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Collecting Pop-Culture Items Before It Turned in to Big Business on Ebay

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When I was a kid in the 1970’s and 1980’s, I collected Star Wars toys, comic books, posters and assorted other items the way some kids collect baseball cards or Pez dispensers. These fairly vast collections currently reside 3000 miles away somewhere at my parent’s residence. The good news is that most of those collected items have appreciated in value, substantially. But, I realize now as an adult, that when you take in to consideration all of the “square footage” of residential storage space that stuff like this takes up in a house, especially in a area with a booming real estate market, that any appreciation which these collected items have received over time is really canceled out. In other words, even though the items have gone up by “10-1000+”-times their original price, they really amount to a loss when I factor in the value of the storage area that they took up over the years.

It seemed like I collected things at a young age due to my interest in the wisdom of “buying low and sell high.” It’s just that my execution of the storage of those items was a little off. I’d buy the items and I hid them away, kind of in the old Citizen-Kane-style; I guess you could say I wasn’t a full-on nerd who wanted to show the items off, I was just somebody who knew the items would increase in value down the road. But, some guys (and its definitely mostly males) who really love the stuff they collect display these kinds of “collections” in their own residences as one might display art or paintings or sculpture: they literally have rooms filled wall-to-wall with Star Trek or Star Wars items or old Washington Senators memorabilia. That makes a lot of sense. I guess you could say that it adds to your living arrangement rather than simply subtracting from your residential square footage. That’s probably the most logical way to handle the keeping of such items over time. Much more of a win-win situation: you have interesting items for your guests to look at which also appreciate over time.

Speculative collecting of pop-culture items has turned in to big business over the last decade. Companies such as Ebay have basically aggregated a million collections and small retail hobby enterprises and turned what was once a mom and pop thing in to a gigantic, fluid secondary market for toys and kitsch. As such, If I take all the stuff I collected and put it in a room at my place, it’d look like I went on Ebay, circa 2005, and spent $30,000 on rare 70’s and 80’s era pop-culture merchandise. Anybody with a Visa card could do that nowadays; so it kind of undercuts the fun, treasure-hunting and work which was inherent in the whole business of “collecting” when I was a kid. But in its favor, Ebay does offer people the advantage of being able to buy items which may increase in value and which will also appeal to the collector’s overall asthetic tastes. That was tough to do thirty years ago as a kid who had to do the best he could with the limited selection available to him locally. Like I said, as a kid, I could generally collect stuff locally that would increase in value, but I generally wanted to “put it under a matress” so to speak. Nowadays, you can have the best of both worlds: collect for speculation and aesthetic appeal thanks to Ebay.

So, in sum, I’m not too ticked-off that the whole baseball card, comic-book, toy, garage-sale thing has gone mass-market on Ebay. If anything, it’s made it easier for young people and, I guess, adults to get started collecting, speculating or otherwise trading in custom-tailored items that were once the preserve of the hardcore collector or treasure-hunter. And, the people who did the old-fashioned legwork of collecting stuff like baseball cards or Star Wars toys locally as kids (with no Ebay) often end up using that experience as a spring board for commodity speculation as adults, say in real estate or automobiles or fine-art.

From the blog, Usedcarsalesman.com

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