Excerpt: 'Antique Roadshow Collectibles'

You may, nevertheless, be happy to have some help making your initial choice. So be aware, first, that there are different collecting styles. Some people like to collect items that are inherently useful, like eggcups or handbags. Others collect for shape or color or beauty, although none of these attributes is mutually exclusive. It will help to begin by noticing if the same sorts of things seem always to attract you. Maybe you're drawn to little round vases or certain shades of blue or electric trains? When you're wondering what to collect, keep notes of what attracts you, and look for patterns.

Once you've settled on a type of object, however, you should also realize that a collectible as simple as the eggcup, for example, is divisible into numerous collecting categories. There are silver-plate eggcups, treen (turned wood) eggcups, and ceramic eggcups; if you prefer one type of material to the others, then that's one possible way to collect them. There are also chicken-shape eggcups, and those painted with human faces, both of which allow the eggcup collector (or pocillovist) to generalize or specialize within the field. There are also, to further tempt collectors, souvenir eggcups, cups made in Art Deco styles, cups that are "Made in Japan," cups that are all yellow and white, and those that have one large end and one small-that is, doubles. Such a wealth of choice is hardly restricted to this one field. Twentieth-century glass or advertising memorabilia or toys can-happily-be broken down into the same sorts of specialties.

Don't forget the display element, either, when choosing what you want to collect. Functional or not, many collectibles are suited to being "cabinet pieces"-in other words, to being amassed solely for display rather than use. Wristwatches and vintage evening gowns may present a challenge, but shoes, toy soldiers, and Barbie dolls all lend themselves well to display. (Eggcups do, too.) So despite the fact that the item you've chosen to collect actually has a function, it can still be enjoyed as pure display. Catcher's mitts look super on a wall; and Andy Warhol, you can bet, never used those cookie jars.

What Makes a Good Collection?

A good collection, first and foremost, is composed of things you truly love. If it pleases you, if it reflects your own taste and individuality, it will be a satisfying and wonderful collection, whatever it is.

There is, nevertheless, a formal definition of a good collection, one established by the taste and preferences of the general community of your fellow collectors. When a category of object is of national or international interest, enthusiasts frequently set standards to help them evaluate their subject.

Consequently, when you decide to collect something really popular, like Fiesta ware or dolls, you should make yourself aware of how these things are classified by your fellow enthusiasts — of what makes one piece of Fiesta more desirable than another piece, for instance, or which are the really rare Shirley Temple dolls.

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