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Any success in Investing in Collectables
Old 10-25-2014, 05:39 PM   #1
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Any success in Investing in Collectables

Has anyone been successful in making money by investing in physical collectables as part of their investment strategy? (Maybe partly as a hobby and partly as an investment - and yes, I know collectables have unique risks for investments) Coins, stamps, art, cars, guns, toy trains, baseball cards, etc, etc. I haven't really made much money, if any, on cars and guns but I've done very well with collecting and buying and selling rare US coins. (also easy to store the expensive coins in a bank safe deposit box).

Any collectable financial success stories and/or ideas for the future?

Mods, feel free to move this thread if it belongs in another section.
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Old 10-25-2014, 06:24 PM   #2
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Subscribing because I'd like to know as well. I have zero interest in collectibles, but my parents have dozens of Hummels and exactly $0 in savings. They plan to retire next year (him 77, her 66) and their SS will barely cover the requirements. We (the kids) want them to sell the Hummels but my mom insists they want us to enjoy them after their passing. None of us want them! I'd much prefer for them to sell the Hummels and at least have an emergency fund in place.


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Old 10-25-2014, 06:56 PM   #3
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You can make money in coins if you know what you are doing. But most people don't try to make money, they just enjoy the collecting.

Collectibles as an investment are plenty risky. What might have been collectible for decades might become a dead zone (stamps). The hot market can go cold because the money people have moved on to something else (classic cars). It can become so oversupplied everyone loses interest (sports cards). And even within a field, certain areas can get hot and cold (coins are like that).

I think to increase the odds of becoming successful from the investing side, you either better become an expert or work with someone honest who is an expert.

And you need to be very well connected to what's going on in the market or you can end up holding the bag when things go cold. The rare coin market that boomed all through the late 1970's went into the dumper in April 1980 all at once. The rise in bullion prices through early 1980 meant many coin dealers had made incredible profits in 1979. And in April 1980, the income tax was due on those profits... and everyone needed to raise cash. The carnage lasted for years.
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Old 10-25-2014, 07:28 PM   #4
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Oh yeah, we're set for life. Between the Beanie Babies we inherited from MIL, the La La Loopsies DW is currently infatuated with, and my mint condition complete original Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers collection, we'll never have to work again. Also got MIL's silhouette collection, and a pretty nice collection of Fiestaware from GMIL.

Actually, we probably would have more money without the collections. We could live in a smaller house.
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Old 10-25-2014, 07:30 PM   #5
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Collectibles as an investment are plenty risky. What might have been collectible for decades might become a dead zone (stamps). The hot market can go cold because the money people have moved on to something else (classic cars). It can become so oversupplied everyone loses interest (sports cards). And even within a field, certain areas can get hot and cold (coins are like that).
Fully agree, collectables have their own unique risks, as I said in my original post. I haven't made much (if any money) on any collectables except for coins. For the last decade (or more) I have watched coin prices to be "generally" on the rise for the most part. Especially the rarer coins that have been certified and graded by NGC or PCGS with CAC stickers. Personally, I'll never buy another "rare" coin that hasn't been certified by NGC or PCGS. I have a number of them that have appreciated several times my original purchase price. However, it is true, the bottom could fall out at anytime.
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Old 10-25-2014, 07:32 PM   #6
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You have my sympathy, Harley.
I live in constant fear of DH's mother's collection of hundreds (I dunno, could be thousands) of pig themed figurines.


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Old 10-25-2014, 08:20 PM   #7
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Our strategy is beanie babies. Sacks of 'em. And duplicates of most (so DD and DS didn't fight over them). Market is down a little right now, but I think one should view it as a buy opportunity. Matter of fact, if your portfolio is in beanies, and you're interested in buying at bargain prices, let me know
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Any success in Investing in Collectables
Old 10-25-2014, 09:10 PM   #8
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Any success in Investing in Collectables

When I was de cluttering I found my old stamp collection. Mint US stamps from the 1950s through 1970s: worthless except as postage and how many 3-cent stamps can you fit on an envelope?

I also collected stamps from Hawaii when it was a territory. Barely got what I paid for used/ hinged ones. Got up to twice what I paid in the 1970s for mint never hinged but that's not much of a return! Moral: go for relatively rare and highest quality and it might pay off.
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Old 10-25-2014, 10:24 PM   #9
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While cleaning out Mom's house this past week I found a number of books of gold plated replicas of US stamps. I thought that might be something worthwhile, but a little eBay research shows little value and no demand. I probably got better value out of the 5 boxes of .32 long S&W ammo. The price on the boxes is $10.99, and it's going for ~$25 a box now.
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Old 10-25-2014, 11:01 PM   #10
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I was living in Los Angeles when the '84 Olympics were held. There was a collecting frenzy for olympic pins. We had secretaries running out a lunch time to buy pins (for expensive prices). I can't believe they are worth anything now.

Then there are the collectors of plates and goodies from the Hamilton Mint...

I collected antique model airplane kits years ago and sold them in the early 2000's when eBay started. Got out in time so to say.

I have a standing liberty half dollar collection (100+ coins) that are worth silver melt prices.

My SIL collected Avon bottles and when she passed, the basement was full of them. Totally worthless....couldn't give them away.
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Old 10-25-2014, 11:23 PM   #11
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I was collecting sterling silver items (flatware, hollowware, and such) several years ago. At the time, silver was not worth much, maybe $6-9 an once, and people were getting rid of grandma's silverware because keeping it polished was too much work. So I was able to pick up some nice pieces in antiques/consignment stores for close to melt value. With the rise in silver prices, it proved to be a good move. Same with my modest collection of 19th century US and European coins made of gold or silver.
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Old 10-26-2014, 07:10 AM   #12
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Fired, you reminded me of another onerous "collectible"...formal china, crystal, and flatware. My own wedding stuff is collecting dust, and Mom asked me to take hers as well. I have a friend who is stuck with four sets from her parents and grandparents. Unused, but hard to just take to Goodwill because of the family connection. She's moved three times and had to carry boxes and boxes of these items. At least I've technically got the room to store this stuff, but I don't see too many formal gatherings in my future entertaining plans to use it.

I doubt any of it, except the sterling flatware, has any resale value. And the Millennials I know don't even register for formal china any more. They might request Fiestaware or some other durable every day china, but long gone are the days of going to the department store for $50 stemware as a wedding gift, at least in my circle.


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Old 10-26-2014, 07:25 AM   #13
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20 years ago or so Magic The Gathering started to take off in popularity. It's a card game with collector aspects to it. Bought a mox pearl card as an investment, sold it six months later or so.

Made a 20% return on it I think. Sold way too early, but a nice experience nonetheless.

Based on that experience and others like it, I'd say:
  • Buy something where the market has an incentive not to produce more (i.e. not baseball cards), or where it is impossible to do so. Van Gogh paintings In my case the producer of the cards doesn't make money selling old cards, doesn't reprint, but keeps coming out with new series and rules. The old ones stay valuable and no other producer can make them (it's their game). This eliminates beanie babies and pet rocks for example. Old cars where the original manufacturer is still around is a good example (protect the brand exclusivity and allure), BMW, Porsche.
  • Go for the top items only. Collectibles tend to be winner-takes-all markets. An insider can give you easy access to that knowledge, but better to build your own expertise.
  • Buy something where the market is not solely dependent on collecting (like stamps) but has a different market around it. Van Gogh has a tourism industry tied to the NL, Magic cards have an active player community.
  • Avoid stuff that takes up a lot of space. Space means money to maintain. Old cars have this issue.


Where I would look now for opportunities? Tough to say.


Original marvel comic books would probably be a good buy a few years ago when the franchise was expanding in movies. If something similar exists in India or China (old popular manga comics with staying power), that would maybe be something.



Sports memorabilia could work too. Baseball bat that Barry Bonds hit his first homerun with for example. Or Babe Ruths lucky hat (if he had one).

Some thoughts.
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Old 10-26-2014, 07:30 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by FI by 2024 View Post
Subscribing because I'd like to know as well. I have zero interest in collectibles, but my parents have dozens of Hummels and exactly $0 in savings. They plan to retire next year (him 77, her 66) and their SS will barely cover the requirements. We (the kids) want them to sell the Hummels but my mom insists they want us to enjoy them after their passing. None of us want them! I'd much prefer for them to sell the Hummels and at least have an emergency fund in place.
My mother also had a couple dozen Hummels, some quite scarce (from the early 1950s). I remember thinking the same thing, and they were somewhat valuable at one time. But now they're mine and not so much. I looked at eBay not too long ago and noticed that their monetary value seems to have evaporated.
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Old 10-26-2014, 08:23 AM   #15
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Fired, you reminded me of another onerous "collectible"...formal china, crystal, and flatware. My own wedding stuff is collecting dust, and Mom asked me to take hers as well. I have a friend who is stuck with four sets from her parents and grandparents. Unused, but hard to just take to Goodwill because of the family connection.
Ha ha. We too have a beautiful set of China, purchased in 1992. We went all out that year, bought the china and a beautiful set of Brazilian leather living room furniture. (We were on assignment in NY) It has since been moved 4 times, but the china has never been used, still waiting for the "right occasion". Hopefully, my funeral. I'm not washing the damn thing..

Dad left a bunch of things he picked up in Japan just after the war. Stamps, coins, bills, photo cards. Some of the bills look like they may be collectible - in Japan. Nothing here. Mom also has a bunch of things. Hummels, Lladros, some crystal kitchen pieces that "have been in the family for generations". A few things might have some value, not nearly enough to contribute to a portfolio but enough to ignite a dispute among siblings. (Mom told me blah blah blah..)

Mom also collected coins. She has thousands of them, and in the past few years I've recorded and catalogued every single one, then put them in storage. I still find new stashes once in a while. She started collecting in the mid-70's. I'd say, at best and with lots of wishful thinking, she'd break even. Maybe a half dozen silver dollars and gold coins have seriously increased in value, all the rest are worth their nominal face value. She has the annual mint proof and silver proof coin set, often multiple copies, which will never be worth the purchase price.

I have no idea how to dispose if this when the time comes, but do know it'll set off a major dispute. The siblings all know there are "gold and silver coins" but otherwise have no idea, Mom has offered for years to give them to me or my kids, but I refuse, knowing it would only add gasoline to the eventual fire.

All this stuff could make for a nice hobby, selling stuff online. As for retirement finances and investing, I think for most of us (and our heirs) most of the time, collectables will be far more trouble than they're worth.
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Old 10-26-2014, 08:29 AM   #16
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I think some of us are "collectors" due to our DNA :cool smiley: ...as I come from a family of collectors and find that I enjoy the hunt in putting together a collection...

I still have a house full of collectibles and that's after selling (and buying ) my own collection for the past 20 + years. I actually inherited both my relatives collections as well as the gene that seems to make it all interesting.

As far as profitability, in my humble experience, it has been 75% luck and 25% knowledge...and I have made money on some things but I have also lost my a$$ on others....as others have aptly stated, the collectibles markets can be volatile
but then again so it the stock market. The collections have allowed me to fund my ER after the 2008 debacle that was/is BAC (there are other threads that can fill you in on my narrow sightedness )...by selling a little at a time, I have been able to avoid returning to the w*rkplace..so far.

The best advice I ever got regarding collecting was from my Uncle (more like a Dad) who offered to "collect something that you actually like...if you make some money great, if not, you have the enjoyment factor which can be more important than money."

With the friends that I have made thru my collecting, most of whom I have never met face to face, I can share and compare my latest find (as well as theirs)...discuss a possible purchase to be certain that I'm not buying the proverbial pig in a poke...and on the occasion that I might want/need to sell, I have an initial opportunity to sell to another enthusiastic party and a collector who will actually enjoy what I'm selling.

While I am certain there are other collectors who have been fortunate enough to make some quick money in collectibles, there are those that seem to have the ability to do the same with stocks, I would venture that most do not. If you have time on your side and can pick and choose when to sell, your odds of making a few $$'s will improve....

Good luck Car-guy....and if you haven't already, check out the Collectors Universe message boards...a great place to trade information and they also have a BST board ~ Collectors Universe Forums - U.S. Coin Forum
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Old 10-26-2014, 08:31 AM   #17
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I have some china; says "China" right on the bottom!

I have no doubt that "some" things appreciate in value, but for me, collectables = more stuff to dust, store, move, etc.

In an ongoing battle to get rid of stuff, not collect more...
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Old 10-26-2014, 08:42 AM   #18
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The best advice I ever got regarding collecting was from my Uncle (more like a Dad) who offered to "collect something that you actually like...if you make some money great, if not, you have the enjoyment factor which can be more important than money."
Ah, that would be my jewelry collection. I've been buying it since I had two dimes to rub together. It's all real- mostly 14K gold with a little platinum and some 22K gold items I bought in India. No major diamonds; the largest I have are 1/3 carat each. Diamond pricing is too flaky and the $$ involved in buying the bigger ones make them too high-stakes.

I keep most of it in a safe bolted to a shelf at home and periodically put back the rings and earrings I've been wearing the last few weeks and take out others to enjoy. I've had many pieces for decades so would probably make a good profit based on the meltdown value, but I'd rather wear them. I never had any illusion that they'd be an investment; still don't although at some point my heirs will have a pile of stuff to enjoy or sell. I hope my new baby granddaughter likes sparkly things!
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Old 10-26-2014, 08:46 AM   #19
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Ah, that would be my jewelry collection. .... I hope my new baby granddaughter likes sparkly things!
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Old 10-26-2014, 08:54 AM   #20
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My dad told me that when he first started collecting cars, he went to a lecture at a car meet and the speaker's topic was about collectible cars as an investment. Some of the points of the talk were to buy vehicles that were as complete or finished as possible because you'll never get back your time & material spent, to look for rare or unusual cars and to take care of the vehicles so they don't go down in value. Well, he's thinking of selling now but it looks like the cars are dropping in value in our area. It's younger car collectors that can't afford the vehicles, can't drive a manual transmission or can't/don't have the knowledge to work on the older cars. My husband and I go to Carlisle Fairgrounds for the car events a couple of times every year. It use to be wall to wall people shopping the vendor aisles. Now, some of the events, you don't see as many people shopping and with some of the events you see newer cars parked on the "fun field" and the older owners pitch tents and sit around their cars and socialize all day. Part of the reason is the aging of the car hobbyist and being able to find car parts online without having to hunt through all the vendors selling junk and tube socks.

I have five sets of new and antique china but I use them all the time. My mom saves her china to use for company and special dinners. Use your china!
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