As a collector I'm nothing more than a loose thread on the lapel of Charles Saatchi's Saville Row suit. But life near the bottom (of the art market at least) doesn't mean than you can't buy first rate, important work with significant investment potential.
Consider these gems:
Thomas Ruff, d.p.b. 08, 12" x 16.5", signed and numbered c-print in an edition of 250 - Whitechapel made this edition available in late 2002 for a paltry $230. Although never resold at a major auction house, this photo has sold on ebay many times, most recently for $1,800!
Takashi Murakami, Homage to Francis Bacon (Portrait of George Dyer), 26" x 26" signed and numbered lithograph in an edition of 300 - Timing is everything when picking up these pieces and the time to buy Murakami lithos was last summer on ebay when they were selling less than $600. In earlier years, you could pick one up for less than $300. This piece sold a few months ago at Christies for $2,700.
John Currin, Rachel as 'The Hag', 12" x 17"signed and numbered giclee print in an edition of 200 - In conjunction with Currin's show there, the Serpentine Gallery sold this edition in 2003 for around $350. The print sold at Christies in September 2004 for $1,660. UPDATE: This print sold June 6 '05 at Phillips for $4,560.
Jenny Saville and Glen Luchford, Closed Contact A, 11.25" x 16.25" signed and numbered c-print in an edition of 25. The deal to beat all deals, Gagosian offered this piece in a custom made Plexiglas box that contained the print along with a stunningly produced exhibition catalog. The price: $500. I'm not kidding. There were three other images available and one of the other three is up for sale at Sotheby's on June 23 with a pre-sale estimate of 1,800 - 2,200 GBP ($3,260 - $3,985). I've seen the catalog alone sell for $200.
Sam Taylor-Wood, Looking Out, 6.5" x 22" signed and numbered c-print in an edition of 200. Counter Editions sold this print out in a flash a few years back with the lucky first purchasers snapping it up for only $660. It has since sold three times at auction for an average price of $2,885.
What do these works have in common? First, they are all by today's superstars. Second they are all first rate images and an example of the artist's recognizable style. Finally they are all signed and numbered. Too often when artists do special editions in large sizes, they create a second rate work that is barely identifiable as by the artist. But when they hit the mark, the work usually sells out quickly and resells at a tidy profit.
Of my best buys, the Glenn Brown and the Paul Pfieffer are your best bests for investment potential. However the Pfieffer has long ago sold out (dealers are now asking $3,000 - $4,000) and Serpentine will make you agree not to resell the Brown before they allow you to purchase one.
Just like truffles, sometimes the best pieces are found by keeping your nose to the ground and doing a little digging. My BIG hint for the fall: Whitechapel will be mounting a Richard Prince show and they will almost certainly produce an editioned work to accompany the show.