That was in London. By early this year, when the painting got to a different auction house, in New York, art experts decided it was not painted by a follower of John Constable, the famed English landscape artist, but was a genuine canvas done by the master himself. New sales price? $5.2 million.
Would that we all could be so lucky with collectibles. But those are once in a lifetime deals that fall to the very, very few. Still, you can have a fun, and safe, time collecting everything from beer cans to wind-up action figures. And if you like, you might even make a buck or two trading them at swap meets or selling them on E-Bay.
E-Bay is actually a good place to look for what’s selling – and for how much. Plus, it will give you a good look at the massive variety of collectibles that are out there. And the online auction website (they collect a percentage of each piece sold) has a decent library of information to make you better acquainted with what it is you’re buying, or want to collect.
Knowledge is key with collectibles. If you want to collect coins or stamps, for instance, go to swap meets and learn about what is rare, what is not. Yes, it may be 100 years old and thus seem valuable. But what if they printed 10 million of those stamps and 100,000 of them are still in collectors’ hands?
Learn how to discern the difference between a coin in mint condition and one that may have been chemically treated to make it look shinier, or in better condition.
Aside from E-Bay, there are numerous helpful pricing guides. Kovels, www.kovel.com, and Miller’s Antiques and Collectibles, www.millersantiquesguide.com, catalog tens of thousands of items from jewelry to textiles to Coca Cola bottles to furniture.
If it’s baseball cards or athletic memorabilia you’re into, try Beckett’s, www. beckett.com, which likewise serves as both a catalog and sales effort.
And let’s not our national love affair with anything that moves on four wheels. For motorheads, Hemmings Motor News, hemmings.com, serves as an excellent resource guide to auto sales events and history of the industry and the sometimes very very expensive cars that made it famous.
And know when to call in help. My mother and I learned this when she sold some kitchen gadgets she found in a house she inherited outside of Toledo, Ohio. Somebody came out of nowhere and paid her what we thought was a huge amount of money for a 70-year-old egg beater. The whole house was full of stuff like that, and as I haven’t a clue as to what is or isn’t an antique, we hired a professional appraiser and got his opinion as to what the home’s contents were worth.
Also, know when to name a collectible as just something to have around the house, something to amuse you. Over the years I managed to accumulate hundreds of books of matches that restaurants and hotels would hand out as pocket-sized advertisements. I quit smoking, the match business has gone kerplooie and I suspect these keepsakes aren’t worth a plug nickel.
But that’s not the point. I collected them then to serve as reminders of my travels – hey, that was a fun bar! – and 30 years on, it doesn’t hurt a thing to revisit the old haunts without actually leaving my den.