The Millionaire Next Door

Millionaires: 92% No Works of Art

In a recent New York Times article, the topic of  fake artwork was discussed.  Most millionaires [about 92%], however, do not have to worry about owning fake artwork because they don’t own art that has any market value.  

Art comes under the broad heading of tangible/collectibles.  I once wrote an article about the tangible/collectible myth for American Demographics

Surprisingly under 6% of the typical millionaire’s assets are held in such tangible or collectible forms such as antiques, coin and stamp collections, precious gems or WORKS OF ART.

But I wrote this article more than 25 years ago.  Have things changed since then?  Not a whole lot according to the IRS’s current analysis.  Overall among those millionaires with wealth of $2 million or more, only 1.3% of their wealth is held in ART!   Even this small percentage may be overstated given the fact that some very pricey art may likely be bogus.

Art is just one more asset category to which the large majority of millionaires I survey respond: “don’t own . . . never owned.”  The same is true for a variety of other assets that I have discussed in detail in Stop Acting Rich.  Only a minority of millionaires has ever owned a vacation home, boat, plane, wine collection, prestigious makes of motor vehicles, expensive suits, etc.

This is not to suggest that there aren’t any millionaires who got rich by investing in tangible/collectibles.  About 4.5% of millionaires indicate that their number one investment category is tangible/collectibles [the topic of a future blog].  These are some of the most interesting people that I have profiled over the years. 

Many people in this country are ambitious; they want to emulate those who are economically successful.  Marketers spend billions of dollars trying to convince people that “most successful and/or rich people” own a large portfolio of so-called upscale artifacts.  This is a myth today as it has been throughout the history of our economy. 


2 thoughts on “Millionaires: 92% No Works of Art”

  1. Mr. Stanley – what is the definition of “works of art” in this? I don’t mean to be obtuse, but if the millionaires in your study don’t own works of art, are their walls bare (aside from, I’m sure, family photos)? I’m just trying to figure out what is considered art in this context.

    thank you

  2. “Works of Art” in his article surely means above some value, I’d say $10K or even a bit higher, perhaps as high as $25K.
    Most houses I walk into don’t have that level of art on the walls. There are some beautiful decorations, and of course, family photos, but the art is most often prints. Nicely framed, a couple thousand dollars at best. The $2-$3M millionaire next door isn’t spending $100K (let alone $500K+) on his walls.

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