The Worth of Things

After a while, a question comes to every collector and that is, “How much is this stuff worth?”  Yes, no matter how much he or she enjoys collecting, a person starts to wonder if the items have a dollar value, as well as intrinsic value.  There are three ways a collector can find out about an item’s value:

  1. eBay—very simple, you enter the name of your item and find out what it sells for.
  2. Terapeak—same deal with this site, except that you have to sign up for it first.
  3. Professional Appraisal—this is good for jewelry, silverware, paintings, historical items, sports memorabilia, decorative objects and porcelain items.  Auction houses will do appraisals for a fee.

Of course, how can you tell if today item will be tomorrow’s collectible?  Good question.  There is no way to accurately predict what will be a treasure and what will be trash.  Still, there are some things to look for and they are:

  1. Rarity—the less there is of an item, the more valuable it is. Example, a painting by an artist or a piece of Chinese export porcelain with a family coat of arms.
  2. Provenance—the item can be linked to an important historical event, like the U.S. Civil War or a famous person, like Pablo Picasso.
  3. Conditions—the better condition something is in, the more valuable it is.

Note, age itself isn’t a factor in determining value.  After all, there are lots of old buttons, old plastic toys, old books lying around numerous basements and attics and they are only worth what the person paid for them in whatever year they were bought.

The trouble comes when buying something with the hope that the value will increase.  If a person is interested in a specific return on investment, there are stocks, corporate and government bonds, even simple savings accounts that a person can invest  his or her money in and get various rates of return.  I personally don’t recommend buying any collectible with visions of the item being auctioned off for millions of dollars.  No one knows which items will sell for that much and which will sell for less.  After all, a person could have a reproduction or fake or find out that the item is one of a million and it is worth its purchase price from 2009 or less.

Still, I do recommend collecting for fun.  If perusing your collection of whatever gives you a measure of joy, then that is your return on investment. Wouldn’t it be nice if everything gave us that kind of return?

Collector, dollar value, intrinsic value, eBay, Terapeak, jewelry, silverware, porcelain, rarity, provenance, conditions



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