SMART COLLECTOR

Collecting has its quirks

Posted June 24, 2011, at 7:18 p.m.
The limited edition “Sir Winston Churchill” and “George Washington” (shown with seal) Montblanc fountain pens sold for $24,400 apiece recently at Bonhams and Butterfields Los Angeles.
Photo courtesy of www.bonhams.com | Photo courtesy of www.bonhams.com
The limited edition “Sir Winston Churchill” and “George Washington” (shown with seal) Montblanc fountain pens sold for $24,400 apiece recently at Bonhams and Butterfields Los Angeles.

Q: I have an entire Budweiser holiday mug collection. What is it worth today?

A: I’m going to give you a flip answer that you may not like, but it’s true. Your collection is worth only what someone will pay.

Collections can be a harder sell than singles. Any grouping added to episodically (such as yearly Hallmark ornaments) is almost always built methodically. As a result, your buyer will be someone looking to fill in a missing ornament, mug or whatever. Their wants are very specific. And limited.

Unless assembled collections have remarkable aesthetics and value, they can be a problem to sell. Call it a quirk of collecting.

For collectors, it’s all about building. Hunting, amassing and classifying is where the fun and challenge are.

To research current values, look through completed sales of individual mugs on eBay. Note how some sell better than others. Next, Google individual mugs. That should show how the Bud mugs are selling.

Q: I bought this Nao figurine around 1987 while we were stationed overseas. I understand only 100 were sold in the U.S. I’ve contacted the company, but no one can tell me anything about it. Value?

A: Seen in an image sent, the reader’s figurine is of a reclining young boy holding a football and playing with a dog.

Florida seller Mark Hammer and his wife, Janet Gale Hammer, of www.aretiredcollection.com, sell retired Lladro figurines. Mark told us that while Lladro produces Nao figures, Nao is a lower-end line and the couple does not handle it.

On their web site, however, there is a link to Nao where you can view current info. To view completed sale results at auction, key www.liveauctioneers.com and completed sales on eBay.

With a secondary line such as Nao, rarity doesn’t count for a whole lot. It’s another of those quirks of collecting. In this case, scarce does not equal higher price unless the subject appeals to a buyer.

Q: I have about 300 old pop bottles from the 1960s and ’70s. How do I find a buyer?

A: Just when I think I’ve seen it all, a collector amazes! This reader sent a complete spreadsheet that lists, by box, each bottle by date, maker, content and if capped or not.

See what I mean about amassing a collection? Here’s someone who illustrates the point.

While lovingly built and meticulously archived, this is one idiosyncratic, personalized collection. And that can be a hard sell — unless the buyer appreciates the quirk.

One major problem is that machine-made soda bottles date to the 1850s; bottles for carbonated sodas go back to the 1880s. So that makes this collection very recent.

In the soda bottle world, anything since the 1930s is a collectible. In this arena, collectors run brand-specific. Pepsi collectors want Pepsi bottles, RC Cola that brand and so on.

Unless our reader can find a museum or theme restaurant that wants the entire collection, it may be best money-wise to split it by brand or type (sports related bottles or commemoratives, etc.).

I suggest first posting the whole set on eBay or Craigslist. See if there’s interest. Please let me know if you have success.

Q: My Coke pocketknife was given to me by a person 96 years old. He said he had it since he was 20 years old. It’s in perfect condition. What is it worth?

A: According to Alan Petretti, author of multiple price guides to Coca-Cola memorabilia, most Coke collectibles out there are fakes. Pocketknives and belt buckles lead the list. Many date from the 1960s and ’70s.

But authentic, early Coke pocketknives were made. To see if yours fits the bill, look in “Petretti’s Coca-Cola Collectibles Price Guide,” now in a 12th edition. Perhaps your library has a copy.

Auction Action

A Montblanc fountain pen honoring Sir Winston Churchill that brought $24,000 in a recent sale of fine writing instruments at Bonhams and Butterfields Los Angeles was 18K pink gold inlaid with tortoiseshell lacquer bands. Called the 53 because it commemorates the year (1953) when Churchill was knighted, the pen has 53 diamonds ringing the cap. A “George Washington” Montblanc from the Signatures for Freedom series brought the same amount.

Collector Quiz

Q: Can you match these gemstones with their legendary properties?

1. Amethyst

2. Peridot

3. Aquamarine

4. Emerald

5. Turquoise

a. Strengthens eyesight

b. Protects chastity

c. Prevents drunkenness

d. Toothache remedy

e. Protection against falls

A: Answers are 1-c, 2-a, 3-d, 4-b, 5-e. Source: “Gemstones: Understanding, Identifying, Buying” by Keith Wallis (Antique Collectors Club, $25). A sensible, beautifully illustrated, useful guide to the history, lore and how-to of gemstones.

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send email to smartcollector@comcast.net or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Please include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.

 

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