Through a One Item Collection

This month, Travel & Leisure Golf Magazine
reports on how Jeffery B. Ellis painstakingly built a 780-piece collection of antique golf clubs. His collection is reputed to be the most wide-ranging in the world, and he is scheduled to sell all of the clubs through Sotheby's on September 26 - 27, 2007 for an estimated total value of over $4 million.

Ellis' passion for collecting not only contributed to his life's work in buying and selling clubs, but also in the production of a fine, scholarly, two-volume published work spanning over twenty years. The book set includes clubs such as a 1600-era iron, a Dickson putter, and an opposing face duplex wood. The work is entitled The Clubmaker's Art and is pictured above (available through Amazon).

The point is, that you too can build a sizable, impressive, and highly valuable estate through a detailed, focused, one-or-two item concentration. While many of the estate sales Lange Estate Sales may coordinate are truly geared to whole house, farm, or commercial enterprises looking to completely liquidate, Ellis' undying passion for golf clubs puts him in a very pretty place indeed as he positions his specialized collection for auction. The trick is find something different, something unique, something relatively portable, something difficult to locate, and then to set about extending a concentrated, long-term effort to become the preeminent authority. Especially if you have an advanced jump on collecting through items that may have been passed down through the generations, items you know are living in Aunt Em's attic, or odd items in your family that no one else seems to have an interest in.

It is an investment of sorts, and one you may occasionally wonder whether will ever pay off. The success of Ellis though, is partially due to his detailed chronology, collecting, and yes, we'll even go to "curating" work. For this type of estate building, you are going to need records. Records of where you purchased, when purchased, how purchased, any particular provenance, evidence of historic significance. Experience shows Lange Estate Sales that this type of detailed record keeping is not for the faint of heart. You have to consider whether you are a surface swimmer type collector (lots of unusual things slightly related at the surface level) or a deep-water diver collector (one or two items fully sought after).
Don't despair. It is reported one of the first hickories that caught Ellis' eye back in '74 was found at a Milwaukee Goodwill. Ellis' story and the upcoming partial estate auction will be fascinating to watch unfold for estate sales agents, history buffs, collectors, and lovers of the green alike.