Collector’s items are also referred to as collectibles (or collectables). They are objects with certain qualities or characteristics that someone considers interesting, memorable, meaningful, attractive, or valuable. The word “valuable” is key here. What one person considers valuable another person may not. Collecting is a hobby for those who consider valuable to mean “of personal importance”. Alternatively, for others who interpret valuable to mean monetarily important, collecting is an occupation.
Collecting as a Pastime
Collecting collectibles as a pastime is an activity someone performs regularly for fun or leisure. Collector hobbyists collect items for themselves. Items that they feel have personal significance. Their process of deciding if an item is collectible is purely subjective. As long as they like it, what anybody else thinks is of little importance. Take a look at our Collectibles Videos.
Collecting Collectibles as an Occupation
Conversely, occupational collectors purchase collector’s items primarily for profit hoping to get a return on their investment. The word occupation literally means “a line of work” and “a way of spending time”. Accordingly, an occupational collector spends time collecting as a profession. For them choosing which item to collect is not just about what they themselves think. Instead, it mainly depends upon what others think. Therefore their decision process is an objective one. They must ask themselves, “how likely is it that someone else will want to buy this when I’m ready to sell it?”. The more people agree that an item is worth owning the more likely it is that the collector will be able to re-sell it. In addition, when choosing a collectible the occupational collector considers the quantity, quality, and popularity of the item.
The occupational collector takes a look at how many units of the item were originally produced, how many still actually exist, and how many are currently available on the market. If an item was produced in very small numbers it is referred to as a “limited edition”. Limited editions are definitely viewed as collectibles. Usually, the item’s specific edition number is written somewhere on the item itself. Moreover, it should come with a corresponding certificate, known as a Certificate of Authenticity (or COA), which specifies the exact same number. For example, an item marked “22/500” means that out of 500 items produced that particular item was the 22nd one made. Even more desirable is an item with edition numbers close to the beginning of production and toward the end of production (i.e. 8/500 or 460/500).
The quality of an item depends on its craftsmanship. Collectors take a close look at the workmanship. They evaluate the type of materials used, the technique and level of skill involved, as well as the attention to detail.
Quality for collectors also refers to the item’s condition. There are grading systems used to convey the condition of an item. here are some examples:
- 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.
The popularity of an item is also important to the occupational collector. However, the public’s interest in an item can change based on several factors including social trends, media exposure, environmental impacts, and related newsworthy events. Take lava lamps for example. They were a big hit from the 1960s through most of the 70s. By the end of 1979 however interest in the lamps died down. Then, with the release of the Austin Powers Movie “Spy Who Shagged Me” and “That 70’s Show”, lava lamps got their groove back. In 2000 the US supplier Mathmos sold over 800,000 units. Examples of additional factors that can cause an item’s popularity to fluctuate include the artist passing away; the release, re-release, sequel, or prequel of a hit movie, television show, or comic book; a manufacturer retiring an item or entirely closing down; and changing technology.
Moreover, most occupational collectors before buying (or selling) an item comparison-shop. This means they compare the prices of the same or similar items offered by other vendors. Doing this gives them a starting point for establishing a fair price.
What is a Collection of Collector’s Items?
A collector usually looks for collector’s items that are unique unto themselves yet of the same type (i.e. Pez Pirate, Pez Doctor, Pez Astronaut). Accumulating, sorting and grouping the collector’s items based on their common denominator is referred to as a collection. An example would be an art collector who acquires paintings. Although every painting is different, art can still be sorted and grouped by type of painting. In this instance, the types could be grouped by artist name (i.e. Picasso); materials used (i.e. oil paint); concept/subject matter ( i.e. naked ladies); or period in history (i.e. romanticism). Another example could be a postage stamp collector who might sort/group the items into types according to country; holiday; persons of interest (i.e. celebrities or presidents); issue date; or monetary value.
The Benefit of Collector’s Items?
When asking the question “why collect?”, both collector hobbyists and occupational collectors do it for the reward. They collect collector’s items, whether consciously or subconsciously, because of the ultimate financial, mental, or emotional benefits. A serious long-term collector might say the reward is the eventual monetary bonus. Alternatively, for some the reward is knowledge. They devote themselves to learn about and understand, the origins of particular types of items. And for others, the reward is a positive feeling. A strong sense of achievement after finally completing an entire collection; a sense of control or stability stemming from ownership; excitement from the thrill of the collectible hunt.
Another benefit of collecting collectibles is having total recall. Some collectors acquire specific items because they represent a specific life event or other memory from their past. Recalling those memories makes them feel good. Sometimes the nostalgia can even make them feel youthful again. This is particularly true with entertainment collectibles. Entertainment collectibles are items based on movie, television, cartoon and comic book themes. Most of us growing up had a favorite character that made us feel a certain way. Cheerful because they made us laugh; safe because they were protectors; less alone because they were relatable; or ambitious because they inspired us. Collectible memorabilia are tangible reminders of those feelings. According to experts memorabilia even plays an important role in helping Alzheimer’s patients remember people, places, and events.
Maintaining Collector’s items
Once a collector’s item is acquired, it is important to maintain its condition so that it keeps its value. The item should be stored in a safe place where it won’t get stolen, broken, or water damaged. There are companies that make protective materials specifically for safely storing and maintaining collectibles.
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