Vast majority of ‘collectibles’ fail to retain value

The gold and gem set ring belonging to English author Jane Austen sold for $236,617 recently at Sotheby’s in London.
Photo courtesy of Sothebys.com
The gold and gem set ring belonging to English author Jane Austen sold for $236,617 recently at Sotheby’s in London.
Posted Aug. 10, 2012, at 4:14 p.m.

Q: Any ideas on how to sell a collection of Boyds Bears? These are both stuffed and ceramic. Some have original tags.

A: Created in 1984, the line of plush bears (named for a town in Maryland where the makers lived) fits into the category of collectibles. In 1993, Boyds introduced resin bears. Enesco, the collectibles conglomerate, bought the company in 2008.

Smart collectors know that 99 percent of collectibles bought when they were hot in the 1980s and ’90s are tough sells today. Readers who follow this column have also seen that anything made to be a collectible will, in the long run, not retain value. Think Beanie Babies.

Our reader adds that she has limited access to a computer. But when researching a good sale, a computer can make the difference. For finding current prices, it’s a necessity.

How about using a computer at your local library? Or perhaps a family member can assist with research.

Start with eBay. We keyed Boyds plush bears there and found 6,257 for sale. Moving to resin bears, we found 937 listed.

Clicking on completed sales, we saw plush bears that sold for $3.99 to $61.50. A complete Noah’s Ark including the ark brought $150. Resin bears sold for $3 to $26.05. Many, many bears did not sell.

Pulling that information together, a smart collector can see that buyers for the bears can be, and are, picky. Loads of inventory makes it a buyer’s world.

Pay attention to bears that match yours. See how they fare in sales. The way the Boyds market looks, selling the collection hinges on whether your bears are what buyers want. It’s that simple.

Q: My old Telechron clock, 12 inches in diameter, was owned by an antique auto repair business. Is it worth anything?

A: Come on, readers, give me a little help. Here’s a case where there’s just too little info given.

Is the clock a wall or freestanding model? Is the dial marked with the business name, or is it a standard model? Is the case a standard plastic or an earlier plastic such as Bakelite or Catalin? Does the clock work? You get the idea.

Early Telechron electric clocks are collected, depending on the model. This reader needs to send an image for a look. At least provide more description.

I suggest he looks for Telechron clocks posted on eBay. Next, Google vintage versions. Perhaps he’ll find a match. In any case, he can review prices.

Q: We need insurance value on an atlas printed in Allen Co., Ohio in 1880. It has names of citizens and those who participated in the Civil War, owners of farms, and more.

A: Readers may not know that old maps and atlases can have significant value, depending on historical significance, the maker and other variables.

In June, Swann Auction Galleries in New York (swanngalleries.com), sold a circa 1747 engraved map of Virginia and Maryland for $800. In May, Sotheby’s London realized $4,305 for an 18th-century atlas.

Antique maps are a specialty area. If our reader seeks a current estimate for his atlas, it needs to be evaluated by a qualified antiquarian map specialist. To find one, key antiquemapdealers.com, the site of the International Antiquarian Mapsellers Association.

Many insurance specialists assure us that antiques and items such as the atlas are covered by standard household insurance. Only very rare and high value items call for individual policies, which are very expensive.

Auction Action: When a simple gold and gem set ring belonging to the English author Jane Austen (1775-1817) came up for sale at Sotheby’s London recently, eight bidders engaged in a fierce battle for the memento.

Handed down through Austen’s family, the ring with a turquoise center was available to the public for the first time.

Sold over the telephone to a private collector, the ring hammered for $236,617, more than five times the high estimate. Clearly, the author of “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma” and other favorites speaks to today’s readers.

Collector Quiz:

Q: Can you match the first wristwatch to have a movement based on the tuning fork with the year it was first made?

1. Casio TE 2500

2. Rolex Submariner

3. Bulova Accutron

4. Omega Sensor

a. 1960

b. 1977

c. 1982

d. 1953

A: Bulova ushered in the quartz age with its Accutron watch in 1960. The Submariner dates from 1953, the Sensor came in 1977, and the Casio in 1982. Source: “The Mastery of Time” by Dominique Flechon (Flammarion, $100). Covers all things about the development of timekeeping, clocks and watches. Starts with Neolithic astronomical observatories and ends with Swatch and every high-end complication known to watches today. Gorgeously illustrated; pricey but worth every penny.

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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