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Art as an Investment and Conspicuous Consumption Good


  • Benjamin R. Mandel


This paper provides a simple and empirically plausible model of artworks as investment vehicles. It reconciles the observation that average financial returns for collectibles are low and volatile with the theory of consumption-based asset pricing. Art assets are appealing both for their ability to transfer consumption over time and for their use as signals of wealth, as in the literature on the demand for luxuries. Adding art value to utility, returns also reflect this "conspicuous consumption" dividend; as a result, average financial returns are low. Risk premia for artworks are predicted to be modest or even negative. (JEL G11, Z11)

Suggested Citation

  • Benjamin R. Mandel, 2009. "Art as an Investment and Conspicuous Consumption Good," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1653-1663, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:99:y:2009:i:4:p:1653-63 Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.99.4.1653

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Dimson, Elroy & Rousseau, Peter L. & Spaenjers, Christophe, 2015. "The price of wine," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(2), pages 431-449.
    2. William N. Goetzmann & Luc Renneboog & Christophe Spaenjers, 2011. "Art and Money," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 222-226, May.
    3. Kim Oosterlinck, 2013. "Art as a Wartime Investment: Conspicuous Consumption and Discretion," Working Papers CEB 13-039, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    4. Pownall, Rachel A.J. & Wolk, Leonard, 2013. "Bidding behavior and experience in internet auctions," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 14-27.
    5. Spaenjers, Christophe & Goetzmann, William N. & Mamonova, Elena, 2015. "The economics of aesthetics and record prices for art since 1701," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 79-94.
    6. Luc Renneboog & Christophe Spaenjers, 2013. "Buying Beauty: On Prices and Returns in the Art Market," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 59(1), pages 36-53, February.
    7. Dimson, Elroy & Spaenjers, Christophe, 2011. "Ex post: The investment performance of collectible stamps," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 100(2), pages 443-458, May.
    8. Seth C. Anderson & Robert B. Ekelund & John D. Jackson & Robert D. Tollison, 2016. "Investment in early American art: the impact of transaction costs and no-sales on returns," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 40(3), pages 335-357, August.
    9. Renneboog, L.D.R. & Spaenjers, C., 2009. "The Iconic Boom in Modern Russian Art," Discussion Paper 2009-70, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    10. Andrew M. Jones & Roberto Zanola, 2015. "Does the law of one price hold in non-standard investment markets? Why selling picasso in New York is differents," ACEI Working Paper Series AWP-04-2015, Association for Cultural Economics International, revised May 2015.
    11. Verena Huettl & Heribert Gierl, 2012. "Visual art in advertising: The effects of utilitarian vs. hedonic product positioning and price information," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 23(3), pages 893-904, September.
    12. Jianping Mei & Michael A. Moses & Zur B. Shapira & Lawrence J. White, 2010. "Loss Aversion? What Loss Aversion? Some Surprising Evidence from the Art Market," Working Papers 10-10, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
    13. repec:eee:jeborg:v:140:y:2017:i:c:p:120-129 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Chi, Feng & Yang, Nathan, 2010. "Wealth and Status: Analyzing the Perceived Attractiveness of 2010 FIFA World Cup Players," MPRA Paper 23881, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Olivier Bos & Francisco Gomez-Martinez & Sander Onderstal & Tom Truyts, 2017. "Signaling in auctions: experimental evidence," Working Papers Department of Economics 585499, KU Leuven, Faculty of Economics and Business, Department of Economics.
    16. repec:eee:finlet:v:21:y:2017:i:c:p:186-189 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Jennie Bai & Jia Guo & Benjamin R. Mandel, 2013. "Going global: markups and product quality in the Chinese art market," Staff Reports 614, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    18. Guido Candela & Massimiliano Castellani & Pierpaolo Pattitoni, 2012. "Tribal art market: signs and signals," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 36(4), pages 289-308, November.
    19. Dominuque Sagot-Duvauroux, 2011. "Art Prices," Chapters,in: A Handbook of Cultural Economics, Second Edition, chapter 5 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    20. William Goetzmann & Elena Mamonova & Christophe Spaenjers, 2014. "The Economics of Aesthetics and Three Centuries of Art Price Records," NBER Working Papers 20440, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. de la Torre, Augusto & Didier, Tatiana & Pinat, Magali, 2014. "Can Latin America tap the globalization upside ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6837, The World Bank.
    22. Penasse, J.N.G. & Renneboog, L.D.R., 2014. "Bubbles and Trading Frenzies : Evidence from the Art Market," Discussion Paper 2014-068, Tilburg University, Tilburg Law and Economic Center.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • Z11 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economics of the Arts and Literature


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