Read an Excerpt
Art & Collectibles
Whether you’re in it for the sheer aesthetic value, the practical investment or to show off your artistic patronage, the procurement of art contributes to an overwhelmingly personal sense of culture, and always looks better than bare walls. From historic masterpieces to experimental contemporary trendsetters, the art world has made little distinction in bringing its wares to the e-market. Posters and prints exist in almost limitless supply, while auction houses and artist forums tap into slightly more original fare. If you’re serious about collecting, you’ll find great opportunities to support young, emerging talents (and, like any investment, it’s great to get in on the ground floor). Some of these sites will direct you to unknowns who suit your professed tastes in painting, sculpture or photography, while others feature their own editorial picks. Neither proves entirely reliable, but a vigilant eye and a lot of patience on your part could lead you to discover the next great hope of a generation. Then again, maybe you aren’t after prestige pieces, but prefer the handiwork of foreign cultures. From pottery and carvings to traditional painting and etching styles that have been passed down through the ages, ethnic crafts serve as authentic reminders that variety existed once upon a time, before American influence put virtually the entire planet in blue jeans. Lastly, whether it’s a childlike hobby or an adult passion, collections of coins and stamps can grow considerably with a little web savvy. Of course, the kitschy memorabilia of mass-produced American pop culture proves collectible in its own right, whetheryou’re talking about tin lunchboxes or limited-edition commemorative plates. You’ll find them amid lists of antiques of a finer nature, from all eras and cultures, for the serious or casual collector. Indeed, what they say is true: beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It just also happens to be in the window of your web browser.
These suggestions should help prevent your cultural purchases from offending the senses.
• COLOR DISCREPENCIES • Differences in monitor settings and digital image compression often means that the image you see online of a painting, print or poster may not match up precisely to the actual colors of the item. Usually, this is a trivial difference.
• CERTIFY AUTHENTICITY • Original artwork, antiques, collectibles and memorabilia can be a very large investment. Online, as in person, it is very important that you receive a valid certificate of authenticity with your purchase. Make sure the online seller guarantees such certification before you make your purchase, and definitely make a phone call if you are uncertain.
• CHECK FRAMING OPTIONS & COSTS • In some cases, you may anticipate paying a lot for a specific item, and will be ready to make your online purchase. However, some merchants may be in the habit of including default framing options that run up the price of the work. When buying framed artwork, be sure you’re not paying more for the frame than you are the art itself.
• SHIPPING INSURANCE • As with any valuable long-distance purchase, you’ll want to be sure your merchandise is insured during transit. This section in particular includes many fragile and/or one-of-a-kind pieces, and it’s a safe bet to be covered in case your order shows up in pieces. When in doubt, call before ordering.
• SHIPPING WEIGHTS & COSTS • Heavy frames, bulky materials and odd sizes can significantly drive up the cost of shipping art items. Before you agree to a purchase, take note of the shipping methods and rates offered by your vendor, so you don’t find too big a surprise on your credit card bill.
• REMEMBER WHY YOU BUY • Impulsive purchases are easy to make online, but if you’re going to relish your art purchase, most of the time you’ll want to take a moment to consider whether you’re buying something because you appreciate its artistic sensibilities, or whether you simply think it will look cool filling an empty spot in your home. More importantly, you might want to take measurements to make sure the artwork in question will actually fit in that spot.
AHS.com The American Historic Society · 818-442-0324
The American Historic Society has some stamps, and a few sports collectibles, but the bulk of this catalog consists of money– not the kind you save but the kind you keep, if you can dig the difference. From long-since-obsolete Confederate coins and banknotes to MPCs (Military Payment Certificates) and even the newest state quarter editions, pretty much the entire history of the US mint may be traced here on any given day. Then there are some novelty entries, such as “the world’s luckiest coin” and a colorized two-dollar bill, along with ancient and foreign currency that just looks like funny money.
AllPosters.comAllPosters.com · 888-654-0143
Somewhere between wallpaper and paintings there are posters. You can’t find a less expensive way to fill your walls with the indelible images of great artists, and this specialty retailer knows how to make it easy for you to find them. Of course, it’s not all high-culture here, as there’re plenty of movie posters, celebrity glamour shots and spectacular athletic moments captured on film, each equally easy to locate. Finally, there are harder-to-categorize images, like pictures of unicorns or a baby playing the drums; and yet somehow even these may be found without difficulty.
AmericanFrame.comAmerican Frame Corporation · 888-628-3833
Mats and frames do more than just protect a poster, painting or print, they also help your eyes separate the color and design elements of the artwork from the bland reality of the wall it hangs on. Here you’ll find a great selection of both wood and metal frames in all conceivable dimensions, plus mats in a variety of colors and textures. You’ll also find custom-sized Plexiglass, which is lighter and stronger than regular glass, known to cause less distortion and, in some cases, is resistant to UV rays– because sometimes the art does need protection.
AncientArt.co.uk Ancient Art Online · 011-44-208-882-1509
This site may be your chance to get a hold of “authentic ancient artifacts.” Pretty cool, huh? The selection ranges from Roman coins and Greek swords to the handwritten pages of a medieval Bible. Lest you think the selection strictly Eurocentric, you can also find Egyptian beads and Chinese pottery dating from the Ming, Yuan, Han or Tang dynasties. And if that makes you wonder just how ancient these artifacts get, look to the Fossils category, where you’ll find such desirable dinosaur items as eggs, bones and dung– all right, so not all of this stuff is expressly beautiful, but it’s never less than fascinating.