15 Tips To Assess Collectibles

15 Tips To Assess Collectibles

15 Tips To Assess Collectibles

As an avid collector and Collectibles Store owner, I often meet people that want to invest in collectibles but are hesitant to do so because they don’t know how to determine authenticity or monetary value.

This “15 Tips To Assess Collectibles” article explains how to quickly analyze an item to ascertain if it is a true collectible worth the investment because conducting extensive research on an item and/or getting it professionally appraised is not feasible for everyone.

Therefore, to make a guesstimate, just take into account these 15 Tips To Assess Collectibles:

1. Establish Age

Look for a copyright date (normally found on the back, the bottom, and/or the packaging) because it indicates the year the item was released. The older an item is, the more valuable it is. An item that is 100+ years old is an “antique”. An item that is at least 20-years-old (but less than 100) is “vintage”.

Establishing Age Example


2. Deduce Availability

Make an educated guess based on the approximate age if the item is still in circulation. If it has been retired from market shelves, as opposed to still being distributed and publicly available, it is worth more money. The longer it has been out of circulation the harder it is to find which makes it more valuable.

Availability Example


3. Check if quantity produced was limited

If the item is marked with numbers (found on the front, back, or bottom) it indicates when the item was created out of the total quantity produced. An item produced in smaller limited quantities (as opposed to massive quantities) is referred to as a “limited edition” which is more valuable.

Also, the low edition numbers (i.e. 22/1200) and the high edition numbers (i.e. 1160/1200) are more valuable than the middle edition numbers (i.e. 714/1200). Furthermore, limited editions usually come with a Certificate of Authenticity (or “COA”) which provides information about the item as well as the item’s specific edition number.

Limited Edition Example


4. Consider Popularity

If an item’s function and/or design are universally known and well-liked, it is worth more money. Be aware that popularity often fluctuates due to social trends, media exposure, environmental impacts, and newsworthy events.

For example, lava lamps were a big hit in the 60s and early 70s but by 1979, interest in the lamps died down. But then, because of the “Spy Who Shagged Me” movie and the tv series “That 70’s Show”, lava lamps got their groove back.

Popularity Example


5. Determine the Brand

If the item has an iconic intellectual property, name, likeness, and/or logo (i.e. Star Wars or Coca-Cola) it is priced higher.

Brand Example Star Wars


6. Ascertain the Creator

Look for an autograph, signature, or mark on the item and read its packaging. If you are not familiar with the name specified, run a quick search to find out if they are/were well-established in their field. The more established, the higher the price (i.e. Tiffany)

Creator Example Tiffany


7. Think about Cultural Significance

Ask yourself if the item has aesthetically, scientifically, socially, or spiritually made an impact on past or present generations (i.e. Art Deco). If the answer is yes, it is more valuable.

Culturally Significant Example Art Deco


8. Think about Historical Importance

Ask yourself if the item is related to an event(s) that profoundly affected a lot of people’s lives (i.e. Militaria). If the answer is yes, it is more valuable.

Historically Significant Example Militaria


9. Examine if Original or Reproduction

Ultimately collectors want originals, not reproductions. Reproductions of original works that are produced by companies authorized to do so specify that they are reproductions. Reproductions can still be considered valuable but they are not as valuable as originals which are priced much higher.

Original vs Reproduction Example


10. Examine if Authentic or Counterfeit

Watch out for fakes that are being sold illegally under the pretense that they are what they say they are. Look closely for/at:

  • identifying marks (i.e. trademark symbol)
  • slight differences in the brand logo
  • slight differences in the brand design
  • slight differences in the spelling of the brand name
  • slight differences in the brand colors (i.e. Coca-Cola uses a specific red)
  • slight difference in stitching
  • place of manufacture.
Authentic vs Counterfeit Example


11. Inspect for Irregularities

Analyze the item to see if it is different from what it was intended to look like. For instance, a nickel that was misprinted with a three-legged buffalo (instead of the standard four-legged buffalo) is very valuable. The more unique and rare an item is, the more expensive it is.

Rare Example 3-legged bull nickel


12. Check for Promotional Release

Occasionally an item is released early to certain venues for promotional purposes (not for sale) after which it was never distributed to the public or after which changes were made. Promo releases are priced higher.

Promotional Release Example


13. Look for Autograph or Signature

Autograph is the handwritten signature of a famous public figure. Signature is a handwritten mark. An autograph or signature on the item always increases its value.

Autograph Signature Example


14. Scrutinize the Quality

How well an item is made determines its durability thus the higher price. Look closely at:

  • workmanship (i.e. stitching, fastening, welding)
  • materials used (i.e. real leather hyde vs synthetic fabric)
  • technique used (i.e. handmade vs factory)
  • skill level (i.e. the amount of detail)
Quality Example


15. Examine the Condition

An item is priced based on its physical appearance and mechanics in relation to its age (i.e. fading, chips, scratches, missing pieces, etc). With the exception of certain antiques, usually the better the condition the higher the value.

Normally an item’s condition is based on a grading system. Each industry uses its own grading system (i.e. grading coins is different from grading books). However, there are some general terms that can be applied to most items which are:

  • M (Mint): never used; in perfect condition.
  • MIB (Mint-in-box): never used; in perfect condition; in its original packaging complete with instructions and attachments (i.e. tags).
  • MNB (Mint No Box): in perfect condition but not in original packaging.
  • NM (Near-Mint): looks new; may or may not have the original packaging.
  • HTF (Hard-to-Find): rare.
  • EX (Excellent): barely used; no damage; minor signs of wear but hardly noticeable.
  • VG (Very Good): looks very good; has minor defects (i.e. chip or light color fading).
  • G (Good): used with defects; has medium defects (i.e. color loss, chips, cracks, tears, missing parts, dents, abrasions).
  • P (Poor): used heavily; severely damaged; beyond repair.
Condition Example

This concludes 15 Tips To Assess Collectibles. We hope you enjoyed this article about “15 Tips To Assess Collectibles”.

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