Just Say “No” … to Mass-Produced “Collectibles”

In the ‘90s our local Elks Lodge used to host a flea market in their parking lot one weekend every August. My daughter Natasha (then just a youngling) and I would stop by and browse for an hour or so.

Worth $2,000,000??!

Worth $2,000,000??!

One year she noticed a seller with a quantity of Beanie Babies. (These toys had been around for a number of years by this time and she had a small collection.) As we approached the stall, we noticed several in plastic bags in a glass case.  These were his “rare” ones, the ones priced at $100-200. And I remember thinking if I was going to spend $100-$200 on something, it wouldn’t be for a cheap, newly made, mass-produced plushie toy from China.

Frankly, I’ve never understood the Beanie Baby craze. Never. But just for fun I looked on eBay the other day for “rare Beanie Babies” and found a 1997 “Museum Quality” Princess Di bear for $2,000,000.  Yes, you read correctly…two million dollars! I also found several in the $100,000-$250,000 price range. At the time of this writing there were dozens of these “rare” bears available just on eBay alone. Then I checked on a site for completed auctions for rare Beanie Babies, and let’s just say, the prices people have actually paid are considerably less…the most being $1,400, which still sounds really crazy to me!  But I suspect most people who snapped these up at $5 a pop back in the day thinking that they would one day be valuable, are pretty disappointed…they’ll be lucky to make a buck now at a garage sale.

Along the same lines and closer to home, in the ’70s my mother started collecting Franklin Mint plates. She thought they were pretty, but more importantly, the sales flyer said they would eventually be worth a lot more than the $15-20 purchase price.  They were an “investment.” She bought dozens of these plates, and to her credit she did display a few in our dining room, but most were stored in their boxes in a closet waiting for that magic day when she could sell them and make a lot of money. Alas, that day never happened, and after she died my dad tried to give them to my brothers and me, but honestly, we didn’t want them. And they weren’t even worth enough for me to bother shipping them to my house to sell them. In the end, most went to charity.

My advice, just say “NO” to mass-produced collectibles. As an investment, they’re doubtful, or as one financial writer says, they are “highly subjective in value.And with so many other options for amazing vintage and artisan offerings, I’m thinking why waste your money?

So, what do I say YES to?

Well, for one… old sterling silver. It’s beautiful, functional and holds it’s value.

kerrcase1_WEB

Sterling cigarette case, circa 1890s.

I recently bought this antique sterling cigarette case made by William B. Kerr Co.  It’s SO beautiful that I get pleasure just from looking at it. But this isn’t a display-only, mustn’t touch item. In fact, it’s my new wallet, but it could be used for pills or business cards too.  And if I decide to sell it someday, I have no doubt that I will at least make my money back. But even if I just sold it for scrap, at today’s current silver prices it’s still worth $70.

Another fav…antique horn cups.

An old Scottish horn cup ready for a wee drop.

Over the years, I’ve bought a few of these antique horn cups. Last year I decided to sell four from my collection and was surprised by how quickly they sold. As I thought about it, I realized what drew me to them obviously resonated with others too: the elemental beauty of natural horn, the simple lines, the quality workmanship and their age. So much better than Beanie Babies!

Okay, now its your turn…’fess up…what do you collect and why?

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8 comments

  1. Love this post. We collect things that have beauty, vintage Lamps, vintage pottery and art. Things that we’re created by other human beings that had passion for all things beautiful, not because they had to be beautiful but because they wanted them to have beauty. A cigarette case doesn’t need to have beauty, but why not make beautiful. I believe we’ve lost this sense of beauty in our culture today.

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  2. I tried to teach my kids, and my antique and flea market loving sister, that if it says “collectible” on the box, then it’s not. I also avoid anything that a professional designer tries to sell me. “No thanks, the one pretty box will be fine. I don’t need the two matching ones in different sizes to ‘complete’ the look.” Sheesh.

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    1. Thanks Alison! I’m always amazed at what people will waste their money on. I’m looking forward to spending some time on your blog…I’m definitely “an old soul trapped in a new body.” (Okay, well the body is not so new anymore, but still!)

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