Buying and Selling Collectibles Introduction

About the hobby of collecting, buying, and selling old and used items for fun and profit.

Attic and Junkyard

The California gold mines may have played out, and pirate loot has vanished, but more treasure hunting goes on today than ever before.

Modern fortune seekers do their seeking in attics, under porches of old houses (antique bottles are sometimes found there), at flea markets, charity bazaars, antique shops, junkshops, house-wreckers' lots, country auctions.

The current collecting boom has made superstars out of a lot of very ordinary things--or seemingly ordinary, anyway. Things like political campaign buttons, Shirley Temple dolls, carte-de-visite photos, jail padlocks, railroad spikes, 1st-edition novels, even lengths of old barbed wire. Believe it or not, all are collectibles sought by avid collectors and dealers prepared to pay the top dollar for wanted specimens. Those are the 2 key words in this kind of treasure trek: "wanted specimens." Not every campaign button, not every 1st edition, not "every" anything is valuable. Only a precious few. But they can be precious indeed.

The following is a brief checklist of items in various hobby fields that are worth looking for. Where they might turn up is anybody's guess. A sheaf of Ben Franklin documents--official records kept by Franklin when Postmaster General--was discovered in the binding of an old book. The binder had stuck them there, eons ago, to stiffen the covers. The last printed copy in private hands of the Declaration of Independence was found in 1968 in the cellar of a Philadelphia bookshop, where it had remained hidden 50 years or more. It was then sold for $404,000. One of the world's scarcest stamps, a Hawaiian "missionary," turned up under a hunk of peeling wallpaper. Any place old things are stored or sold is worth rummaging through. But do keep in mind that condition is all-important in fixing value. Collectors are a fussy lot. A stamp that brings $500 in pristine shape may sell for $250 if at all worn or smudged. A book with a page missing is just about worthless, unless very rare. So take a good look. Be sure your bargain is a bargain indeed, and won't end up as a white elephant.

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