Every now and then, someone will ask, “What’s hot in the collectibles market?” to which I’ll respond “nothing!”
If there is, I don’t see it, and for sure I’ve seen my share during the years I’ve been in business. Some notable examples are Beanie Babies, Cabbage Patch Kids, pogs (who remembers them?), “The Death of Superman" comics (I sold them by the cases to individuals), baseball cards with all the subsets, chase cards, equipment cards where pieces of jerseys or bats were embedded in the card (I knew it was bad when I couldn’t find the listing for cards in the price guides because there were so many variations).
There were other examples, too many to list, but the one common factor is they all ultimately enjoyed a brisk run up in value, sometimes over a period of years, only to collapse in value.
So is the fact there is no “hot” item in the collectibles market bad?
No, because this leads to a stable, predictable market for collectors who pursue their hobby because they enjoy it, not because they are trying to make a quick buck.
Take for example coins. Although there have been some examples in past years where there were some “must have” items, coins have slowly plodded along for years. The state quarter program did a lot to boost interest in coin collecting, but that has quieted down. Not a bust, just a quieter market.
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Baseball cards also have maintained a following, just not the frenzied activity of a decade ago. There are true collectors out there still working on completing sets of early classic cards or cards of their favorite player. These collectors are enjoying the lower, more stable prices of today. Also, they are becoming more selective in choosing cards that have been graded by a third-party grading service to ensure they are getting the value for which they are paying. No longer can a card with rounded corners be sold as mint.
Comic books are enjoying a similar resurgence in interest. New issues are selling well, just not in multiples, and the fact that new movies featuring comic book superheroes are doing well at the box office is helping. As for the older comics, same story as with baseball cards: The older, classic issues are desirable, and grading is suggested.
Pokemon cards are still popular, albeit not at the same level as previous years. They are still popular mainly because the game is still played and that new-issues of cards are continually released. Older, limited-issue cards from previous editions are collectible and desirable to a certain group.
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Vinyl records, 33s and 45s are coming back, but in a small scale. Sometimes the desirability is in the graphics of the cover more than the music.
These are only some of the collectibles that are still popular, at a lower price point than previous years. However, there are those which will never come back, Beanie Babies being one.
Some collectibles have just lost their popularity not because they were the result of a “boom and bust” market but because they are no longer of interest. Case in point are Hummels specifically and ceramic figurines in general. And there are whole categories of antique items that sold well in the past that are unable to find new homes now.
Stamp collecting is another hobby that is virtually nonexistent. I started collecting stamps when I was in the fourth grade and always enjoyed the hobby. But today there is no interest, and many stamps, older as well as recent, sell for under their face value.
Which goes back to what I’ve said about collecting: If it gives you pleasure and you enjoy doing it, forget about future value, enjoy the moment.
Douglas Keefe is the president of Beachcomber Coins Inc. He and his wife, Linda, operate Beachcomber Coins and Collectibles, formerly in the Shore Mall and now at 6692 Black Horse Pike in the old Wawa building just beyond the former Cardiff Circle. They have satellite offices in Brigantine and Absecon. Between them they have more than 70 years of experience in the coin and precious metals business. They are members of the American Numismatic Association, the Industry Council of Tangible Assets, the Numismatic Guarantee Corp., the Certified Coin Exchange and the Professional Coin Grading Service.