I've Got a Bad Feeling About This: Your Collection as Assets
“I’m never going to sell that.”
“This is my personal grail.”
“I don’t collect for investment, I collect for fun.”
Raise your hand if you’ve heard someone say that. Now, raise your hand if you yourself has said any of the phrases above. We’ve all heard it or said it, and plenty of collectors add items to their collections because it’s fun, they’ve got money to burn or peer pressure…or often all of the above. Then the hard times hit, baby, and that personal grail is suddenly listed on eBay.
On our show, the SWAU Graphcast, plenty have opined that we spend way too much time talking about how much autographs or worth and whether or not items are a good investment. Some collectors just don’t want to hear it. They’d prefer to use the hobby as an escape from what’s surely a daily concern of money, bills, security, etc.
Right now we’re in the midst of an unprecedented event in our lifetimes with COVID-19. Jobs are lost, businesses are shuttering and uncertainty is running wild across the globe. Many collecting experts expect that the next few months will see many having a need to liquidate portions, if not all of their collections to pay bills and buy food.
Before I go any further, let me state that the time to invest in this hobby to make money is long, long gone. The folks that watched their collections appreciate to huge sums are all 50-plus and started collecting before most of you were born. The folks making money flipping are still out there, too, but they’re running macros on eBay and know the second things post. They’re making deals behind the scenes, and some of these people, not all, are the true scumbags of the universe. Buying into autographs now for profits is like buying Bitcoin. Yes, Bitcoin is valuable, but you’re going to pay for that value. The time to get in on the ground floor was 10 years ago.
The true One Percent invest money in art, and have for a long time. There’s no reason to not consider buying a $4,500 poster as an investment. No, it might not appreciate, and yes, you could lose money in the long run. Have you checked your 401k today? That’s not what it was worth even one month ago.
I’m not advocating investing solely in autographs, because that would be tomfoolery. If you are going to collect, however, be mindful of what you’re spending money on. There’s a fine balance to collecting for fun and collecting wisely for investment/asset protection.
Pro Tip: Don’t buy ‘fad’ items, like Beanie Babies and expect them to be highly sought after.
On our Revenge of the Sith watch-a-long last weekend, I commented that I liked collecting Prequel autographs because they market wasn’t as competitive. My buddy Pete chortled that I’d be stuck with a stack of stuff nobody wants. For starters, he’s incorrect. Second, I don’t buy a Brian Blessed autograph because I think it’s going to be priceless. I buy a Brian Blessed autograph because I like The Phantom Menace. However, it’s a $50 investment for my personal enjoyment. I’m not looking to put my kid through college on Ray Park and Ralph Brown.
I’ve had friends that have sold items for down payments on homes and cars. They were able to cash out on their collections because there was a demand for the items they had. Whether or not they lost money, I don’t know. Regardless, if they lost $500, they were still able to access cash and still collect.
At the end of the day, your collection is just ink and paper. If you’ve got to let some things go during a time of crisis to take care of self and family, do it with no regret. Items are always going to be for sale and if you think the piece you’re selling is one of a kind, think again. Hopefully you’ll be able to recoup your investment or maybe even make a little in every transaction. And down the road when things pick back up, you can buy what you sold again.