You could be rich. All you have to do is buy a bunch of stuff, right?
According to a recent Rolling Stone piece, a rare Beatles’ 45 RPM record sold for $10,000. The song, “Love Me Do,” is a fine tune, but $10,000? That’s a lot of do-loving.
Ah, collecting. I’ve had lots of thoughts about this “hobby” recently. My board game collection has swelled over the years (yes, I’m a geek, but don’t be a hater). The Hard Rock Café beer glasses on my bar shelf had reached 18 before the Hard Rock stopped the madness by discontinuing the glass. I’ve been to 14 major league baseball parks. That’s a collection of experiences.
Collectibles or Junk?
But why? Do I think that one of my board games is going to be worth a ton of money someday? I have a copy of a game called Um Reifenbreite, a German bicycling game from 1979 that won the big prize for board games, called the Spiel Des Jahre. A warehouse caught fire, and most copies were lost. The game has never been reprinted, and I own one.
Would you buy it from me? What would you do with it?
But really, the bigger question is: how much money would I have saved by NOT collecting Um Reifenbreite? And those beer glasses? I was so freaked out about maybe breaking one that I didn’t even drink out of any of them. Here I have a shelf full of crap that I never use….and for what?
Are my kids going to collect it? I seriously doubt it. When I die, those will end up in a garage sale somewhere. It means something to nobody but one person: me.
…and if I take a minute and think about it, the collection doesn’t mean that much to me.
But it’s an investment!
Some collections truly are an investment. Jay Leno owns a huge car collection. Automobiles might have a shot of appreciating. Some of the biggest investors in the world are currently (and curiously) stocking up on art. These collections feel less like “collections” and more like investments.
How do you know if it’s an investment or a collection? First, an investment has a track record. With both art and autos, it’s a mixed bag, and not a place for amateurs to dabble. While I’m with you when you say that the Dogs Playing Poker print appears to be uber-awesome, apparently, according the people who know better than me, it’s worthless. I know. Color Me Shocked.
Instead, I guess art needs to look like this to be valuable:
Who knew, huh? Apparently dogs playing poker are a little too esoteric.
Other collections I don’t understand. At some point, you aren’t a collector anymore. You’re just a hoarder. For example, who’s going to sacrifice a bunch of Benjamins for a collection of airline vomit bags? How about this guy who collects navel lint?
…or this man who collects toilet seat art? Wouldn’t it be inspiring to decorate your throne in a different style every third or fourth day? Sit down and think about that for a moment. Who’s going to pay for that collection later? What trigger in your brain gets pulled when you ask yourself, “Why am I NOT collecting toilet seats?”
The Real Problem
Sadly, for many, collecting is just another form of consumerism gone wild. Products feed on this with a “collect all five” slogan. Collectible card games like Pokemon reign in kids when they’re young. Of course, Pokemon isn’t anything new. Richard Garfield became wealthy off of Magic, The Gathering. Hell, even “back in the day”, baseball cards sold you the lure of getting them all….one awful bubblegum strip at a time.
Even video games are cashing in on this need to collect. Activision sells Skylanders, a game where players collect action figures and place them on a pedestal, triggering in-game changes. While some figures are common, others are rare, and people pay big money for them on the secondary market. The game has been so successful that Disney’s betting heavy on a knock off called Disney Infinity.
At some point, this is what collecting is:
Listening to an organizational podcast a couple weeks ago, I had an epiphany: I only have two hands. Sometimes the most brilliant ideas are also the most obvious, aren’t they? With my “two hands” limit, there’s only so much stuff I can use at one time. Everything else I own sits on a shelf, waiting for me to use it in the future. How much of this stuff that’s waiting around actually is a “collectible” and becoming more valuable? Nearly none.
With my two hands, I’ve realized:
- I’m never going to play all these board games.
- I’m not going to drink out of 18 Hard Rock glasses anytime soon, even if I break them all in the next couple weeks.
- There’s no reason to collect items that will sit on a shelf and clutter my house.
So, this year I’m taking about 20 games to a convention to sell.
…and those Hard Rock glasses? Oh, yeah, baby! Game on.
Then again, I might take my time. I don’t want to be collecting liver transplants, either….
Your job, stacker: Go donate some stuff or sell it off. Use the proceeds to pay down some debt. Better yet, put it in savings to build your stack.
Photos: Flag, Westher; Hoarder, puuikibeach
Editor’s note: this was first published in June 2013 and has been dusted off, cleaned up, and published again for the 2015 crowd!