Remember the 50s and early 60s, when everyone (well, just about every male, even the Beatles!) wore a necktie?
How times changed. By the late 1990s, ties were no longer "de rigueur," and Casual was "in."
But the tie hung on (no pun intended), and has begun to see a resurgence, not just as a formal accessory, but as an individual fashion statement. Men, like women, want to be noticed, and a necktie can provide the means to stand out from the crowd - in a usually tasteful way, of course.
A wonderfully apt example is a security officer I've seen at a local museum who sports an assortment of art ties (my favorite is of Edvard Munch's "The Scream") for which he is regularly complimented.
Though the best quality ties today are made of silk with rolled edges, it is the vintage ties of rayon or acetate with bold or unusual patterns that command the highest prices in the collectible market.
(Hint: never iron a rolled-edge tie as the iron will flatten the edges.)
Vintage neckties can command prices up to several hundred dollars at online auction markets. Some of the more desirable ties are those from the 1944-1952 period when bold patterns first appeared to reflect the exuberance of the times, hand-painted rayon ties, company logo and advertising ties, and "pop culture" ties bearing actors' images, fictional and cartoon characters, musicians, etc. For example, vintage Las Vegas logo ties from casinos that were torn down are presently fetching from $50 to $100+ at online auctions; Disney Scrooge McDuck ties are garnering $50 to $75+; a Hawaiian Hula Dancer tie just sold for $148.50; and original Salvador Dali designs are commanding up to $800, when you can find them.
Good places to seek out vintage ties at reasonable prices are yard sales, estate sales, and thrift shops like the Salvation Army. I recently stopped by the local Goodwill and found that ALL their ties, regardless of age, pattern, or design, were just $1.99 each. Of course, "finds" are hit-or-miss, but you just never know. (And $1.99 is not too bad a price, if you're a crafter, for good quality silk to fashion into quilts and other items.)
Some recent and new neckties, like the Jerry Garcia (The Grateful Dead), are considered "hot" right now. Will they increase in value? Since a collectible's upward potential is dependent upon the number of units sold now, and surviving, relative to future demand, it would be difficult to determine. In other words, your guess is as good as mine, so buy what you like. After all, you're probably going to wear it.
And, of course, the usual rules about condition apply, so always invest in the best specimens you can afford, as mint and near-mint pieces will generally hold or increase in value better than will those of lesser conditions.
By the way, don't forget about all those related items that collectors also seek out, such as magazine ads, tie tacks (defunct airline pieces are big right now), and bolo ties (also highly collectible).
If you'd like to learn more about this area of collecting, the following resources are highly recommended:
"Fit to Be Tied: Vintage Ties of the Forties and Early Fifties," by Rod Dyer, Ron Spark, Steve Sakai
"Popular and Collectible Neckties: 1955 To the Present," by Roseann Ettinger
"The Ties That Blind: Neckties 1945-1975," by Michael J. Goldberg
"Ties Ties Ties: Traditional Quilts from Neckties," by Janet B. Elwin
"20th Century Neckties: Pre-1955," by Roseann Ettinger
This commercial site offers an illustrated history of the necktie from 221BC China to the present.
Article by Richard Chang on the market for vintage ties.
KNOT (Kollectors of Nasty Old Ties)
Lots of pics of vintage ties, labels, ads, more--and a great list of links.
Nice site covers patterns, buying tips, how to tie ties, care for silk ties, more.
Dr. Ronald P. Spark's personal site. Collector and author of "Fit to Be Tied" (see books above) offers autographed copies.