THE BLOG
05/07/2013 06:12 pm ET Updated Jul 07, 2013

Why I Spent $67,000 on Judaica

I can't believe it! Just last week, I spent $3.89 on milk, $62 on gas and $67,500 on Judaica as inventory for my antique gallery in Cedarhurst, N.Y. Sounds strange right?

Well, not really.

Last Wednesday, philanthropist Michael Steinhardt held an auction, where he was selling a lifetime collection of Jewish antiques, also known as Judaica. As a client of my auction house, I was privileged to often visit his office and see 400 years of Jewish history in his rooms. Many of his pieces were sold to him by me over the last 10 or so years. At the auction, Michael managed to bring in about $9 million back to his pocket. Knowing what his acquisition price and what last week's auction brought him, I would say he did quite alright with his investment.

Antique Judaica is a micro-niche in the art and antique world. There are about 15 million Jews in the world and believe it or not only about 700 active collectors. Many of those collectors are active only on occasion. Some are constantly active. One would think that with such a small market base, there would be almost zero demand for antique Judaica. It's actually quite the opposite. The third Reich not only wiped out people, but also history. Silver ritual objects were stolen, melted and sold for their scrap value. Before you knew it, everything was gone. Vanished forever. Thus, the rarity. Authentic Judaica is rare. Most of the surviving objects came to this country with the mass immigration from Eastern Europe from 1880-1917. Generations pass, families assimilate, things get sold. This is how many of these items come to the general market. Usually when it comes to our galleries, most things come to us via the Internet. I'll receive emails that usually start with "My grandfather came to New York in 1910 and he had this menorah with him. We don't use it anymore, how much will it bring at an auction?"

The demand of these precious antiques by a small handful of devoted collectors generates great prices as there just isn't so much around.

To me, spending $67,500 of my gallery's money on Judaica was safer and more fun that putting it in a CD. Like Michael Steinhardt, I hope to see similar returns.

From The Auction

View image

A German silver winged hydra-form Hanukkah lamp (Sold for $31,250)

(Photo Credit: J.Greenstein & Co.)