One lucky man from Indiana bought a painting at a garage sale for a mere 50 cents more than a decade ago, only to realize last year that it was worth $10,000. In 2013, three lucky New Yorkers bought graffiti-style canvasses, priced at $60 each, from a Central Park stall. Unbeknownst to them, the artwork was by renowned, reclusive British street artist Banksy, whose works can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction.
Not all art collectors will see that unexpectedly big a return from investing in fine art, but there is money to be made over the long term.
Investing in antiques is a big business, worthy of its own index, the Mei Moses family of fine art indexes of art values. But according to Michael Moses, a founder of both the index and Beautiful Asset Advisors, art investing is not just for the very rich. "There's a painting for every purse," he told CNBC in a 2013 interview, adding that low-priced art tends to outperform more costly works. Someone with a $500,000 portfolio could consider putting 10 to 20 percent in illiquid assets, including art, he said.