What not to collect.    

The antiques & collectibles market has changed a great deal in the last 7 years that Five Katz Antiques has been open. It is radically different from what the experience gained over the last 30 years of buying and selling antiques had me prepared for.

Many things are collectible. The goal is to buy it when it’s first arriving and then hope it becomes hotter. Then, in theory at least, when you sell you make a profit due to the increased interest and popularity. This depends on some ability to predict the future, and of course you have to sell at the right time.

My problem is I collect things that I think are cool, and even if they become “hot” I tend not to sell them because I like them and put a great deal of time, energy and money into them. I fall back on my old saying of “but if I sell it, I won’t have it.” It drives my wife crazy. Then when I finally do decide to part with things, they of course, are no longer “hot”.

I thought I would take a moment and list some of the items that you probably shouldn’t be collecting right now. Don’t get me wrong, if you love something and want to collect it, then by all means do so. If no one else is collecting “it”, then you stand to find some real bargains. But if your goal is to assemble a collection of items with the intention of selling them at a later time and making a profit, these items may not work for that purpose.

Toby Mugs – Toby mugs were a popular item for many years. They were mugs that were character based and anthropomorphic. Some popular designs were Sherlock Holmes and Winston Churchill as well as other themes like town criers and such. Some are still valuable, but most are well under $100.

Beer Steins – Once very chic, beer steins have fallen off the radar for quite some time now. Once made by very well know potteries, mass production has simply created too many. Beer companies pumped them out by the millions. They are mostly found in yard sales, flea markets and thrift stores. Some can hold their value, but over all the genre has lost much.

McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys – Millions. They made millions of each and every one. Unless you have one that is a known low production quantity, and in mint condition and still sealed, they won’t be worth more than a couple dollars.

Collectible plates – What, my Norman Rockwell collector’s plates aren’t worth anything? I am sorry to say again, it’s in the numbers. They made millions of each one, and even if it was a “limited edition”, it was still in the hundreds of thousands, and then they made another when that one sold out. And then another, and so on. These plates were a way for the masses to buy the art of a favorite artist and hang it in their home and do it on a budget. Even though they were only 4 payments of $19.99, they are worth pennies on the dollar.

China – In addition to dinner parties, which no one has anymore, people would pick a china pattern and strive to collect every available piece that was offered in that pattern. Some folks, I don’t know why, would collect multiple sets at the same time. Now, you can buy it very inexpensively as the market is super saturated. As folks downsize, move into assisted living centers or pass on, the younger generations just don’t care to own them. They don’t entertain as our parents and grandparents did, they don’t want to wash them, you can’t microwave them and they don’t want to display them or move them.

Glass and crystal – See above. The younger generations just don’t seem to be collectors. Generation y and especially Generation Z have been brought up in an ever increasing digital and online world. Possessions such as this are a curiosity as much as anything. They aren’t as into craftsmanship and don’t have the same appreciation for say an amazing piece of hand cut crystal. I saw a vase once that weighed over 50 pounds and was hand cut with Greek mythological scenes. The artist could only work in for only 15 minutes a day because of the weight. It took years to complete. Ask a Gen Z what a non-fungible token is.

Art – Unless you are in the Matisse, Rembrandt, Pollack, or Van Gogh money circles, I recommend you collect art that you just love to look at. It’s a difficult thing to buy art to make money on. Even local art such as The Highwaymen paintings fluctuate greatly both in value and interest. In addition, sometimes the more popular an artist is, the more fake or mis-attributed pieces get into the market. You had better know what you are doing. I don’t know art, but I know what I like, and that’s what I buy.

Hummel’s – Hummel’s used to be very high end and commanded a good price on the new and secondary market. However, as with most antiques nowadays, the market has shifted and they are not bringing high dollars. A quick search on an online auction site will find Hummel’s with starting bids for six pieces at $9.99 plus shipping. If you wanted to start a Hummel collection, now’s the time.

Beanie Babies – Ah yes. No list of what not to collect would be complete without the ubiquitous bean bag toy that made Ty Warner rich. Very rich. The beanie baby craze hit us all hard driving miles and miles in search of that one that we were missing. Originally priced for less than $10, towards the end of the craze I was selling some for well over $400. I was able to get out just in time before the beanie crash. You still see the not so rare Princess Diana beanie baby online for crazy prices. There is one online now for $23,000 (why I don’t know), but most are $15.00.

Die Cast Cars – Die cast cars encompass a huge market segment. Hot Wheels, Matchbox, and others ranging in scale from very small to 1:18th. Military, NASCAR, circus, hot rods, fantasy rides, antique cars, planes and more, nearly every genre of wheeled vehicle is or has been represented. Unfortunately only a very small segment of this vast category is valuable due in large part of the sheer numbers of pieces made of each model. A very few versions, in their original packages from the last 1960’s to the mid 1970’s are bringing good prices now. The rest not so much.

Well there you have it. My list of ten things not to collect right now. I say that not to discourage anyone, but to talk about how values of certain items haven’t really maintained well. Some folks told their kids, “All this will be worth big dollars after I die. You can put your kids through college with the profits.” Well, that is no longer a true statement for the most part. If you want to collect, collect! I encourage you to find something you are passionate about, that fits into your budget and go for it.

Collecting is a great hobby. It is interesting and educational and the hunt is always fun. People collect any number of items and something will be sure to fit your interests. One of the great things about our collections are the memories of where we were when we found a particular item. Just be careful to collect for the right reasons as huge financial gains rarely happen. They always say “The best way to make a small fortune in antiques is to start with a large one.” You probably won’t get rich, but you will have fun.

Published Florida Today online edition 4/15/22

Published Florida Today Print Edition 4/17/22