Treasure or Clutter? - Random Reasonings

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Treasure or Clutter?

I got hooked at the age of 8.

My grandparents took me to a country auction at a house in Oakland Mills.

Grandma gave me four quarters to bid on something. I bought a beautiful green depression glass candy dish for 25 cents. I still have it. A cherished treasure that got me hooked on buying old stuff.

Throughout my adult life my favorite past time has been going to all kinds of auctions, flea markets, antiques malls, antiques shops, collectibles emporiums, and roadside junk shops, scavenging for old treasures.

For years I lived just a few miles from the heart of the Antiques Capital of the U.S. – Adamstown, PA home to Renningers Flea Market, which was at one time the largest indoor/outdoor flea market in the country. And that was just the beginning. That entire highway corridor was packed with antiques malls and flea markets. Going there was a weekly Sunday pilgrimage to find more treasures for my collections of stuff.

Now the market has exploded online. In the past 5 years online sales of antiques and collectibles has grown to $1.6 billion for that period. Sales are growing at about 5.3% per year.

As millennials become homeowners, 61% of them are looking for unique items and are turning to the online vintage and antiques markets to find them.

Collecting is a type of addiction. You get high from the thrill of the hunt and the chase. Then there’s the discovery, followed by the negotiation of price and value. I think there was a lot more satisfaction when it was done face-to-face. But the digital marketplace has been great for antiques and collectibles.

Some people focus on a specific type of collectible. They acquire collections of one category of thing that provides satisfaction and nostalgia, with the expectation that some day that collection will be worth much more than they paid amassing it.

The collecting bug seems to bite a lot of us. From Jay Leno’s huge collection of old cars to Tom Hank’s collection of vintage typewriters, even celebrities have “things” they just can’t get enough of. That’s another thing about collecting … it can be enjoyed by people at all income levels. Who knows when a yard sale purchase for $2 could turn out to be something of value?

Its an expectation nurtured by shows like Antiques Road Show. PBS has been airing the popular series for 25 seasons! They describe it as “part adventure, part history lesson, and part treasure hunt.”

That description aptly describes the motivation for collectors. And it explains the popularity of other shows like Pawn Stars, American Pickers and Market Warriors. The TV and streaming audiences for shows about collecting attract more than 4 million people per episode. 

So what are people collecting these days?

Comic Books top the list. A vintage, rare, or prestigious issue of a comic book, in pristine condition, can be very difficult to find. There are now auctions for rare comic books. In 2021 Heritage Auctions took in $22.4 million from the sale of high grade collectible comics.

For decades I’ve tried to find Katy Keene comics. As a young girl I had most of them but they are long gone. There were a total of 62 issues published from 1945 until 1961. They are nearly impossible to find because each comic book included paper dolls and we girls who bought the comics cut out the paper dolls and the cut-up comic books were thrown away. In my collecting quests I have found two in good condition, with the paper dolls still in them, and added them to my treasure.

Other popular collectibles are coins, stamps, dolls, action figures, board games, trading cards, Star Wars and Star Trek memorabilia, movie items, toys, and first edition books. In the late 1980s I gave my son the Lego Space Monorail set for Christmas. I think he kept the original box and still has all the pieces. If so, he has a collectible toy that could be worth $2,500 or more!

Over the years I have acquired a lot of old stuff. Furniture, glassware, silver, china, art, jewelry, lamps, and decorative items. Most of it hardly ever gets used. Which makes me question whether its treasure or just clutter.

I’ve spent a lot of money over the years buying things I didn’t need. But I had loads of fun doing it. I loved everything I bought. And that’s my perspective. Collecting and antiquing for me has been a form of entertainment all my life. It was fun. It gave me pleasure.

 Some of what I’ve bought has increased in value. Some of it hasn’t. There are definitely many better, more secure, ways to make investments.

But the thing with antiques and collectibles is that you never know when they will trend again. And that’s part of the thrill too. Each new generation changes the trends.

Who knows? My grandkids may some day be thrilled to get some of my old stuff and consider it to be treasure. If that happens, those would be great investments for sure! I’ll be delighted!

“Whoever said that Disney is the happiest place on earth has never been in an Antiques Store.


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    • You have! I think that’s what years of living on a boat can help you do. Downsizing for sure. Thanks for reading the blog!

  1. You had me at the auction house description! My grandparents were Saturday night faithfuls to auctions in Mifflin County. I remember sitting there as a little girl and wondering how in the world do they know what they are doing? I haven’t thought about those memories in years! Grandma and Grandpa were collectors….of anything and everything. The things they took home seemed like junk to me but I did come to love antiques from both of my Grandmas. Growing up in an old, Victorian house just expanded my love for precious things from the past. And yes, I still do! We bought an old house, too—and now I am working hard to thin out the ‘stuff’ that I love! I offer it first to our children….and Oh, so….many…precious things! I seem to get attached! Thanks for the memories!

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