On Your Mark…Get Set…Collect!

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Here at the World Collectors Net, we get
dozens of emails from collectors every day. Recently, this note from
Jeremy popped up on my monitor:

“Hello, I am looking to get into
collecting.  I was wondering if you could give me some ideas of
things to collect.  I can not spend a whole lot of money on this
hobby.”

Having been a collector for several years,
it reminded me that the urge to collect is instinctual and natural,
and usually starts to gnaw at you in middle age. (Not old age, which,
I’ve observed, is always 20 years older than you are!)

Jeremy was obviously feeling the bug,
and I sent him several suggestions for inexpensive items that are ideal
for the new collector:


  • Clothing buttons – During the 1200’s,
    the French penchant for fitted garments led to the use of buttons
    as fasteners, and the word “button” derives from the French “bouton”,
    meaning “bud” or “knob”. Buttons can be enjoyed as a bit of history,
    or a piece of art, or both.In fact, buttons are probably the most
    popular collectible in the world. Part of their allure is that generally
    they’re an inexpensive collectible, although a rare button can fetch
    up to several thousand dollars. Focus on one area, such as celluloid
    buttons, and you can build a satisfying collection. Mount them on
    fabric-covered cards for display. Recommended reading: “Buttons: The
    Collector’s Guide” by Nancy Fink and Maryalice Ditzler
  • Keys
    – A cheap antique that works as a collectible and as home décor.
    Keys have been around for 4000 years so there’s plenty to choose from!
    Early Roman keys were made from bronze and have survived, as opposed
    to their iron-lock counterparts, which have crumbled to dust. A
    2000-year-old key can be had for as little as $50. The 17th and 18th
    century produced the most decorative skeleton keys, with elaborate
    designs in the bow (the part you turn) and the combination (the part
    you stick in the lock). Intricate brass padlocks and keys from the
    1700’s can be found for $150 – 200. Shine ‘em up, frame ‘em, and you’ve
    got a lovely home accessory. Recommended reading: “Keys – Their History
    and Collection” by Eric Monk, published by Shire Publications.
  • Jim
    Beam Bottles – Since 1955, the James B. Beam Distilling Company has
    been releasing its bourbon in ceramic, figural bottles, initially
    made by Regal China and now by Wade Ceramics. Thousands of people
    collect these amazing designs, which are often beautiful, always eccentric,
    and sometimes just plain tacky. “Beamers” have clubs all over the
    world and an international newsletter. In spite of their popularity,
    the figural bottles are a common sight in yard sales and flea markets,
    and generally sell for under $10. Specialty lines, like the “Wheel
    Series” of cars from 1972 – 1992, can set you back $120 a bottle.
    Beam bottles are a terrific, inexpensive collection for the rec room.
    Recommended reading: “Jim Beam Figural Bottles” by Molly Higgins,
    published by Schiffer Books.
  • Magazines – Magazines have been around
    since the late 1800’s, and even the oldest ones are generally inexpensive.
    For example, a “National Geographic Magazine” from 1915 will sell
    for around $15. The value increases if there’s a film celebrity, sports
    figure, or famous story on the cover. Even then, the prices are affordable.
    Consider that an item like the “Cue” magazine from 1953 featuring
    Marilyn Monroe sells for $30. Specialize in one subject or era, such
    as the Great Depression, and let the hunt begin! Once again, a framed
    collage of magazines can make an attractive and nostalgic wall display.
    Recommended reading: “Old Magazines Price Guide”, published by L-W
    Books. 
  • Fortune Cookie “Fortunes” – Now, this
    may be pushing the realm of cheapness to new lows, but I know of two
    people who take great delight in this pastime. One collector saves
    every fortune cookie fortune she can get her mitts on, stores them
    in a decorative metal tin by the front door, and everyone who enters
    gets to test their luck by drawing one. It’s a wonderfully friendly
    way to welcome a guest, and a great conversation starter. Fortune
    cookies are popular around the world, and she’s forever trading for
    fortunes in different languages and designs. No recommended reading
    on this one. You’ll just have to use your imagination!

RJ Gulliver is the author of “The Net User’s Guide to Buying,
Selling and Trading Collectibles”, published by 
Stoddart Publishing abd “The Pocket
Dragons Price Guide” for Francis Joseph Publishing,