Rinker on Collectibles: How Collectors See Their Treasures

During the second hour of the Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 edition of WHATCHA GOT?, my syndicated antiques and collectibles call-in radio show, a caller asked the value of a Nippon Fishing Tackle Manufacturing Co. bamboo fly/spin rod accompanied by flies, line, a bobber and other accessories, all still housed in its period wooden box. I have encountered several examples of this fishing rod in the course of my career, and in almost every instance, it was unused in its period box, indicating that it was a popular item GIs from the Pacific Theater brought home following the Second World War as a gift or for future use.

Depending on how many rod sections the fisherman used, the NFT rod served as a casting rod at five feet, four inches or as a fly rod at its full eight feet length. The Nippon Fishing Tackle Mfg. Co. was located at 5-1 Shimouma Setagaya Tokyo. An article entitled “Contemporary Bamboo Fly Rod Makers of Japan” notes:

“After the WWII, around 1950s, many American soldiers lived in Japan. They found that an expensive bamboo fly rod in home country could be purchased with very reasonable price in Japan. After that, Japanese bamboo fly rods were extremely populated in the market. The NFT (Nippon Fishing Tackle) was the center of the suppliers of bamboo fly rods from the 1940s to the 1960s. It is said that there were 26 brand names of bamboo fly rods at the time . . .”

[Author’s Aside #1: Someone, not me, needs to research and write a book chronicling the useless gifts, souvenirs and other items soldiers brought back to the United States after serving abroad. After expressing gratitude, a receiver of such a gift immediately relegates it to the china cabinet, a drawer in the dining room buffet or bedroom dresser, or the closet. The gift is never sold or given away. A quick list of objects that belong in such a book, off the top of my head, include the German cuckoo clock and the Japanese Geisha Girl tea set and the silk kimono from the post-World War II era and the 1960s/1970s bronze flatware service from Vietnam or Thailand.]

A NFT fishing combination set complete and in its period box is worth between $30 and $50, suggesting that it has more conversation and reuse than collector value. After sharing the information with my WHATCHA GOT? listener, he responded, “I have no intention of selling it. It is one of my favorite things.”

Out of curiosity, I asked where he had it displayed. His answer came as no surprise. “I have it stored under my bed.”

I am a big fan of the concept that you should keep the most valuable things that you own in your bedroom. They should be the last things you see at night before you go to sleep, and the first things you see in the morning when you wake up. When I use this story at appraisal clinics, I usually add: “This explains why my first wife and I slept in separate bedrooms.” Of course, I am joking, at least partially. There were separate bedrooms in the end.

The WHATCHA GOT? listener’s comment started me thinking about how collectors see their treasures. As the listener was describing the bamboo fishing rod combination set to me over the phone line, my impression was that he had it in front of him. Obviously, he did not. However, he was able to visualize it in his mind, even though he had not seen it for months, possibly even years.

Collectors have acute, accurate long-term memories. Collectors do not need to visually display the objects in their collection(s) in order to remember them. The objects are categorized and stored in their minds. When they wish to recall an object, they need only think about it. Its mental appearance is as real as if they were holding it in their hands.

Do collectors remember everything in their collection? The answer is not initially. Collectors store a majority of the objects in their collection(s). The maxim “out of sight, out of mind” applies. This is why collectors occasionally purchase duplicates, forgetting that they already own an example.

During our December 2012 trip to Seiffen in Germany’s Erzgebirge region, Linda and I visited the small Fuchtner shop in their home. Fuchtner is a historic, magic name among nutcracker collectors. With our Christmas collection now containing more pieces than we can exhibit, Linda has turned her attention to acquiring some of the Erzgebirge Easter figurines, especially the bunnies. The Fuchtner walking rabbit figurine comes in two variations—red pants and blue pants. I bought an example for Linda in December 2011 but could not remember the pants color. Linda loved the rabbit in the blue pants. We purchased it. Upon returning home and comparing it with my earlier purchase, we now own two examples of the blue pants rabbit and will likely buy a red pants example when we return to Seiffen in December 2013.

At first glance, the last two paragraphs appear to counter my initial argument about the quality level of collectors’ recall ability. Such an assumption is false. While collectors may occasionally fail to remember that they own an object, the moment they rediscover it a stream of memories floods into their brains.

Collectors have dual object memory sets. The first focuses on the object and how it relates to all the other objects in the collection and in the collecting category. The object’s origin and history are an integral part of understanding its importance. Collectors do not view objects in isolation but as part of a great whole.

The second memory set involves the stories associated with how the object was acquired, how and why it is displayed and stored, and, most importantly, why it is retained and not sold. Because of their highly personal nature, the role that this second memory set plays in the intrinsic value of an object is debatable. Some argue it is primary. When considering purchasing an object, I consider only one value—what is the object worth to me. There are no fixed values in the antiques and collectibles field. Hence, value is contingent on how the seller and buyer each view value associated with the object.

The counter argument is that “true” value is time tested. When sufficient examples of an object are bought and sold, an average value, excluding the top and bottom extremes, can be determined that reflects a reliable secondary market prediction of the object’s worth within the framework of a few months to years. While not the precise definition of “book” value, it is a close facsimile.

When analyzing how collectors view their treasures, value is a tangential issue. Having reduced portions of the antiques and collectibles market to commodities status, investors view objects from a monetary perspective. Collectors do not. Once an object enters their collection, it is viewed as permanent. Selling it is an anathema.

[Author’s Aside #2: The true collector dies still owning his collection. Unfortunately, outside pressures such as retirement financial necessities, downsizing and pressure from spouses, children and others often force a collector to dispose of his/her collection(s). Although acquiescing, the collector views the process as a curse. Those who publically contend the sale is a blessing know, deep in their hearts, their pronouncement is a lie.]

I see my collections in my dreams, in my mind and through my eyes. I am typical. I tested this theory throughout the course of writing this column. I clearly saw the cover and centerfold of Playboy Volume 1, Number 1, currently housed in a box in the storage room immediately behind me, the Hopalong Cassidy bedroom suite, disassembled at The Vera Cruz (Pa.) elementary school, and my father’s diamond and sapphire ring that has been missing for more than 30 years and awaiting rediscovery as I go through the boxes of stuff I am planning to place at auction later this year. I can write a USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice) description of each one of these items from the mental image in my mind.

Not all collectors’ minds are photographic. However, the percentage is far higher than many realize, especially when focused on collectors’ most treasured pieces.

How do you see your treasures? Share your thoughts with me at harrylrinker@aol.com or leave a comment below.


Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out Harry’s Web site.

You can listen and participate in Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show “Whatcha Got?” on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. It streams live on the Genesis Communications Network.

“Sell, Keep Or Toss? How To Downsize A Home, Settle An Estate, And Appraise Personal Property” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site.

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected queries will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Pond Court SE, Kentwood, MI 49512. You can e-mail your questions to harrylrinker@aol.com. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.

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