Helpful Tips on Starting a Collection
Have you ever wanted to start a collection but didn’t know where to begin? Collecting is a great hobby that can last a lifetime. You get to enjoy the thrill of the hunt for your coveted items and euphoria when you find them. Not to mention the joy that comes from watching your collection grow and turn into something that you can be proud of and enjoy with your kids and grandkids. So if you are new to the collecting game here are 11 helpful hints to get you started.

1) Find out what you are interested in: You can collect virtually anything and it doesn’t have to be one of the classic genres of collectibles items like coins or stamps. Sometimes what you collect isn’t a conscious choice at all but something that has been handed down to you or randomly caught your eye. But if you are actively making a decision then make sure to select something that genuinely interests you. Or even copy a collection you love belonging to someone else. If you are a book worm, start with books. Or if you are the resident family photographer, consider historic photos. Collecting is all about personal fulfillment and enjoyment, so take the time to do some introspection and find out what is attractive to you.

2) Consider the logistics: When you start a collection you have to be practical. During your selection process make sure that your choice is broad enough so that you can easily find items to add to your collection but narrow enough to not make it overwhelming. For instance, you don’t want to collect sports cards as a whole because then you can get swallowed up in a spectrum of millions of cards. Instead hone in on a particular team, player, or sport that interests you. Consider the other limitations to your hobby as well like space, cost, and availability. If your desired collectibles are too expensive for you to afford, then don’t collect them. You could end up spending all your money up front on just a few items and be unable to grow the collection later. Similarly, shy away from collecting items that are bulky, like antique farm equipment, if you don’t have the space to store it.

3) Do your research: It is not going to do you any good if you don’t know how to grow your collection after you select one. Before you start collecting you should find out where you can purchase the items. It may be a good idea to buy locally from antique and vintage shops where you can more easily learn the characteristics of, problems with, and prices of the items you are collecting. In this way you will know what to look for when you shop online. Make sure you know enough about the history of the items and what qualifies as good condition before you start buying. Reference books can be a huge help here. Also make sure that you know if your items are commonly reproduced and any issues that come along with it so that you can tell the difference between a real item and a fake item.

4) Start slow: You have to start at the bottom rung of the collecting ladder before you can climb to the top. Start acquiring the common items that are low value to build a foundation for your collection. If you are doing your research you will know what items to start with. It’s best not to come out with guns blazing and buy the most expensive items on the market. You could easily get burned out (or run through your resources) without ever gaining a true appreciation for the items you collect. You want to be able to continue this hobby throughout the course of your life so make sure to limit yourself to acquiring items at a natural pace, maybe a few per month or year. That being said, don’t compromise on the condition of an item. Always buy the best condition that you can afford. Unless of course, an item is so rare that condition does not make much of a difference. Chipped and broken items may be cheaper but if you try to resell the item later most buyers won’t be interested. And even if you don’t sell, eventually you will regret not buying in better condition when your entire collection looks like it’s suffered water damage or worse.

5) Organize: Once you are underway with collecting it is best to organize your items into sets. You can form a niche of the items that you really want which will allow you to make a plan on how to best acquire the items. Plus, it is really satisfying to cross the items you find off your pre-made want list.

6) Be a seller/trader (sometimes): There will be times when you need to off-load parts of your collection in order to not become a hoarder. You can downside in a personal way and give parts of your collection away as gifts or sell. Of course, it is possible to never have to buy or sell a collectible if you always operate through trading. Part of creating a collection does mean sometime acquiring extra items along the way to use explicitly for trading purposes. Part of the culture of collecting is engaging in trading with other collectors so make sure that you have some items you are willing to trade.

7) Be a part of a community: When you are getting started with a collection the best way to find out more about it is to ask the experts. There are forums, blogs, and clubs for virtually every form of collecting. You can also attend shows once you’ve amassed a collection to not only show it off but to firsthand learn from some of the most experienced collectors. Not only can you find out valuable information from them, you can also engage in discussions about something you are passionate about. Let’s be honest, your friends and family may get tired of hearing about your collection, but other collectors never will.

8) Make it personal: Once you get used to the ins and outs of acquiring items, it’s time to make your collection unique to you. Creating a theme for your collection can help narrow your search and make your collection more cohesive. You could potentially center your collection around a particular moment in history, a particular athlete, or manufacturer. This will probably happen organically as you naturally find out what kinds of items you gravitate towards.

9) Know the history: When you add a new item to your collection, take the time to learn the story behind it. While a vintage stamp is pretty cool on its own, it becomes so much more than a piece of paper when you know all about the era in which it was printed, the history of the design, and what happened to its counterparts. You will most likely have to put more effort into finding this information because the person who sold it to you might not necessarily know. But the work is worth it. You will have so much more fun sharing the stories that go along with each individual item when you share your collection with your friends and family.

10) Show it off: Since you took the time to build your collection, display it to the world! Collections are meant to be seen and admired. Figure out the best way to preserve and display your items so that you, and visitors to your home, can best appreciate them. You don’t want to be that person who spends decades collecting only for the collection to end up in a shoebox in the closet that no one knows about. Collecting is meant to be enjoyable and you’ll find that you love your collection more if you can see the fruits of your labor. A word of caution though, make sure not go overboard with your display or you may come off as a museum curator or worse, slightly crazy.

11) Buy what makes you happy: Don’t get caught up in the investment aspect of the hobby. It is possible to turn a profit but generally only if you are expert in the hobby. And even if you are an expert there it is never a guarantee that any of the items you purchase will ever grow in value. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Instead make sure to collect what you want, whether or not other people think the same. Your collection may very well grow in value without you even trying! But even if it doesn’t you’ll have a collection that you can enjoy for years to come.

By Meg Venable
Collectibles Central