Art collecting often seems like a rich man's game, open only to the rarefied few who can plunk down millions of dollars without breaking a sweat. But the recent death of Herbert Vogel, one of America's most famous art collectors, points to another art world, one in which a pair of middle-class workers, following their passion and their pocketbook, can build a world-class collection.
Neither Herb Vogel nor his wife, Dorothy, was rich. A high school dropout, Herb worked as a postal clerk, while Dorothy worked in the Brooklyn Public Library. Given their limited funds -- her salary paid for household expenses, while his paid for art -- they focused on the cutting edge of the art world, where prices were lower and investments had more room to appreciate. Their rules were simple: They had to love what they bought, be able to easily afford it, and it had to fit into their tiny, one-bedroom apartment.
Their cutting-edge strategy and careful choices eventually bore fruit. The Vogels amassed one of the most significant modern art collections in the U.S., a treasure trove of almost 5,000 sculptures, paintings, and prints that they later donated to 51 museums across the country, including the National Gallery of Art.
The Vogels were not traditional investors, and many experts argue that their ability to predict which artworks would become culturally significant was unique, and can't be replicated. That may be true, but while the Vogels' "artistic eye" may have been lightning in a bottle, their choices reflect sound, classic investing principles that are relevant whether you're buying sculptures or shares of stock.
Below, we've compiled a few of the lessons that their extensive collecting history offers to art lovers and value investors!