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Collectibles for fun -- and big profit

Some of the top collectors in the world share their tips.

By Stacy Johnson Mar 16, 2012 4:28PM
This post comes from Brandon Ballenger at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyWhen Michael Rorrer found a copy of the first Batman comic book in his great-uncle's closet last year, he didn't know it was worth $523,000. And that was just one issue in a stack that sold for about $3.5 million last month. For Rorrer, pure luck turned into pure profit -- but it was his great-uncle's passion for comics that created the opportunity.

In the video below, Stacy Johnson talks to three of the world's premier collectors and checks out the Milhous Collection: cars, mechanical music devices and other treasures that were recently auctioned in Boca Raton, Fla., for nearly $40 million.  Give it a look, then read on for more.

We're not likely to uncover a treasure trove in a relative's closet or build a $38 million collection like the one in the video above. But for amateur or pro, the advice from the experts should resonate with any collector:

Be passionate. Collecting needs to be a passion, not just an investment. Building a valuable collection requires more than money. It takes time to learn how to spot the intricacies that often separate treasure from trash. And you won't spend time on something that doesn't truly interest you.

In short, choose something so compelling you'd collect it even if it had no monetary value.

Be careful. Scam artists know that people try to make money from collectibles. Companies claiming to have letters written by Ronald Reagan or letters that Charles Lindbergh flew as a mail pilot have conned people out of thousands, the Better Business Bureau says. Don't hand over money without seeing the merchandise.

Be thorough. Do your homework. Talk to appraisers about your collection ideas. Check out the Association of Collecting Clubs. Research what you intend to collect.

When Stacy asked Bob Milhous how he became so knowledgeable about mechanical music machines, he said, "I've got a book about 10 inches thick I read from cover to cover and still refer to today."


Get a sense of who considers them "collectible" -- the consumer or the manufacturer (who hopes you'll buy every new variation).

Sometimes the most valuable items are the ones nobody paid much attention to at first. To improve your odds, don't blindly collect what everyone else does. Fads rarely stand the test of time.


Identify duds. You can't predict the future, but don't ignore the past. According to a recent story from The Street, here are nine worthless collectibles: Hummel figurines, Beanie Babies, Franklin Mint collectibles, Hess trucks, Thomas Kinkade paintings, Precious Moments figurines, Norman Rockwell plates, Lladro statues and Cabbage Patch Kids.

While the "collectibles" in that list may seem dissimilar, they have one very important thing in common: They're not in limited supply. The manufacturers kept pumping them out until the market became saturated and the fad fizzled.

Here's what an appraiser said to a woman who wanted him to consign the 7,000 Precious Moments figurines she had insured for $110,000: "Precious Moments are worth precious nothing. Leave your door open, your lights on and your back windows open." Ouch.

Get protection for your collection. Many of us collected comic books and baseball cards as kids. But we didn't know what the term "mint condition" meant and how much money it adds up to. If you really want to build a collection of value, invest in whatever safeguards your collection requires: plastic sleeves, waterproof containers, locks or even a climate-controlled storage space. And don't be surprised if that starts becoming a hobby of its own. 

When Stacy asked the Milhous brothers why they were selling their collection, Paul responded, "For one thing, it requires more than a million dollars a year just to maintain it."

Bottom line? A hobby of collecting can pay off, but start by collecting passion and knowledge.  

More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

Mar 22, 2012 1:03PM
Try searching for Thomas Kinkade's limited edition canvas of "SF California Street" that SOLD OUT
in 1992 for $645.00 issue price.
 Also look at the values for "End of a Perfect Day" "Boston" "Prince of Peace" "Venus Canal"
"Valley of Peace" "Bloomsbury Cafe" "Cobblestone Bridge" "New Day Dawning" "Portifino"
"Silent Night" and hundreds more. They have all increased in value! Thomas Kinkade is only
54 years old. We have an American master artist who will be inspiring people with hope, love.
courage and more long after MSN is forgotten about. God bless Thomas Kinkade and his work.
 MSN is spreading lies about him because of his Christian faith. Bionicman

Mar 21, 2012 12:20PM
Dear Msn, Please do more research before spreading lies!
 Thomas Kinkade is more popular than ever and I just sold my "Clearing Storms" and
"Cobblestone Bridge" limited edition canvas for triple the issue price during the recession!
 I know that his "SF Lombard St" and "SF Hyde St" canvas increased $1500.00 last year
(better than the stock market). Also Thomas Kinkade's Disney Dreams limited editions
have tripled in value after selling out at the publisher. "Snow White", "Pinocchip", "Tinkerbell"
and "Cinderella" to name a few. "Pac Bell" park is another and the list goes on and on.
 Thomas Kinkade's new TV show "The Light of Africa" will show that he is the number one
"Plein Air" artist alive today! After that you fake critics will have nothing to say.
God bless you, Bionicman

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