Collections: Trash or treasure?

While uncluttering, you may come across a few collections you decide no longer interest you or are worth the space in your home you’ve been dedicating to them. Last year, for instance, I gave my yarn collection away to friends, and now have two shelves in a closet that hold my son’s toys.

Maybe you’re ready to part with your baseball cards, vintage Barbie dolls, or a few pieces of antique furniture? When was the last time you looked at your comic books or dusted the snow globes?

Unfortunately, not all collections will sell for amounts anywhere close to what you paid for them (but that doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t get rid of the collection, especially if it no longer interests you and is just cluttering up your home). The website ManOfTheHouse.com ran an informative article in August that discussed ways to learn if your collections will be considered trash or treasures when you decide to sell. From “Sorting Collectibles from Junk” by Amy Carson:

So how do you find out if your “junk” is valuable? Start by looking online. Search eBay to see if any similar items are for sale, and how much they sell for. On Google, search for online collectors’ clubs. You can also ask a dealer for an appraisal or look up collectible prices at your local library.

It’s no guarantee, but before you give away your old stuff it’s worth checking what it’s worth. After all, you never know how much money might be lurking in your closet, garage, or attic.

A few items Amy says are trending right now — African-American family archives, unusual and less-popular board games that are no longer manufactured, letters and diaries relating to historical figures, Bakelite jewelry, old postcards of locales, Sears’ Craftsman tools made before 1950.

Do you have a collection that you’re ready to let go? This weekend might be a perfect time to gather it up, research its value, and decide if you want to sell it (or simply give it away).

23 Comments for “Collections: Trash or treasure?”

  1. posted by Ann on

    I have collected turtle figurines since childhood (I’m 58). I display very few and spent some time in my 30’s gleaning the collection down to the ones that I like the most. The entire collection fits in a shoebox now.

    Sometimes collections are just junk. And even in a real collection, there are junky pieces. I tried to eliminate the silly, ugly or duplicates and kept the meaningful (like the brown clay tortoise my mother brought me back from East Germany in the 60’s…in stark contrast to the delicate white Dresden porcelain turtle from West Germany – it was a Cold War political statement on a shelf).

  2. posted by bobbin on

    Coin collections? I imagine pennies from many countries should just be recycled.

  3. Avatar of

    posted by Sky on

    I collect, of all thing, hedgehogs. I don’t even remember why I started collecting them other than they are unusual and I like them, unfortunately, when people find out you collect something they think you want every form of the item drom the Dollar Store on up.

    I went through mine a few years ago and got rid of the less desirable ones (trying to be kind here) and kept my special Waterford, Lalique and Swarovski crystal ones and the unique ones from various places I’ve traveled.

    I have a total of 7 now. I think that’s a reasonable amount and I can pick up more if I find a special one.

  4. posted by Elise on

    I misread yarn collection as yam collection, and I really enjoyed the mental image of Erin collecting yams and storing them in a closet. Many questions immediately came to mind, such as – are these fresh yams, ceramic yams, stuffed yams, etc.

    My dad tried to interest me in collections as a kid, so I had multiple collections: tiny pewter figurines, pins, foreign coinage and probably several others that I cannot remember. It was difficult to give them away, but very worth it as the only meaning they had is that he gave them to me.

  5. posted by chacha1 on

    I used to have many little collections. Used the attrition method over a period of years to gradually winnow them down to, in most cases, nothingness.

    A tendency DH and I shared, to overspend on travel souvenirs of the fine-art variety, was arrested due to my disemployment last year. I am pretty sure having gotten out of that habit, we won’t return to it.

    Books, however … .

  6. posted by Jen on

    @ Elise

    Hilarious! Now I too am enjoying the mental picture of a yam collection!

  7. posted by DJ on

    I’m coming up on being ready to let go of all my jewelry making supplies and the hobby itself. It used to be a source of joy to me. Now it’s just an expense I can’t afford anymore. I’ll never be in the business of selling my things, so it just doesn’t make sense. But it’s hard to let go, because I was still enjoying the work.

    I used to knit as well… when I stopped enjoying knitting, after years of pleasant fun, I weeded myself done to one set of needles and a couple of other items, so I can still knit hats or scarves, small things as needed. That was easy, because I no longer enjoyed knitting.

  8. posted by Kris on

    I was cleaning out my office recently, and I realized that the collection of model horses that I’d kept from my childhood needed to go. I wasn’t photographing them or doing anything with them, and they were collecting dust. They weren’t particularly rare or in mint condition, and selling them wouldn’t have been worth the trouble.

    So I posted on Facebook and discovered that a friend’s 9 year old daughter is completely horse crazy. The model horses went to her the next day, along with some stuffed animals to appease her brothers. From all reports, she adores them, and i’m very pleased they’ve gone to someone who will play with them. I kept my two very favorites, the ones I actually photograph on occasion, but the rest are off having backyard adventures.

  9. posted by Karen on

    I had a collection of ceramic angels that started, according to family lore, when I was four and at an auction with my grandfather. Over time it grew to 100+, displayed in a large curio cabinet complete with lights and glass shelves. It was pretty, and a lot of those angels were gifts, but a lot of them were bought from hospital gift shops, and only a few were of real collecting value.

    When I moved out of my parents’ home i took the collection, but when I had kids of my own I would feel uneasy about how fragile and huge the curio case was, so eventually I packed up most of the angels and donated them to Goodwill. The ones I knew to be valuable–Lladros, Hummels–I sold on Ebay. I have one or two left, one that my husband and I bought in Ireland on our honeymoon, and couple others. I felt so liberated when I got rid of the collection!

    Basically, the collection no longer fit with my adult life and the person I had become. So I was more than ready to part with them.

  10. posted by Jessica on

    I don’t quite have a collection, but I have a friend who collected pigs, and you could tell she felt overrun with pig gifts. My question is–how do you keep and display your (pared down) collection without inciting more thematic gifts from people who don’t know what else to give you?

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    posted by themusiclivez on

    I am getting rid of a lot of my promo/import CDs and am keeping just the ones that have rare tracks. I’m a huge audiophile and love music, but having duplicates of albums and one track CDs just isn’t to my liking any longer. They take up space and don’t add anything to my life!

    However, I love dolls. I have American Girl dolls from when I was really young and now I collect Tonner Dolls of characters that I love.

  12. Avatar of

    posted by themusiclivez on

    @Jessica – If someone comes into your house and makes a comment about the pigs I think it would be best to say, “I USED to collect pigs, but not anymore.” that way they will know it’s not something you actively collect.

    Unfortunately people may just notice them and not say anything, and you may end up with a few pigs that you don’t really want. I think if you display a small amount at one time, though, they will get the hint that it isn’t something you want to collect more of.

  13. Avatar of

    posted by themusiclivez on

    Oops… I didn’t realize it wasn’t you who collected the pigs. But I guess my examples work for any type of collection!

  14. posted by chacha1 on

    Or you could always make a cute little sign for one of the pigs to hold that reads “Pig store is closed, kthxbye!”

  15. posted by Sherman Unkefer on

    I’ve always had some good success on craigslist, too. I’ve been searching for an out of print boardgame called Scotland Yard for years…so, your list is right on!

  16. posted by lena on

    This has inspired me to get rid of my two boxes full of Star Wars Action figures (missing their weapons, wobbly heads and all – so worth next to nothing). Hammerhead, out you go!

  17. posted by Another Deb on

    Someone else might inherit your collection and feel guilted into honoring your momory by keeping it. We are trying to sell three very specialized racing motorcycles right now, knowing mothing about that lifestyle and having no contacts who might want them. This was from an estate of a relative.

  18. posted by Lisa on

    Last year I sold on eBay my huge collection of posters, articles, cards etc. of a boy band I liked at school – and now I have no regrets at all.

    But I also have an example of nice usage of the collection. My brother collects mugs from different cities – and the all are displayed on the wall – hooked on or on shelf. All mugs are numbered and he also has a small “lotto” – little cards with number to choose randomly. Every morning he chooses on number and takes the corresponding mug for tee. Af cause, his collection takes some space on the kitchen wall, but I find it really nice TO USE the collection and not only to leave in shelves.

  19. posted by Julie on

    First @ DJ – I’d be interested in the jewelry making supplies. I’ve been getting interested in beaded jewelry lately & would like to get into making more pieces for myself & possibly to sell. I’ve sold just about everything else you could think of on EBay; it would be great to sell something I made. I have created a couple necklace/bracelet sets for myself & get compliments when I wear them.
    Perhaps the admin. for this site can pass on my email address to you. Please and thank you.

    Next, LOL @ the YAM collection. I’m imagining yams with faces of famous people. Carved, natural, or perhaps painted like gourds. They can keep for a long time in a cool, dry environment, ya know!

    And @ Lisa – The mug collection is awesome. It’s great that your brother uses them and so creatively, too.

  20. posted by Margaret on

    My MIL received a rooster collection when her sister died, and she has it all displayed in her home. But as far as I know, she doesn’t particularly like roosters — it’s just that they belonged to her sister.

    I have a collection of dragon figurines that hasn’t been displayed in over ten years, and at the moment, the box where I keep them is buried in a room that would fit right in with a hoarders show. Whenever I get around to tackling that room, I’ll get rid of most of them. My tastes have changed.

  21. posted by Eileen on

    I collected unicorns but only had/have a few. Because I have so few, I am reluctant to part with them.

    I also received a few hummingbird figurines as gifts because a close friend of mine carved birds — the bird he gave me and I cherish because it was handmade specifically for me — is a humming bird. Co-workers and friends noticed how cautious I was about transporting my carved humming bird when I relocated several times and thought they should give me more birds (humming and others). Fortunately, or unforunately, those gifts, oops, broke so I only have my original hand carved bird on display in my bedroom. Very few people see or notice it there so no more hummingbird collectibles.

    It’s cool to have “theme decor” but you can over do it. My sister just moved into a new house and her old kitchen (with her ex) was peppered with chilis. No more chili peppers but it would be nice to create a new theme, just not too kitchy.

    Sorry about that rooster collection. I still have my mother’s (passed in 1997) spoon collection which I have never displayed, and alas, still cannot decide on a fitting tribute (way to “dispose”).

  22. posted by Natalie in West Oz on

    I collect dolls. Lots of them. But there’s no room to show them all so I use a method a friend suggested. I display what fits on a shelf for a month. Then I change them. All the dolls get seen for a while, all of them get to sleep under the bed for a while too! If I retrieve a box of dolls from their slumber and decide I’d forgoten I had them or dont like them anymore, they can go to new homes either via ebay or the less expensive ones to a child.
    For a while there i ended up with lots of dolls I didnt want or like until I told my family I only collected certain dolls. When people view my dolls and ask if I collect dolls, I say “I only collect certain dolls” and then I point out how much they cost or how that doll is unique and why I hunted it down. Works for me.

  23. Avatar of

    posted by Mimi on

    i used to have a lot of music-cds. some hundrets of them :-/ i love music and i love my cds, so i thought, this would be a wonderful collection. and i thought that these cds belong to the “things i love”-category.

    well… i decided to change this category. now i am importing the cds i “love” (another category… and these are way less then i expected) to itunes. i ceck every cd on ebay and the wonderful thing is: if i wanted to, i could buy every cd on ebay for 1, 2 or 3 euros per cd. that´s wonderful to know. and even “grounding” because that means, i have hundrets of 1-euro-cds in my shelves and i paid such a lot of money to get them.
    anyway. i am importing 5 cds in the morning while having my 2 mugs of cup of coffee and 5 cds in the evening. the cds will be donated. i don´t need them anymore.

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