Making money from collectibles requires commitment. Especially if your hobby focuses on more obscure items in the market such as cereal boxes, antique watches, band-aids or – umm – celebrity hair.
While there will always be a market for the weird and wacky, the chance of on-selling a collection of air sickness bags (some people will collect anything) at a great profit seems like a rather high-risk investment.
That’s not to say a valuable collection must adhere to more traditional avenues such as art, coins, comics, figurines or sports cards. Items like buttons, bottle caps and those ugly little critters from the ‘90s with fluorescent hair, troll dolls, are hugely popular. Some of the biggest earners on eBay are Disney products, vintage photographs and postcards, Christmas collectibles, empty perfume bottles, and royal memorabilia.
Toys can fetch hundreds, and even thousands, of dollars, proving they are not just child’s play. A statue of Astro Boy is listed on eBay for $5,000, while a life-size model of anime robot Gigantor is priced at $12,800. But that’s nothing compared to the crazy world of comics, where a collector recently paid $US1.1 million for a Spiderman original that sold for 12 cents in 1962 – and even that purchase falls $400,000 short of the record price paid for a comic book, featuring Superman. Even old biscuit tins can sell for triple digits. Just think of how many future collectibles have been relegated to the rubbish bin during household clean-ups over the years.
Brands can also be a great investment, provided they are popular and have stood the test of time. Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Mattell, and – believe it or not – Avon, are all highly valued in the collectibles market. Getting to know the brand, its history, evolution and the features that distinguish it will help you to find items that will increase significantly in value after a stint in the storage cabinet. Internet forums and brand-specific guides can help collectors develop this knowledge.
Ultimately, the value of a collectible is what someone is willing to pay for it. But regardless of what you collect, universal elements that will influence an item’s worth are:
- aesthetic appeal
Collectors should be wary about buying anything with a defect if they plan to on-sell, and always store items appropriately to preserve their condition.
Market value will also be determined according to the specific characteristics pertaining to an item. For example, a book will be valued according not only to its age and condition, but whether it is a first edition, limited edition or reprint, has been autographed by the author, is part of a scarce volume or set, and contains important text or physical markings.
There are several ways to help value your collection, or pieces of it:
- consult online and printed auction price guides
- keep an eye on online auction sites such as eBay to get a feel for demand
- see a local antiques dealer or appraiser to have your items valued – the Auctioneers and Valuers Association of Australia is a good starting point for finding a valuer in your area
- visit online collectors’ forums to locate people with a high level of interest and knowledge on a particular topic
- go to trade shows and conventions to talk with dealers about collecting
Concentrating on a particular area will help you to develop a good knowledge base and a sense for what you are looking for, so you don’t pay too much for an item and it will resell at a good price in future.
And remember, collectibles take time to increase in value, so unless you want to stare at an ornamental plate featuring Will and Kate for the next 20 years, think carefully about what you invest in.