Compact collections have been a surprisingly great investment over the last decade.
Compacts’ strength is their availability: compacts used to be almost as common as purses among middle- and high-class ladies. Touching up makeup was a public event, and women wanted to have compacts that made a statement. Luxury compacts were sold by the thousands on cruise ships and in hotel gift shops. Soldiers in wars sent them home to their sweethearts. Best of all, they are surprisingly resilient. Fairly few have been damaged, rusted, or otherwise taken out of circulation.
Since 1980, putting on makeup has become less of a public event. Women wore less makeup, and rarely needed to touch it up, let alone in public. Disposable plastic powder cases replaced the older compacts. Compacts found their way into flea markets and antique shops. In the 1990s, supply and demand kicked in and the price of vintage compacts bottomed out. However, as more women go vintage, and the number of compacts sitting on shelves decreases, the price has jumped higher than ever.
Many people are putting together huge compact collections, and go out of their way to find special items and complete sets. It’s not uncommon to see bids on eBay between super collectors that drive the price of a single compact into the hundreds of dollars. If you see a vintage compact for a flea market price, it’s a good bet that you could turn a profit on it.
There are a wide variety of compacts to collect. Jeweled compacts, or compacts with large amounts of gold, are already overpriced everywhere you go, because the weak economy has driven many investors into precious metals. Still, there are many other valuable compacts that can be bought on the cheap and sold for a fortune. Generally speaking, older ones are more valuable. In particular, hand-painted compacts from the late 1800s are the most valuable. Unfortunately, because these objects were meant to be functional instead of works of art, there are limited records about when certain items were painted. To accurately date an object requires a very keen eye and a strong knowledge about different brands and styles. You can read up on the different brands and styles on blogs devoted to collecting compacts, like the one here: http://collectingvintagecompacts.blogspot.ca/.