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    The Value of a Collection

    Brian Wolfe


    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.


    Happy collecting!






    Recommended Comments

    These questions are ones that we have all thought about.  I keep a log of what/when I have purchased items and who I purchased from.  Determining a value is definitely a hard part.  What I have paid for an item might seem incredibly out of range for someone who doesn't have a specific or focused goal.   I look at you collection posted here on this "blog" I see many nice firearms.  But to someone like me, who doesn't collect this particular focus, I would probably say a value figure that would have you scoffing, coughing, and other bodily functions that show ones discontent and anger. 

    I have collected for my own enjoyment.  I don't care if I never see the return on my investment or recoup the value of what I have put into my collection.  I have purchased Items that I enjoy. This I think, is what the difference is between a collector and an investment collector. 

    I do come from a school of thought that lets my family know what is truly rare.   I would hate to have my family, after I am gone, turn over for mere pennies a really rare and unique piece that is being sold at the same price as a common unmarked EK2 for example. 

    This ledger, I keep in a lock box with other documents of estate.  I do echo your precautions of who you let see your collection.

    I have personally benefited by specializing in my collecting and those regarded and respected collectors have noted me and have offered to liquidate their collections to me.  That is one of the huge benefits to belonging to forums like this.  You get a chance to share your love of collecting military artifacts and trinkets from wars and conflicts past.  You form a sort of online friendship and meet others with similar like views.  There is a whole range of collectors out there of varying ages.  Perhaps if you are thinking of liquidating your assets or anyone else in that matter, to consider reaching out to a fellow forum member who you have come to respect and who might be interested in items that you possess.    The forum member will probably offer more than what a dealer would be.   I have had opportunities like this.  The members didn't post on the "for sale" platform, they contacted me directly and presented me with what they thought was a fair offer.  As a collector, someone who cherishes history and the items.  Doesn't it make you feel better when you sell to someone who you know will appreciate the items as you have? 

    We, after all, are just caretakers for these items of history.  We can't take this stuff with us.  

    Bottom line: Summary:  

    If you collect for your own interest and passion, then you never need to worry about if something was worth it, or what the value is to others.  A collection is a collection, investments are investments.  Military items in collections are never to be confused with the latter.  You want a collection that holds value to everyone, collect bits of paper that have (Presidents, national heroes, symbols, Kings/Queens, kids playing hockey CANADA :) , monuments, animals and all will have a  denomination number somewhere conspicuous on them)   This will never go lower than face value.   (I am speaking of currency)

    Well, that's enough of my ramblings.  All the best. 



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    Hi 2dresq,

    Thank you for your comment, all very valid points.  As you said you can't take it with you and unless my health fails and the kids put me in a "home" I'll be collecting until I stop breathing.  Then again if I am on life support and assisted breathing I will be collecting online. The photo I included  is of only a portion of my collection as I felt I needed to add some sort of photo with this blog.  At least this time it was more relavent than usual.

    You have also hit on the very thing that makes the GMIC a great place to belong to in that we do make friends here, and many of them long term friends.  By the way I really do like your avitar name, very cleaver and leaves me wondering about the inpiration for its creation. Well done.:cheers:


    Thanks again for your response.



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    Thanks,  I am a licensed Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedic.  The Avatar just seemed appropriate when I first joined.  You were one of the few people who have ever commented.   Since then, I have changed on many other forums to use my first name and last initial. 



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    Hello Brian,


    Your collection is part of your estate. The question is therefore : how do you handle your belongings ?

    The value of your collection is simple : it's worth what it can be sold for. How can you tell ? Offer it for sale, to a dealer, at auction, on eBay, whatever.

    But you don't want to sell it away. How could you tell what you can get for it ? You can have it valued by a competent auctionneer and pay him (her) a fee for the effort.

    You don't want to get into that sort of expense ? Have a complete inventory of your collection and keep posted on the prices you see offered in the trade,  obtained in successful auctions (including cost to the buyer), or such places as eBay.

    Add up the prices you found. AND TAKE 50%. You might make more, but you will not make much less.

    I personnally would be happy to hear of an other approach.



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    Hi Veteran,

    Thanks for your comment.  I think if my family were to sell it after I am "gone" (and they will) they would be lucky to get 50% of the worth. However one can hope.;)




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