While not everyone owns antiques, there's probably not a household in America that doesn't have-somewhere in the cellar, attic, or toy chest — something that someone somewhere considers a collectible. Thus, the collectibles market is fed by deaccessionings from thousands of retirees and simple chucker-outers. And it follows that the more of a thing that has been accumulated, the more things for collectors there will be. Metlox dinnerware, half-dolls, Beacon camp blankets — "If your Mom sold it at a yard sale," says Antique Roadshow pop-culture expert Gary Sohmers, "in twenty years, you'll want it back."
Tips for Collectors
Antique Roadshow appraiser Eric Alberta offers a few words of advice regarding collecting and investing:
Collectible is perhaps the most misunderstood and overused word in the English language. Two of its definitions are frequently used interchangeably. Collectible, "such as may be gathered," is an accurate definition of practically any object new or old. People often confuse this with another definition, "exchangeable for cash or value." Just because an item is described as "collectible" doesn't mean that you can exchange it for more than, or even as much as, you paid for it.
Dedicated collectors usually say that they collect for fun, and if the prices of their items increase, it's a bonus. If the value of their collecting area goes down, they can then afford to add more items to their collection.
In reality, however, most collectors rationalize and justify their passion with the thought that their collection is a good investment. As we all know, collecting is not necessarily rational. People who invest in memorabilia run the risks of fluctuating markets. What goes up can come down. A savvy collector recognizes rationalizations and assesses his tolerance for risk. The up side of collecting is that-monetary value be hanged!-whether your collection increases in value or not, you'll always have the pleasure of the objects themselves.
How Do You Decide What to Collect?
Actually, collectibles probably choose you. If you are thinking about starting a collection, however, and the choices seem almost limitless, the criteria you apply should be yours and yours alone. Whether you concentrate on excellence of manufacture or cuteness, your choice and collectible yardstick should reflect only your own preferences. Don't be influenced by what others collect or by what they have told you is a good thing to collect. And never, never — say Antique Roadshow appraisers in unison — collect purely as an investment. If the objects you can't help but love turn out to be unexpectedly valuable, that's a plus. Even if at first you're the only one around who is interested in Corgi toy garages, it's not altogether impossible that in years to come many people will want Corgi toy garages, a development that, naturally, will make you look smart while it makes your own collection that much more valuable. But if no one else ever shares your passion, it will still offer you the enormous satisfaction of both discovery and ownership. The real joy of collecting is a lifetime of pleasure and becoming more knowledgeable-not richer.