The Value of a Collection
A lot is said by collectors as to what their collection is worth. Last month I threw out a subject for dialogue regarding the use of avatar names on the Social Network sites and one of the comments was in regard to collection value; more specifically that there is a need for anonymity to help prevent theft. This is a very valid point indeed and one that could generate much discussion on its own merit. It has been pointed out that one may even discover someone’s identity if they use an avatar on eBay, for example, and their proper name here on the GMIC. This may be accomplished by paying attention of what is in the background of the picture of the posted item for sale then noticing the same background here on this forum. I’ve seen this myself in regard to one of the GMIC members who also sells on eBay, though I only know his real name as we both have been members here for a long time. I am also guilty of this in that I used to sell a lot on eBay and always employed the same grey corduroy back drop cloth in every photo both on eBay and on the GMIC.
I usually wait until later in a Blog to get sidetracked but this time I started with being distracted, though it may be argued that it was after the first paragraph when this blog went off the rails, so-to-speak. I leave that up to you.
One comment, last month regarding security started me thinking, which is the very reason for these Blogs, about my collection and the attractiveness to criminals that it might present. I do have a security system but not of the James Bond laser, poison gas type. The concept that someone could easily cut the phone lines just outside of the house has been eliminated when I built a shop attached to the side of the dwelling. The lines all remained in the same location and the shop was built over them so the lines are eight feet below the surface of the yard and enter the dwelling inside the shop. We live in a small community and an extremely quiet neighbourhood where the biggest event of the year is when the first robin arrives back from the south in the spring. So it is a fairly safe and secure neighbourhood in a small and low-crime town. This left me with looking at what my collection was actually worth and with this exercise came a rude awakening.
Exactly what is any collection worth? Certainly if you have kept good records of the amount paid out for your collectables you could state the cost of a collection. Probably a figure best kept locked away in a secret safety deposit box and the key hidden from your spouse. What you paid and what it is actually worth are two completely different figures. If a criminal broke in and was able to steal whatever they wanted what would they take? Firearms would be on the top of the list I am sure and then anything they could easily sell, usually to support their drug habit. Unless you have diamond encrusted military awards or solid gold medals the criminal may have to sort through dozens, perhaps hundreds of military medals in order to take only those made of silver. Keep in mind most thieves are “grab and run” types and do not take the time to sort, especially if an alarm system is blaring away. Most pawn shops are hesitant to take in any quantity of so-called collectables, though anything that could be easily melted down may be more desirable to the less honest pawn shop owner. I would say that electronics would present a more attractive target than 200 bayonets, even with their original scabbards.
Moving on from the possibility of criminal activity because you have either taken precautions to “harden the target” (police terminology) or preserved your anonymity by not allowing every Tom, Dick and Harry in to see your collection, let’s look at post mortem sales. This may be the fate of a lot of our collections. Certainly our own mortality is not in question; unless you have found out something I haven’t. If you have, sharing it would be much appreciated. So here we are in a state of personal extinction, dead as a dodo bird and securely under six feet of dirt, with your collection in the hands of your heirs. I have found that spouses and family are fairly quick to dispose of the deceased collector’s hoard. It is not because of greed and the desire to pick the carcass of the estate clean, in most cases, at least in my opinion. It is a time of grief and your collection is a small part of the whole issue at hand. One should never discount how much your hobby has irritated the family and their point of view may not be that of the selfless parent or spouse but rather has always been a silent point of contention. There may be a small bit of resentment over the time and money you have lavished on your collection, time and attention, if not money, that could and should have been spent on them. This could be a moment of self-reflection for me, if it were not for my deep seated lack of empathy; my dear wife calls me her, “cold hearted old bastard”; that rather sums me up on so many levels. In retaliation I call her, “yes dear”. Perhaps that should make me even more reflective but, nope, it doesn’t. I’m sure my collection will be sold as soon as they can pry it from my cold dead fingers. At least I hope they will wait that long.
So you are gone and your heirs go to a dealer or two and offer your collection for sale. What could they expect to see out of your “investment”? We’ve all heard such discussions between collectors and it usually goes something like this, “Those @#$%& bastards (dealers) will only give you ten cents on the dollar”. With this in mind I asked around and found that the range from those dealers who would actually offer an estimate varied greatly. The highest was from an American source at 60 cents on the dollar with the average here in Ontario at 20 to 25 cents on the dollar, Australia came in around the same as here. Bear in mind that any dealer must consider the purchase of a whole collection as a long term investment tying his money up perhaps for years. The highest estimate was from a collector/dealer with the lowest estimate from a dealer with a “brick and mortar” shop and therefore with the highest amount of overhead to cover monthly expenses. The average came from dealers who set up at shows with little to no overhead.
Looking over my own collection, which includes firearms (all deactivated except my muskets, they are all in working order), I realize that I have two room filled with history’s unwanted junk. Obsolete tools of war and medals to persons long gone that tell no real story on their own. All items that any self-respecting thief (an oxymoron is I ever wrote one) would not risk his freedom to take. This, you may think, would be a bit sobering, even depressing for me and it would if I weren’t so self-absorbed and believed my collection is indeed my treasure trove of historically significant objects.
So what is your collection really worth? To others perhaps an average of 40 cents on the dollar for your investment but more importantly to people like us it’s priceless.