Have you always envied people talking about their collections? Do you love checking out other folks stuff when visiting their home or do you just love browsing places like antique shops, gift stores or even museums? Well, it sounds like you want to start collecting, but don't know how or where to start.
Never fear -- as a long-time collector I can get you started collecting. What you collect is up to you, but there are tips that every collector should know or follow.
1. Collect With Your HeartCollect with your heart, but be smart.
- Research items before you start buying.
- A collection should call your name.
- Don't buy "for investment", unless you really know your stuff and even then it's a gamble. Remember all those Beanie Babies that were going to send kids to college? Unfortunately a lot of folks thought that was going to happen. It didn't.
- A collection is what you want it to be. It could be anything from fine art paintings to chocolate wrappers, but the one thing collectors all have in common is their passion!
- Collecting doesn't have to be expensive, the only cost for some collections is time.
2. Decide -- What's Your Fancy?Decide what appeals to your fancy -- toys from childhood, memories of Grandma, occupation related items, pets, travel souvenirs, figurines?
The most common thread among collectors are the memories a collection brings them. It might be that cookie jar from Grandma's counter that sparks a jar collection. Or a reminder of those basecall cards that mom threw away that starts a new collection. Or the wonderful memories have Halloween or Christmas celebrations that is the beginning of holiday collectibles in your home.
Almost every collectible category has items to fit every budget.
3. Check out the Antique and Vintage Shops FirstThere are two ways to buy -- locally or online. It's easy to jump in and start buying on eBay or online, but first check the stuff out locally and in person.
- Visit antique malls and flea markets in your area. Pick up, touch and feel!
- Learn more about the characteristics of a piece and problems to look for that might not be evident when purchasing online.
- Make note of the local prices, many times it might be more affordable to buy locally and not pay the extra costs for shipping.
4. Buy a BookBuy a reference book. Repeat - buy a reference book! Although book values can vary widely, books should document the history of an item or company and whether it is rare or common. The old saying, "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words", really fits here. This is especially true with vintage/antique items. A good book should show marks, correct sizes and at least some history.
Reproductions have invaded many fields of collecting -- so learn more before you spend money on a possible fake.
6. Buy the BestAlways buy the very best condition you can afford. Condition is the most important factor to consider and unless the item is so very rare that condition doesn't matter, it will determine the price you will pay and what it will sell for later on.
Chipped, broken or repaired items should be much, much cheaper to buy and probably should only be considered if you can't find the item in good - excellent condition at a price you can afford. If you try and sell the item later, you'll find that most folks will not be interested in buying buy broken and chipped items.
7. Keep up Your Inventory ListKeep notes on what you paid for future reference and/or insurance purposes. Most importantly, start keeping an inventory immediately. As a voice of experience, I wish I did that with some of my items instead of looking at hundreds of cookie jars now and wondering where to start.
Do it on the computer or just buy a notebook. Keep a record of what you paid, when you bought and where.
8. Care, Store , Display and ProtectResearch the best way to store, display, protect and clean your collection, by finding out the answers to these questions.
- Will heat or light affect your stuff?
- Is it breakable and need to be secured (with something like Quakehold) so it doesn't slip off a shelf?
- Do you need to protect it with archival or acid-free paper?
- What's the best way to safely clean your stuff?
- If items are to be stored, do you have a safe place to keep your collections, a place that will not cause harm?
10. Most of All -- Enjoy Your Collection!I love my collections and share them at every opportunity. I also enjoy researching the background of the more unusual pieces, looking for old patents of when an item might be made or the history of a now defunct company.
And when it's time to pare down or clean out a few pieces, I do sell stuff at time to time, but I also enjoy giving pieces away to friends and family (although I must admit family members don't always want another cookie jar or Christmas ornament!