It’s okay to start small.

Garth Clark, an internationally respected expert in modern and contemporary ceramics, has first-hand experience when it comes to seeing a collector make the leap from farm league to major league.

When I interviewed Clark for an article on the Modern and Contemporary Ceramics Auction held by Cowans + Clark + DelVecchio on June 4, he spoke about a collector who was a longstanding client. When that person started buying from Clark + DelVecchio, he concentrated on ceramics priced in the hundreds of dollars. One day his habits changed, and the price point raised to more than $100,000. This person had the funds to buy six-figure ceramics, but he probably wasn’t comfortable with the market at first. What he needed was time.

“It tells you how it works,” Clark said. “People get their feet wet and buy a few things, and then they get ambitious. Mark [Del Vecchio] and I always had a huge affection for those people in New York who didn’t have a lot of money but would come in and say, ‘I love a piece. I’ve got to have it. Will you take payments?’ Them spending $200 a month paying off a piece, given their income, was like a millionaire spending $200,000.”

There are two important points here.

First, it’s okay to start small — to spend $300 for a piece of David Leach pottery, a Civil War CDV or a blue-and-white coverlet. Wise dealers don’t look down on such transactions, especially when the client wants to learn, increasing the chances for additional sales in the future.

Second, it’s not just about the money. It’s about passion. Some of the most fervent collectors aren’t affluent, but they are faithful. They spend what they can afford, building a great collection with the finances they have.

FYI: For information on Clark + DelVecchio, see their Web site here. For information on the June auction conducted by Cowans + Clark + DelVecchio, click on the Past Auctions tab at the top of the page on Cowan’s Web site here.