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
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
– 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.
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
- 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,