Finding Answers to Collectors' Questions

The last few days have been rather interesting for me. As someone who has worked in hobby publications since college, I figured that most folks who collect know what they are collecting and have a general understanding of their value.

I’ve worked in antiques, toys and sports in my tenure here at F+W Media, but working with Auctions has definitely shed some new light on collectors to me.

As a writer in these various areas of collecting, I was/am in contact with many collectors, but mostly in interview formats talking about their collections or getting their opinions on certain collectible areas for market trend stories. In other words, these are knowledgeable collectors. They can speak of backgrounds, trends and values for items in their collection ad nauseam.

So it’s a little surprising for me to be speaking with a lot of collectors of late who are relatively unfamiliar with what they have. And this is in numerous collecting categories, not just sports. Some want help with identification in terms of year produced; others simply have no idea what they have and are looking to find a value first, then other information.
I guess it’s a different audience than what I’m used. It would be similar if I would pick up a vintage tool as wall art and then decided I wanted to sell it. I would have no clue if another person would find it valuable, so I would inquire first.

There are probably a lot of reasons  why people are considering selling their items even though they are not knowledgeable in what they have. For one, we’re still in a recession, with a lot of people still looking for work. They need money. One way to get money is to sell off the “unnecessary” items around the house. Collectbles often are among those items that are the first to go for those who don’t hold them dear to their heart (although we also hear from a lot of people who will make other concessions before turning to their treasures).

A lot of people simply want to know what they have. For the uninitiated, something that is old could be valuable, so they grab it and ask questions later. Now those questions are popping up much more frequently. They don’t have a computer to look it up for themselves, or they don’t know where to start. And, of course, just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s valuable.

I must say that when you can dig up some information for a reader or caller, it’s fun. It’s like solving a complicated math problem in school. You feel like you accomplished something and the person on the other end appreciates the new-found knowledge. It’s those darn “rare” items that you can’t find in a book or any record of sale online that gets you frustrated.
So it’s been a little adventure every day at work. While the sports hobby has very few “discoveries” that need in-depth investigation to identify and place a value, some of the other categories are much less researched and that’s where the work comes in.

And then there are those collectors who call and ask for information, but the more you speak with them, you realize they have already done a lot of research on the item and are either looking for confirmation or the last missing piece in the puzzle. Those are fun, too, because it’s like a test, and the information they give you can be used to gather even more information.

Anyone interested in finding out more information on a collectible they have, I’d be more than happy to try and help. Photos are very helpful in that regard, along with the time frame and regional location of the item when it was received. Let the hunt begin.

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