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Your Collection: Not Worth That Much

Many of us have dreams of collecting coins, or sports cards, or comic books and then scoring big later on. However, the truth is that there are a number of collections that just aren’t worth that much. Part of the problem is that, in the 1980s, many people made a lot of money because they had older baseball cards in good condition. The same was true of older comic books.

Because generations of kids put sports cards in the spokes of their bike tires, or wore out their comic books, finding these old editions in good form was rare. However, after the news of a few big dollar collections got out, everyone started saving these items. Now, people rarely damage sports cards and comic books — finding something in good condition is easier, and that means supply exceeds demand. Indeed, there are some collections that just aren’t worth much at all:

Stamps, Sports Cards and Comic Books

Unless you’ve got a rare misprint of a stamp, or a pre-1970 baseball card in good condition, or a mint condition first issue of Batman, you probably aren’t going to get top dollar for what’s in your collection. Mass production has helped reduce the value of some items, but the truth is that many of these things just weren’t that valuable to begin with.

Most people acquire additions to their collections by purchasing what’s cheap and easily available. Much of what you get in a pack of sports cards is going to be next to worthless in 10 years. When you scrape a common stamp off an envelope (even if it’s from another country), it’s probably not going to turn out to be rare or interesting. And, of course, few comic book editions manage to rise to the level of epic. Most of the time, the best value you will receive from buying a mass produced comic book from the store is going to be in reading it.

Finding Something Valuable

The main key to a valuable collection — no matter what it is — is rarity. My mother-in-law has a collection of Star Wars action figures, still in their original packaging, from the late 1970s. Just running a quick eBay check of figures out of their boxes informs me that she could probably get more than $500 for what she has. My husband has a Lawrence Taylor signed card that he bought for $20 three or four years ago. It’s worth about $40 now. That’s not bad, but I doubt the card will appreciate to the point that we will be able to retire on the proceeds. Keeping your collection in good condition is a must as well. That’s part of the rarity.

You also need to have your find authenticated, especially if you have sports memorabilia and cards. SCG [3] and Beckett [4] are two companies that can grade sports cards, and Professional Sports Authenticators [5] takes care of other types of memorabilia. There are appraisers and authenticators that can help with comic books, action figures, stamps and coins as well. Before you purchase something for your collection, you want to make sure it is properly authenticated.

Finally, most collections are only as valuable as what someone is willing to pay. What something is worth to you is often completely different from what someone else finds valuable. If you are going to get the “value” you believe is “fair” when you sell your stuff [6], you have to find someone willing to pay what it’s “worth.”

(Photo: dpstyles [7])