No matter what they collect, hobbyists enjoy sharing stories about interesting or hard-to-find pieces from their collections. Here we’ve gathered a sampling of tips, tidbits, and true tales from across the collecting world.
What’s It Worth?
Getting an honest and accurate appraisal of a treasured collectible can be tricky, but the Internet has made the job a little easier.
For decades, the Kovels’ guides have been the gold standard of antiques and collectible pricing. In addition to Kovels’ well-regarded price guides (available in bookstores and libraries), kovels.com offers a range of news, information, and resources, whether you’re trying to find the value of heirloom jewelry or want to know if Grandma’s antique pie cabinet is worth repairing.
Collectors flock to online auction site eBay.com, not just to bid on hard-to-find items, but to search previous auctions to check the sale prices of pieces they own.
Baseball memorabilia is one of the country’s most popular and diverse collectible fields. Vintage baseball equipment is particularly hot these days. Just ask Joe Phillips, editor and creator of The Glove Collector newsletter that covers the history of glove companies, which gloves were worn by famous players, and how to find and appraise collectible gloves. The most valuable gloves, Phillips says, are of course those owned or endorsed by famous players. Lou Gehrig’s game glove was auctioned for $387,000. Mickey Mantle’s went for $239,000. Older models, like the pre-1900’s cutoff finger gloves, are also very collectible. Prime examples can fetch $5,000 to $8,000.
Comic books from the 1930s and 40s are valuable (many were lost in wartime paper drives), but none more so than those featuring the debut of a popular character. Earlier this year, a 1939 copy of Detective Comics #27 (the first appearance of Batman) went for the sky-high price of $1,075,500. A few weeks later, Superman beat the Caped Crusader when auction house ComicConnect.com sold a 1938 copy of Action Comics #1 (the Man of Steel’s debut) for a record $1.5 million.
Most coin and currency enthusiasts build collections based on rarity and value, but some prize the history behind the hard cash, as in the case of a “short snorter.” During World War II and the Korean War, short snorters were typically $1 bills that servicemen carried as good luck charms. When soldiers gathered, they sought out other short snorters and signed each other’s bills, often including dates and locations. High-ranking officers and even celebrities signed them, too. For more about these unique pieces of history, visit the Web site shortsnorter.org.
Gnomes are a popular and decorative collectible for many gardeners (and tempting targets for pranksters). The most famous gnome-knapping occurred in 2008, when Murphy, a leprechaun gnome, vanished from his owner’s garden, then turned up months later, accompanied by a photo album. His abductor took him on a world tour, and the album featured shots of Murphy swimming in Thailand, rappelling down a mountain in New Zealand, and more. Securing beloved gnomes to a concrete base or garden stake is usually enough to prevent unexpected walkabouts.
What do you love to collect? Tell us about your favorite collectibles. E-mail us at email@example.com, or write to Collecting Column, The Saturday Evening Post, 1100 Waterway Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46202.