A Collection for Everyone: Where to Look for Collecting Inspiration

Collectibles can be anything, depending on the interest of the individual collector. These collectors will turn their attention to anything and everything, from action figures, such as this muscle-bound guy to…

Collectibles can be anything, depending on the interest of the individual collector. These collectors will turn their attention to anything and everything, from action figures, such as this muscle-bound guy to…

Musician and actor Henry Rollins is quoted saying about collectors “…someone has to look after the past, lest it slip away forever.”

That might explain why the Association of Collecting Clubs lists 6,332 separate groups dedicated to collecting, researching, writing and educating others about every kind of memorabilia, from action figures to Zippo lighters and everything in between.

For example, train and railroad enthusiasts have nearly 60 groups dedicated to everything locomotive whether as models, toys, on stamps, or even the full-size ones. Postage stamps and coins have about twice as many groups, while others feature interests such as aviation, vintage signs, classic cars, armor, Coca-Cola memorabilia, swords, bottles, paperweights, tools, glass, spoons, and maybe even (vintage) lions, tigers and bears, oh my.

Collectible Ideas

In short, no matter what type of collectible you have an interest in, there has to be a meeting about it somewhere. However, if you don’t have something to collect yet, try this list from Country Living and see if antique tassels, board games, Victorian pendants or even pie birds might get you started. Flags, large and small, are a favorite collectible of mine.

… to Zippo lighters, such as this hand-painted example.

… to Zippo lighters, such as this hand-painted example.

Collectibles as Decoration

So now that you have a large collection of frogs, cookie jars or fishing gear, what can you do with them? Tastefully decorating a home, apartment or any office with collectibles lends a certain charm while also serving as unique conversation starters. Just the right amount can be relaxing, add color, are memorable, and are just plain fun to have around. Your colonial buttons, rare pamphlets, military medals, postcards and model ships can blend well as part of your home furnishings. Or, you could collect vintage home furnishings, too.

Storing a Collectible

It’s understood, though, that a collection can get out of hand, and displaying all of them at once becomes difficult and overwhelming. So, learn how to safeguard your ephemera (paper items) such as books, posters and autographs, textiles such as flags, rugs and vintage clothing, ceramics including elephants, figurines and commemorative plates, and even delicate glassware like Christmas ornaments, vintage whiskey glasses and ornamental candlesticks. Each have their own requirements as to humidity, temperature and storage requirements. Specialized archival companies like Hollinger or Gaylord will help with the proper acid free paper and boxes.

Displaying a Collectible

Displaying framed items, for example, requires that your parchment indentures, vintage eyeglasses, matchbox cars, police badges, or campaign buttons use archival material in the backing, attachments, and the matting. Even the glass should restrict UV rays. Don’t hang the finished frame in direct sunlight or any indoor lighting and always on an inside wall, not a wall that faces to the outside as temperature variations can be damaging to a collectible over time.

This 53-piece collection of Christmas tree ornaments came from the estate of Hollywood silent film movie star Harold LLoyd, selling for $3,800.

This 53-piece collection of Christmas tree ornaments came from the estate of Hollywood silent film movie star Harold LLoyd, selling for $3,800.

Tracking a Collection

There will come a point when there are just too many matchbooks, Christmas Santas, barbed wire (it is a thing), Avon bottles, Barbie dolls, oil cans, and anything world’s fair-related that you can’t remember what exactly you have. Luckily, software exists to help with that, too.

Collectify, Recollector and Collectible Database are all uniquely qualified to help sort, manage, file, update, price, and generally keep track of every item in your collection. The software is also excellent for home furnishings, office equipment, and working tools as well. All your information has even been known to help with audits, insurance claims, inheritance and other legal requirements.

Insuring a Collection

Periodically, you should check with recent auction values for all of your collectibles to determine their most recent evaluations. Naturally, with more than 300 million realized auction data prices, WorthPoint can help with that.

Knowing an approximate value, your homeowner’s insurance will cover your collectibles up to a certain dollar amount, usually about $2,500. If your collection of dolls, trade cards, teapots, Dr. Seuss, marbles, school books, globes, or lamp shades is valued higher than your deductible, then consider collectibles insurance. Companies such as CollectInsure, MiniCo and American Collectors may help with additional coverage beyond what your homeowners policies cover.

For collections with higher-value items, such as paintings, anything gold and silver, currency, autographs, one-of-a-kind baseball cards, classic cars, jewelry, or early Renaissance printings, additional insurance will be required. Check rates with more traditional insurance companies carefully as the traditional coverage may be for auction value, replacement value, resale value, or current value.

After Worthologist Tom Carrier pointed out to the Henry Ford Museum that the presidential flag affixed to the Sunshine Special, the White House limousine of Franklin D. Roosevelt, was of the wrong vintage, it was corrected, and the display now has the right flag. Who but a vexillologist would know?

After Worthologist Tom Carrier pointed out to the Henry Ford Museum that the presidential flag affixed to the Sunshine Special, the White House limousine of Franklin D. Roosevelt, was of the wrong vintage, it was corrected, and the display now has the right flag. Who but a vexillologist would know?

Enhancing your Collection

It is the annual or regional collecting club convention, meeting or gathering that can enhance your collection with up-to-date information and expand your network with personal connections. Become a recognized expert by adding to the conventional wisdom of the hobby with carefully crafted articles and presentations of your own (like this one). While scholars, museum staff and specialists spend professional lives in pursuit of the historical details of important collections, it is the dedicated collector that helps fill in the missing pieces that they just might miss.

For example, my expertise on vexillology helped to update the automobile flags on the Sunshine Special, the White House limousine of Franklin D. Roosevelt, on display at Henry Ford Museum for the past 30 years. The display happened to feature the presidential flag made official by Harry Truman in 1945 instead of the flag design in use during FDR’s time in office, an oversight missed by the professional staff. A detailed replica of the correct flag has since replaced the incorrect one based on my own longtime expertise. Very gratifying.

And Finally…

If Dorothy and her friends in the Wizard of Oz can collect a brain, a heart and courage to complete a collection, you, too, can find the missing examples for your collection of vintage holiday cards, bicycles, beer steins, photographs, early films, fire buckets, calling cards, rocks and anything Beatles if you look long enough.

Collecting information along the way is helpful, too. After all, history just might need the one piece only you have. Happy Collecting.


Tom Carrier is a General Worthologist with a specialty in Americana, political memorabilia and the resident WorthPoint vexillologist (flags, seals and heraldry) since 2007, and a frequent contributor of articles to WorthPoint.

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