In the realm of what is considered a collectible, the answer is anything. For the purposes of narrowing down the options, let’s focus on the three best collecting hobbies to start. These are antiquing, coin and stamp collecting. Antiques are such a thing, they have taken on the name as a verb. All three of these collecting hobbies share several things, but the one that stands out is their value. Any one of these three hobbies represent the potential for significant value either to retain or sell, as you choose.
Collecting antiques has really grown in acceptation since the advent of televising the Antiques Road Show. It is true you could be sitting on a hidden treasure and not even know it. Items aged 100 years or greater are considered antiques. Items aged at least 20 years are considered vintage, but collectibles can be any item of popularity, regardless of the age. The older a piece gets, the more the value increases, depending on the condition. Some people find an appreciation for antiques from having the items inherited from the family, while many others set out to seek a treasure or two on trips specifically intended to go antiquing.
The world of antiques has expanded considerably. Many dealers specialize in a type of antique or time period for which they likely offer their pieces in both large and small markets or at brick-and-mortar locations. Having a chance to see an item in persons offers a wealth of knowledge when you can examine the condition, patina, character and sense of history. Pricing can be subjective depending on where the dealers’ market exists, how much the dealer initially paid for the piece or if the item happens to be trendy. Value is also dependent upon the condition of a piece, its state of repair and if it has provenance, the documented proof of its origination and original maker.
Antique hunting is best done in person when starting out. You have the best opportunity to gain the most information when looking through antique stores, antique barns – where multiple vendors gather, fairs, auctions, flea markets, garage and estate sales and classified ads. Shopping online presents its own challenges, such as:
- Shipping Costs – Best to stay with small pieces or shop by location
- Viewing the piece – don’t hesitate to ask for more information or photos providing additional angles and exact measurements
- Return policies
However you proceed with antiquing, follow your heart. If you are selecting a piece you plan to live with, consider your own desires and preferences, and allow the investment value to be a bonus. Closely examine the construction and note its care checking for broken or wobbly parts, cracks or stains and the like. Learn about its history and provenance when it is rare or of higher value, so you are prepared to resell or insure the item, if you choose to. Keep in mind that cleaning or refurbishing an antique may reduce its value, regardless of how bad it might seem. With all that in mind, be prepared to stick to a budget. It is easy to get carried away with the emotional attachment when you come across a great find.
You may have some coins from your youth you have hung onto or perhaps you have inherited a collection or won one through a storage auction. At the root of holding onto coins for which you may be unsure of their value, the question invariably rises: What am I going to do with these? Many of us who hung on to our Kennedy half-dollars from their original mint date of 1964 could be looking at a value of about $10 each roughly. The first minting of these coins contain 90 percent silver content. However, if you happen to be in possession of one of these coins in certified mint state (MS+) condition, you might find it brings in as much as $130 at auction.
In determining valuation, your first step should be in understanding some coin handling basics. You can potentially damage coins by attempting to clean them or bare-handing them. Despite the seeming durability of coins, you can detract from their value by handling them improperly. Oils on your skin, chemicals from certain holders and even using baking soda to try to make them shiny and look like new can mar them.
If you are interested in preserving the value of your coins, you should wear cotton gloves and use a soft cloth or pad. If you must bare-hand them, try to hold them only by their edges and avoid touching their faces. An appraiser using a loupe can spot the flaws and scratches that lessen a coin’s value.
Over time, coins develop a patina, which novices tend to mistake for unwanted tarnish. To coin collectors, a patina adds to a coin’s authenticity, which also adds to its value. Furthermore, the use of some cleaners could take away certain identifying marks on a coin that held value. If you have coins that are encrusted with either dirt or corrosion, you should still avoid trying to clean them yourself. You can unknowingly hurt the value of your collection or miss out on a prime opportunity to trade or buy a choice addition to your collection.
The condition and rarity of a coin determines its value. While all coins have value, you begin to develop a respect for their history as you discover your own motivation for collecting. For example, coins minted from different metals or represent a change in their design or possess printing errors all present unique qualities that make their value significant.
As time goes by, the value of coins grows. Even modern collectibles represent value. You don’t need to invest your own mint to establish a worthy coin collection. A silver dollar that cost you twenty dollars today will certainly grow in value in 50 years. Silver coin shops are a great place to explore coins and an excellent source of knowledge when it comes to cleaning coins, determining a coin’s grade or learning how to get an appraisal for your collection.
Collecting stamps is an easily achieved hobby given the sheer volume of stamps available from over 200 countries in the world and the many vendors providing starter albums and packets of world stamps to help you become immersed in philately, the formal name for stamp collecting. Philately is a lot of fun as you discover the stamps that have been issued worldwide over the years. When you see the colorful, expertly designed and masterfully printed stamps you begin to recognize that each one is its own miniature work of art. What is more, stamps are an excellent educational tool for learning history, geography, politics, religion and the day by day existence of world populations.
Stamp collecting shares in the careful handling that coin collecting does such as wearing cotton gloves to avoid touching them with your bare fingers and carefully selecting PVC-free holders in which to display your collection. You should also obtain some essential tools such as a pair of stamp tweezers and a magnifying glass. Examining the tiny details in stamps through a magnifier or loupe reveals the lines or cuts on an engraved stamp, or the graduated photogravure dots and smooth honeycomb background that make up lithographed stamps. Just as coin collectors seek examples of mistakes in minting, errors and varieties of stamps present those rare items of greater value.
It is easy to get overwhelmed as a beginner to stamp collecting. You can buy printed albums that have the country headings atop each page either fastbound like a book or held in a loose-leaf binder that allows you the chance to rearrange pages. You can purchase albums for which you must affix the mounts or get those that already have the mounts attached. Pricing of albums is according to size, capacity and quality. You can purchase a starter pack that lets you nicely whet your appetite for developing your stamp collection along more specific lines as you pursue a genuine philatelic study.
From this approach, you can devote your interest in stamp design and printing, the history, postal significance and postmarks. You can advance your understanding of the four principal stamp printing methods of lithography, photogravure, recess or line-engraving and typography. In this way, you begin to master the necessary qualifications to become a full-fledged philatelist.
As with any collection, the more you become immersed in the objects and learn what makes them unique, the more your intrinsic knowledge increases and you develop an expertise. This is important when you are out and about or searching online and something of value may cross your path. Having a worthy collection gives you more negotiating room to barter or trade, and ultimately, to have a working knowledge of the true value of an item. There is something so inspiring in coming across a piece that is unassumingly sitting there and you can spot its value where others may not be so savvy. As your collecting hobby grows, so does your awareness that there is richness in the world around us in ways we never really dreamed possible.