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Beanies, Dolls and Plates: The ‘Valueless Collectibles’

by Michelle Staley (08/22/13).

Yolanda Bello’s “Jennifer” doll charmed me into the Ashton Drake doll market. Like so many Beanie Babies, my collection will likely end up at a thrift store.

We all know that the Beanie Baby craze was a wild ride for a couple of years. People were actually acquiring these plush little darlings in the hope of building a nice retirement nest egg. I know a few people who really saw the Beanie Babies as the answer to their financial troubles.

I have a friend who spent hours putting her Beanies in little plastic boxes and purchased tag protectors by the pound. I don’t even want to think about how much money she spent to protect and preserve her plush retirement fund.

Unfortunately, this was just a passing fancy that left many homes overflowing with little plush critters that were eventually relegated to boxes and donated to thrift stores.

A non-collectible genre that I got swept up into were the mass-produced, beautifully crafted dolls sold primarily through magazine insert cards. I am a lifelong doll collector and have a wonderful collection of antique and vintage dolls, but when I saw Yolanda Bello’s “Jennifer” doll I just had to own her. This was back in 1991 and the purchase price for the doll was around $40.

My purchase of this doll created a snowball effect. My family decided that I needed to own every doll sold through Ashton Drake. The end result was storybook dolls, nursery-rhyme dolls, ethnic dolls and creepy newborn baby dolls. I had not just one doll from each series but every doll from the series.

After a few years I hit saturation with these lovely dolls and decided to start selling a few of them. Please keep in mind that some of these lovelies cost as much as $80. In 13 years, I have sold only one of the dolls—all of the rest are stored in their original boxes in my basement, and I see them being donated to the thrift store in the not too distant future.

So, what happened to the secondary market value of these dolls? They were touted as being limited edition, but if you read the fine print you will notice that they are limited to a production run of 365 days. Millions of dolls can be manufactured in a year’s time, which leads to market saturation and more supply than demand. If you can get $10 for one of these dolls on the secondary market, consider it a good day.

As a side note, with contemporary manufacturing processes there are very few true limited-edition, hard-to-find “collectibles.” A good rule of thumb is if it is sold through a magazine ad or insert, it will not increase in value.

Then there came the plates. Plates, plates and even more plates. One afternoon I had a lady show up at my front door wanting to sell me “a few plates.” I wandered out to her van and, I kid you not, the entire backend of her van was filled with Bradford Exchange decorative plates. Hundreds of plates!

She was very pleased with herself and offered to sell them to me for $20 each. “A bargain price,” she said, “They are listed on eBay for as much as $75 each.”

I don’t know if it was the look of sheer horror that came over my face or the fact that I was slowly backing away from the vehicle and the plates that made her question the value she had put on them.

It’s hard to explain to someone who’s invested thousands into Bradford Exchange “collectible” plates that they’ll likely never see that money again.

We had a seat on my front porch and as gently as I could I explained to her that the vast majority of her decorative plates were worthless and that she would be better off donating them to a charity and taking the tax write off.

She became very agitated with me despite my gentle attempt to explain to her that these were mass produced; yes, some are numbered “limited edition,” yet the resale value is minimal. There might be a few that have a secondary market value of $10 to $20, I explained, but the time and effort involved in storing and selling them was really not worth my time.

Some of the Bradford Exchange plates are magnificent in detail and styling, but it is still a matter of supply and demand. If you have unlimited time and attention to put in to the selling of these plates, you might be able to sell them for close to the original purchase price. but it could take years to liquidate a large collection. Time is money.

If you enjoy owning the above items and love having them on display, then by all means continue to purchase and admire them. If you are buying them in hope of one day selling the collection for a good sum of money, you are better off putting the money you would spend into an interest-bearing savings account.

Oh, I still have my Jennifer doll on display. She is absolutely adorable.

Michelle Staley, who insists that collectors are the happiest people, is an antique collector and dealer. Her shop, My Granny’s Attic Antiques, Collectibles and Memorabilia, is in Lenexa, Kansas.

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6 Responses to “Beanies, Dolls and Plates: The ‘Valueless Collectibles’”



    • sierraseven says:

      Wendy, generally the authors of the articles on Worthpoint don’t give values in the comments sections. You could go to the Worthpoint price guide to look at what similar items have sold for, or you could use the “Ask A Worthologist” service to get an answer on your specific items.

  2. Dennis Gray says:

    Early on I was advised to only collect items that I truly liked. That way if the value went down I am still able to enjoy my collection.

  3. Tom says:

    I wrote a piece once (still online here and there) that points out that EVERYTHING that isn’t a commodity (sugar, salt, strawberries,etc) is automatically a “limited edition.”

    The shirt you’re wearing had a limited production and probably cannot be replaced. The same applies to any magazine or book, any refrigerator, any vehicle, any set of dishes or pots and pans. Nothing gets replicated forever.

    CDs and LPs (my personal interest) that were simply run-of-the-pressing-plant productions are more likely to have high values at the end of their runs than Time-Life, Franklin Mint, and other “collector” productions.

    I’m about to post a CD on eBay that I expect will go for $50 to $70. It was never intended to be a high-value collectible, but it turned into one. I have a couple of them. I’m selling one and keeping one because I, too, value it. In a year, no one will care and I don’t expect the one I’m keeping will be worth much.

    That’s the way it goes.

  4. sierraseven says:

    My Mom collected plates, mostly the very frou-frou floral/hummingbird/kitten type. She also bought hardwood display frames for all of them. I’ve been able to get $15 to $20 for them at yard sales and such, selling them with frames included. But you have to have people coming by who are looking to add to their collections, or someone who has a thing for a particular subject – I had a lady buy a set of six hummingbird plates, because she has hummingbirds on everything – she was wearing a hummingbird sweatshirt, and told me that she had hummingbird paintings, clothing, decorative items, all over her house. Another buyer loved penguins, and bought two plates with penguins. Another bought a portrait plate of a historical figure because her Dad was named after the man, as a gift to him.

    Mom paid $30 to $40 each for the plates, and about $20 for the frames – I know I’ll never get that much for them, but if you find the right venue, and you have patience, you can get a few bucks out of them.

  5. accentrique says:

    I don’t care what anyone says, that Jennifer doll is a cutie! But I know what you mean about collectibles and family. When my brother was a young boy, someone gave him some stamps and a book to put them in. Then everyone started giving him stamps, stamps and more stamps. Stamps from family, friends, friends of friends, co-workers of our parents, relatives of the co-workers . Stamps from the US and stamps from all over the world. He started putting a few in the book and then just gave up trying to sort all of them out and tucked them all away. Now I have the collection and have to figure out if there’s anything worth something in it. So far, no joy!

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