The Silver Tsunami of Retirement Downsizing and Antiques: A Wealth of Opportunities

Jun 07, 2024

The population continues to age across the nation and worldwide, with 10,000 people a day set to reach age 65 for the next two decades. As these baby boomers age and retire, many will be downsizing and looking to unload valuable antiques, artworks, and other vintage items. This is not just a trend but a unique opportunity for those in the antique trade. Many of these baby boomers unload their collections 'en masse,' which is French for in mass. These next two decades are not just another period but the most profitable and exciting period for antique dealers in our lifetimes. It's a time for dealers who know the antique trade and industry and are prepared for a truly exceptional opportunity before it passes over us. Join us as we enter this uniquely profitable period, the Silver Tsunami, and its wealth of opportunities for antique dealers. With the proper knowledge and strategy, the potential for high profits is immense.


Understanding the Silver Tsunami: An Examination of Population Aging and Its Implications for Antique Dealers

After WWII, millions of young soldiers returned home from the war, ready to put years of fighting and global conflict behind them. These young soldiers started families and had children, leading to a massive rise in the worldwide population from 1946 to approximately 1964. Today, people born in this period are reaching retirement age, leading to an unprecedented and significant phenomenon economists named the Silver Tsunami. With the Silver Tsunami, many baby boomers have decided to downsize and sell valuable antiques to support their retirement or move into assisted living centers. Every day, 10,000 plus baby boomers reach retirement age and start downsizing, flooding the marketplace with antiques, works of art, and other valuable vintage items. Many of these new retirees, ready to enjoy their new retirement, choose to sell their collections at affordable prices that leave generous room for dealer profits.



Cultural Impact of the Silver Tsunami on the Antique Trade

With the surge in the availability of antiques, artworks, and vintage items, more and more people have shown increasing interest in antiques, not just dealers. Millennials and Gen Z are a growing pool of antique customers, providing an excellent target audience for dealers with extensive inventories acquired from the Silver Tsunami. This is significant for antique dealers as there will be a larger pool of antiques being sold by baby boomers and a larger group of emerging antique enthusiasts. Millennials and Gen Z have expressed interest in antiques for a variety of reasons, including:

- Environmental concerns with mass-produced goods
- Desire for unique and personalized living spaces
- Craftsmanship of antiques
- Historical aspects of antiques
- Popularization of antiques and vintage items on social media
- Investment potentials of antiques

In a recent article in Forbes, antique dealers stated that as much as 60% of their sales come from Millennials and Gen Z. For those looking to get into the antique trade, the silver tsunami aligns perfectly with the cultural shift in Millenials' and Gen Z's desire to acquire antiques, creating a large pool of clientele with disposable income.


Estate Sales and Auctions in the Age of the Silver Tsunami

For savvy and knowledgeable antique dealers looking to acquire antiques at profitable prices, estate sales, and auctions have long been an excellent source for antiques, artwork, and other vintage items. Baby boomers historically have preferred estate sales and auctions to other selling options like online marketplaces that typically fetch higher asking prices for antiques. However, there has been a marked change in estate sales recently with the advent of companies that help plan and organize estate sales in person and online. Knowing how to find the best deals on antiques from in-person and online estate sales and auctions gives antique dealers an edge over the competition, generating more revenue for these antique dealers.


The Return of Thrift Shop Antique Finds

With the massive surge in downsizing that comes with the Silver Tsunami, many retirees are interested in unloading a life collection as conveniently as possible. Inevitably, items from these collections, including valuable antiques, end up on the shelves of thrift stores, flea markets, and garage sales. The stories of people finding valuable antiques at great prices have become true once again across the nation and are expected to continue as valuables end up in donation bins; for one lucky woman, a vase she purchased for 3.99 at a thrift store turned out to be a rare Venini glasswork designed by Carla Scarpa worth over $100,000. To capitalize on thrift shops, flea markets, garage sales, and antiques, being early and proactive is essential, as good finds are likely to last only a short time, especially at the prices many offer. The next time you are antiquing at a thrift store, start a friendly conversation with the employees; they may just tell you when their next restocking is planned or if they have recently received a large donation. Don't wait for the opportunity to pass you by; be proactive and seize the Silver Tsunami opportunity.


Silver Tsunami Antiques to Keep a Sharp Eye Out For

Whether you prefer to source your antiques online, at estate sales, flea markets, or thrift shops, there are some excellent pieces available at exceptional prices. Here are some of the most common finds arriving with the Silver Tsunami.

Furniture: Baby boomers often chose to fill their homes with furniture from mid-century modern designers. Famous designers of the time include Eero Saarinen, Isamu Noguchi, and the power couple of mid-century furniture designers Charles and Ray Eames. These designers were famous at the time and are experiencing a resurgence with great interest, as shown by Millenials and Gen Z seeking out these exquisite pieces.

Glassware: Baby boomers frequently inherited depression-era glass from their families with popular manufacturers of the time, including:

- Hocking Glass Company
- Federal Glass Company
- Jeannette Glass Company

Other popular glassware included works from the Fenton Art Glass Company and Murano. Fine China was,also popular with baby boomers with designers like Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, and Limoges frequently filling china cabinets. You may even find yourself with a six-figure Scarpa vase if you play your cards right.

Sterling Silver and Flatware: It wouldn't be a true Silver Tsunami without discussing some of the fine silver popular with baby boomers. Genuine sterling silver and silver flatware were very popular at the time and even more popular today. Popular designers include:

- Tiffany & Co
- Reed & Barton
- Gorham
- Towle

Other great silver pieces to keep an eye out for include:
Silver hollowware (tea Pots, platters, pitchers, candlesticks)
Silver jewelry( designers Like Georg Jensen and Tiffany & Co)
Decorative silver items ( picture frames, mirrors, jewelry boxes)


Get The Most Out of The Silver Tsunami Before it's Gone

While the Silver Tsunami has made highly desirable and valuable antiques available at great prices, it won't last forever. Competition amongst antique dealers is also expected to increase as the interest of Millennials and Gen Z people in antiques skyrockets. Whether you're just starting out as an antique dealer or are already established, we hope you will explore the excellent opportunities the Silver Tsunami brings—a true wealth of opportunities.


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