Collectors Items Explained

Collectors Items Explained

Last updated on August 13th, 2020 at 05:18 pm

Collectors Items Explained

In this article, we will discuss what Collectors Items are, who collects them, how to determine what they’re worth, ways to tell if they’re authentic or fake, how to protect them, why people collect them, and what constitutes a “collection”.

What Are Collectors Items?

What is meant by the term “Collectors Items” (also known as a “collector’s items”)? Well, true Collectors Items are objects that were made for a high-end market specifically targeted for collectors.  Such as a special edition, a numbered limited-edition, and a commemorative.

Collectors Items can also be things that are of historical significance, the first of its kind, the only one of its kind (i.e. only 1 made or the only one made with a flaw), or hard-to-find/rare.  In addition, things that have been signed, autographed, used, worn, or made by a notable public figure (“memorabilia”) are also Collectors Items.

The broader sense of the term “collector’s item” can mean an object which someone deliberately collects in order to expand or complete a collection which is also called a “collectible” (or “collectable”). All Collectors Items are collectibles but not all collectibles are Collectors Items.

The definition of a “collectible” is an object that has certain qualities or characteristics which someone finds interesting, memorable, or meaningful. Therefore, what is considered a “collectible” is subjective. Alternatively, a collector item is something that is important for factual reasons rather than personal reasons.

Much like the term “valuable” which is also a subjective term because it can mean something “of personal importance” or it can mean something that “has monetary worth”. In this article, we are discussing items specifically for collectors and the item’s monetary worth.

Determining How Much Collectors Items Are Worth

There are several things that can be done to determine the monetary worth of Collectors Items. Firstly, you can have items appraised by a professional. Secondly, you can appraise the items yourself.

Get Collectors Items Professionally Appraised

Professional appraisers are accredited experts with ethical standards who are paid to analyze a person’s tangible personal property and give an opinion of the item’s value. They have a formal education in appraisal theory which includes specialty courses in principles, procedures, ethics, and law.

Upon completion of the course, they are tested for certification by an appraisal association. An appraiser must also accumulate a certain number of hours doing hands-on training as an apprentice in a variety of fields such as auctions, art galleries, estate liquidation, insurance, museums, or antique dealers.

Furthermore, in addition to making an assessment based on their education and work experience, the appraiser’s methodology also includes utilizing various business tools such as comparing the item’s condition to an industry grading scale and conducting research.

After thoroughly analyzing an item, an appraiser provides a written report with a detailed description of the item, the item’s Fair-market value (what a buyer would pay you), the items’ replacement value (what it would cost today at retail), and the procedures used to establish that value amount.

Appraisers usually charge a flat fee or an hourly rate (about $200 to $400 depending on their expertise). They SHOULD NOT, however, ask for a fee based on a percentage of the item’s value. Moreover, it’s a violation of professional ethics to offer to buy any items they have appraised.

To find a qualified professional appraiser to appraise your Collectors Items, you can check with various societies, associations, estate liquidation services, and auction houses such as:

Do Your Own Appraisal of Collectors Items

On the other hand, you can evaluate the Collectors Items yourself to get an approximate appraisal value. Start by doing some comparison shopping. Visit places that sell similar items to get the selling price and speak with the owners about consumer interest in the item.

Next, do some research on the internet. Check price guides and auction websites to see the amount an identical or similar item sold for and the date when it was sold. Pay attention to the purchase price of items that have sold (and make a mental note of the asking price for items that haven’t sold).

Here are some websites that are great for conducting research:

Additionally, answering the following questions will help you to determine how much Collectors Items are worth:

  1. What is the copyright year? When was the item made? The older it is, the more valuable it is. Items made 100+ years ago are considered “antiques”.
  2. Is it rare or retired? If an item is no longer being distributed, available, or in circulation, it is considered “hard-to-find” and is therefore worth more.
  3. What is the production quantity? How many units of the item were originally produced? If an item was produced in a small quantity, check to see if it is numbered. The item’s specific edition number should be written somewhere on the item itself. Numbered items, referred to as “limited-editions”, are considered more valuable.

    A low edition number (i.e. 22/1200) and a high edition number (i.e. 1160/1200) are more valuable than the middle numbers (i.e. 714/1200). Also, limited-editions should come with a Certificate of Authenticity (or “COA”) which specifies the editions number.

  4. Is it a popular item? How well-liked is the brand name? The more famous, the higher the value. Note that the public’s interest in an item often fluctuates based on several factors including social trends, media exposure, environmental impacts, and other newsworthy events.

    Take lava lamps for example. They were a big hit in the 60s and early 70s but by 1979 the interest in the lamps died down. Then, because of the Austin Powers movie “Spy Who Shagged Me”, and the television series “That 70’s Show”, lava lamps got their groove back.

  5. How reputable is the distributor/manufacturer? Companies that have been in business for a long period of time are more experienced thus well-known for their craftsmanship which makes the item worth more (i.e. pewter by Rawcliffe).
  6. Is the creator alive? Typically, if the creator/artist has passed away, the item usually increases in value.
  7. Does it have cultural significance? Items that aesthetically, scientifically, socially, or spiritually had an impact on past or present generations are more valuable.
  8. Does it have historical importance? Items in connection with events and developments that profoundly affected a lot of people’s lives which made an impact on our history are more valuable.
  9. Is the item genuine/authentic? There is a difference between “real” and fake/counterfeit. Look closely for: identifying marks; slight differences in the logo, design, spelling, colors (i.e. Coca-Cola uses a specific red); and place of manufacture.
  10. Is it different from what it was intended to look like? For instance, a nickel that was misprinted with a three-legged buffalo is very valuable (as opposed to the standard/intended four-legged buffalo).
  11. Was it a promotional release? For instance, does the item feature original artwork that was then replaced on subsequent releases? Promotional releases are typically priced higher than regular/standard releases.
  12. Is it signed/autographed? The signature or autograph of a famous public figure on the item always increases the value.
  13. What is its quality (how it was made)? Take a close look at the workmanship (i.e. the stitching, fastening, welding), materials, technique (i.e. handmade vs factory), and level of skill (i.e. amount of detail). High-quality items are more durable, last longer, and priced higher.
  14. What is its condition (physical appearance)? How well has it aged? Look for fading, chips, scratches, missing parts, original packaging, etc. The better the item’s condition (and its packaging if applicable), the higher the value.

    Collectors usually convey an item’s condition based on a grading system. Each industry uses its own grading system (i.e. grading coins is different than 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): slightly less than perfect; used but looks new.
    • 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.

What Is A Collection Of Collectors Items?

Accumulating, sorting, and grouping items together based on their common denominator is referred to as a “collection”. Collectors usually look for Collectors Items that are unique unto themselves yet are of the same type (i.e. Pez Pirate, Pez Doctor, Pez Astronaut).

For instance, a stamp collector might sort/group the items into types according to country, holiday, persons of interest (i.e. celebrities or presidents), issue date, or monetary value. An additional example is an art collector who acquires paintings.

Although every painting is different, art can still be sorted and grouped by the artist (i.e. Picasso), the materials used (i.e. oil paint), the concept/subject matter ( i.e. naked ladies), or the period in history (i.e. romanticism). Serious collectors strive to obtain every item created that fall into their type of interest in or to have a complete collection.

How Should Collectors Items Be Protected?

Once a collector has acquired their precious item, protecting their investment so that it retains (and increases) its value is of the utmost importance.

Get Collectors Items Insured

Depending on the monetary worth of your valuables, you may want to consider getting your items insured so that you are covered in the event they are damaged or stolen. Not all homeowner insurance policies provide coverage for all collector items.

You should speak to a representative from your insurance company to discuss your current coverage. Some companies will add a “rider” (itemizing the items) to the existing policy in order to provide increased coverage for your possessions.

If the appropriate changes can’t be made to an existing policy, there are “specialty” insurance companies/agencies that will provide adequate coverage for certain expensive items. Check out this YourAAADaily article for advice. Here are some more collectibles insurance links:

Additionally, it’s a good idea to prepare a record of your inventory before meeting with the insurance company. There are companies that sell collection organization software such as PrimaSoft and Collection Database Software that can be used to accomplish such a task.

Maintain The Condition Of Collectors Items

Carefully decide where and how to display or store Collectors Items to preserve their condition. The environment surrounding the item is a key factor affecting its preservation. They should be put in a safe place where they won’t get damaged, stolen, or exposed to mishaps. Here are some quick tips:


Some Quick Do and Don’t Tips
Keep away from direct sunlight
keep in a dry place
keep in neutral climate
keep away from a child’s reach
keep in original unopened packaging
Don’t place in direct sunlight
Don’t place near water
Don’t place by a heater
Don’t place near a ledge
Don’t clean with chemicals


Direct sunlight will make them fade, too much heat makes them brittle/melt, water/dampness will make them mold, too close to ledges they might get knocked over/fall, and close to doors they might get stolen. There are companies that make protective materials specifically for safely storing special items. Check this Life Storage Blog and this Bags Unlimited blog.

What Are The Benefits Of Owning Collectors Items?

There are many reasons people find it rewarding to own Collectors Items: financial stability because they can be sold later at a profit; a sense of achievement when an entire collection is completed; a sense of control or stability stemming from ownership; excitement from the thrill of the hunt; and learning about its origins reap the benefits of knowledge.

Moreover, another benefit of collecting is the nostalgia associated with the items because they are tangible reminders of specific life events or other memories from our past. Recalling those memories makes people feel good. Sometimes they can even make someone feel youthful again.

Take entertainment collectibles for example. Growing up most of us had a favorite character that made us feel cheerful because they were funny, safe because they were protectors, less alone because they were relatable, or ambitious because they inspired us.

According to some experts, memorabilia can even play an important role in helping Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients remember people, places, and events. Items can provide notable cues of things that happened in the past which gives them something to talk about. Having memories also helps them to feel independent.

Who Collects Collectors Items?

People who collect Collectors Items come from all walks of life all over the world. Some collect as a hobby and others collect professionally.

Occupational Collectors

The word occupation literally means “a line of work”. Accordingly, an occupational collector spends time collecting Collectors Items as a profession. They collect Collectors Items primarily for profit wanting to get a return on their investment.

An occupational collector has to think objectively when deciding what to collect. It’s not just about what they themselves think about a particular item. Instead, their decision is primarily dependent upon the opinion of others. They must ask themselves how likely is it that someone else will want to buy the item when they are ready to sell it.

Collector Hobbyists

As opposed to an occupational collector, for a collector hobbyist, deciding what item to collect is purely subjective. They collect items that have personal significance. All that matters is that they like it and what others think about it is of little importance.

Case in point, as an example, here is a list that specifies certain types of hobbyists and the various oddities they collect:

    • Ambulist: collects walking sticks
    • Archtophilist: collects teddy bears
    • Arenophile:  travels to different beaches to collect beach sand
    • Brandophilist or Infulaphilist: collects cigar bands
    • Brolliologist: collects umbrellas
    • Conchologists: collects animal shells
    • Digitabulist: collects thimbles
    • Fractatestaology: collects broken pottery pieces
    • Helixophilist: collects corkscrews
    • Labeorphilists: collects beer bottles
    • Logogriphist Cruciverbalist: collects crossword puzzles

If you find these types of collectors amusing, go to our YouTube Channel and check out the video about the “Top 20 Strangest Collections In the world”.

In addition, here are some links to other “collector” content you may find interesting:

Also, you may want to check out our Collectibles News website to stay current on what’s happening in the world of collectibles.

We hope you enjoyed reading this Collectors Items article. Now that you know more about Collectors Items, you are ready to begin a collection of your own. Start by visiting our collectibles shopping page.

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