Collecting Things

Two very recent events have caused me to think about what it means today to be a collector. The first is the sale of the 1968 Ford Mustang that Steve McQueen drove in the movie Bullitt. After the filming was completed, the studio sold off the car (little more than a prop to them) to a buyer in New Jersey for $3,500. The car was used for several years, mostly to commute to work and back. It then sat for two decades in a barn, not running, and covered in tarp. The son of the owner adopted the car and painstakingly restored it to working condition. At one point, Steve McQueen made an offer to buy it but was refused. It recently sold at auction for $3.4 million, to an undisclosed bidder. Not a bad investment, if you ask me.

The second reason I started thinking about collectibles and collections is the article written by Jill Youngken, assistant director of the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum in Allentown, Pennsylvania. If you’re a member of the museum, then check out page seven of the December 2019 issue of their newsletter for the full article. To summarize, Jill talks about the positive and negative aspects of building a collection. The positives are many, including the psychological benefits of collecting related to the nostalgia of looking back upon these items and the simpler, more informative, and maybe better life that you had in years past. The sense of accomplishment that you enjoyed as you curated a collection of something is another positive benefit. Sadly, there seem to be many more downsides to collecting, especially if your ultimate goal is for investment purposes. Baseball cards, figurines, and pretty much anything that was mass produced, will have its value peak early on while it’s hot, but then sink like a stone to below what you paid for it when you finally decide to liquidate the collection. If there’s any possibility of getting a fair return on this kind of investment, build a solid provenance around each item so that there’s a story to tell that’s engaging. EBay may not be the only place where you can sell your collection, but it is the most popular.

Do you have a unique collection that you’d like to tell me about? Use the comments below.

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