Is Collecting things a Waste of Time and Money?

by on Dec 12 2012 - 29 Comments

Coins. Beanie Babies. Maps. Dolls. Sports memorabilia. People will collect just about anything. The real question, though, is whether collecting things is just a waste of valuable time and money?

As a kid, I collected many things. Beanie babies, Pokemon cards, pogs, sports cards, etc. I still have many of these collections, in part because they aren’t worth a whole lot and I figure my best shot at selling them for a material amount is just letting them sit in my basement until I’m old and gray and my grandchildren (or great-grandchildren) can sell them. I’ve moved on to collecting different things (more on that later), but overall haven’t put much time, effort, or money towards collecting for quite some time now.

After following some people who recently got into collecting coins and rare books, I can see myself getting into collecting the same sorts of things, but not until later in life. Right now I can’t justify these purchases, and even if I did have the disposable income I would have to ask myself whether it’s worth the time and money. I have three thoughts that I think are relevant in regards to this question:

Collecting can be a source of entertainment

Collecting is, at it’s core, a form of entertainment. Some people mountain climb, some people blog, and some spend their time working on adding to their collections. I have a Twitter follower whose wife has collected over 3,000 Scooby-Doo-related dvds, action figures, and other memorabilia. For her I’m sure it’s similar to someone who is really into sports and follows it closely. The sports fan may read blogs about their favorite team and participate in forums. She, on the other hand, probably spends a decent amount of time trying to find the next Scooby-Doo item to collect. Her husband (my twitter follower), on the other hand, said all he can say is “Zoinks!” ;)

It obviously takes money to collect things and you have to justify each additional purchase for your collection. You can certainly start small by getting little things here and there or collect something that is relatively low-cost (like shot glasses). To really have an impressive collection, though, it requires a decent amount of disposable income. It’s also easy to get caught up in collecting things and spending obscene amounts of money adding additional items. This can happen with any hobby, though, such as a music fan who just has to go to a concert every week.

Collecting can create income and collections can appreciate in value

Many people who collect become so attached to their collections that they never want to sell it, because the sentimental value outweighs any possible monetary gain. If you’ve ever watched the television show Pawn Stars you will notice very quickly if something was inherited or if the individual has collected the item themselves. Usually the people who inherit it are much more likely to sell and take the cash versus someone who has held on to an item for years and years.

Collections can certainly appreciate in value, but the flip side is that collections can also lose value. The thing about collections are that the value is all based off demand, which can change quickly. If the economy is in the dumps there is going to be fewer buyers and an uptick in people looking to sell; conversely items can appreciate if people have additional disposable income, thereby increasing demand.

With so much information available on the internet, I find it hard to believe that buyers and sellers of things like sports memorabilia have much of an edge these days. With that being said,, there are certainly people who buy and sell collectibles full-time, such as the cast of American Pickers. If you are going to buy and sell collectibles you have to really know the true market value of items and have to get many items for a good price, otherwise losses can quickly wipe out the gains.

Collecting is what you make of it

I first thought of the idea for this post because one of my good friends is headed to India in just a few days and I asked him to get me a casino chip if he runs into one. Then I realized that there’s a good chance there are no casinos in India, so I asked him to bring me back some rupees.

I really don’t have that much of a collection of either gaming chips or foreign currency. I could easily go to the bank and get some foreign bank notes, but I like to collect both the casino chips and foreign currency from friends and family who are traveling, or from their home country. For example I have a friend from Japan who was an international student at my high school. He gave me some Yen, which was essentially the first currency in my collection. I was a small group leader at our church for a group of 7th graders, and one of the students was an international student. He gave me some Guatemalan Quetzal that I added to my collection. An additional example is my friend who spent some time in Melbourne and brought back a blackjack chip from a casino there.

For me, it’s fun to collect things that have some meaning or story behind them. For example, the rupees my friend brings back from India will remind me of his time in India and our discussions about the planning of his trip (and I’m sure the interesting stories he will share with me when he returns).

Is collecting a waste of time and money? I think everyone has to answer that question for themselves.

What do you think of collecting? Is it worth the time and effort (both to you personally as well as in general)?
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Photo by Dee Speed
 

29 comments
babyboy2013
babyboy2013

What's important is Family and friends. Material things are worth nothing if nobody wants them. It's a waste of time and money. get out and enjoy life. Plastic dreams are just that and will bring nothing but financial ruin and frustration at not being able to find that new peice because the resellers are buying them all up and making a living off of your obsessions. How many collections have been swept away by Mother nature. Yah can't take it with you (Although i'm sure someone will try). So spend your money on a night out with someone you love or doing something that makes you healthy and strong. All your collection is doing is collecting dust until you die and then someone gets all that hard work you put into it and sells it for nothing. It's just not worth it. Once you posess it it's not much fun anymore anyway. (Beleive me I know). I used to spend every dime I had on Crap and was never able to make it to the end of the month because I spent it all on my collection. Let it go and get a real life. It's so much more rewarding.

savvyworkinggal
savvyworkinggal

My elderly neighbor spent her life collecting antique clocks. She didn't have children of her owne and when she was going into a nursing home none of her nieces or nephews wanted her collection.  She was devastated and felt she wasted her life and felt she would have been better off spendiing her life working on relationships rather than collecting things she couldn't even give away.

 

 

Ugifter
Ugifter

I'm not much into collections, myself.  I always scratch my head at the people on those TV shows.  That said, I do have an affinity for books and like to own lots of them.

JustinatTheFrugalPath
JustinatTheFrugalPath

Back in the 90's when comic books were all the rage I had a sizable collection. I used to skip lunch to buy one on the way home from school. A few years ago I sold them all for a few hundred dollars and haven't collected anything since. Well, unless you count the five or so PF books I have.

Beachbudget
Beachbudget

For me personally it is. I think more so I just never had spaces for stuff like that. About the only thing I collect is magnets from places I've visited. But that doesn't cost much or take up much space. I'm not sure that really counts. :)

Thirtysixmonths
Thirtysixmonths

My aunt collects some of the most random stuff, and seeing her made me want to purge everything in my room.

StudentDebtSurvivor
StudentDebtSurvivor

I'm not a big collector, simply because I hate clutter. The bf on the other had gets really attached to and sentimental about certain items. It's an argument we have often. "keep it or give it away and make more space".

Money Life and More
Money Life and More

I collected Pokemon and Magic the Gathering cards as a kid. I actually still have the whole first edition base set of pokemon cards. I sold my MtG cards though for a nice sum of money when I graduated from college.

CanadianBudgetB
CanadianBudgetB

Hmm, well I can't say I'm an avid collector of anything but what I did do was collect art and wall hangings from the countries I visited while travelling and I have some nice pieces. I don't think I will ever sell it and maybe one day it will be worth something. Oh and I also liked to collect rare dvd sets and vinyl but not lots. I haven't collected a thing since moving to Canada though... gone are the days. 

Holly at ClubThrifty
Holly at ClubThrifty

As a minimalist, I have never been much of a collector of things.  I do enjoy collecting money, though.  It's my fave.

KyleJames1
KyleJames1

Anything that you enjoy collecting and gives you satisfaction is not a waste of time. Waste of money, maybe. But enjoyment has a value right?

 

I was a huge sports card collector growing up. When I was in the 9th grade I bought a Michael Jordan rookie card for $50 and it quickly went up to $800 over the next 10 years. Now I think it is worth $400-$500 bucks, not a real steady investment, kinda volatile, but a lot of fun. Now it is something I enjoy doing with my son, which as far as I'm concerned is priceless.

 

But I agree with your ultimate point that everyone has to answer the question for themselves.

Gen Y Finance Journey
Gen Y Finance Journey

I'm not much of a collector, but my fiance sure is! He collects state quarters, $2 bills, Playboy magazines and various football memorabilia. He does it for fun, but I imagine he'd be able to sell some of it for quite a bundle if he can ever bring himself to part with them. Particularly the Playboy collection and football memorabilia. Personally, I think he's too attached to them to sell them, so hopefully they'll be worth a lot in 60 years when we're old and gray/dead and our children can make some money from them. :)

TacklingOurDebt
TacklingOurDebt

I've know people that have collected stuff that was nice and didn't cost a thing. In fact I remember one person that had a huge beautiful rock collection.

 

I watched a show on TV a few months ago about Candy Spelling selling their mansion and they showed the stuff she had purchased and collected over the years. She had quite a few Beanie Babies and tons of other stuff. She ended hiring a company to sell most of it online for her.

RFIndependence
RFIndependence

My BF has one of the largest Guatemalan art and coins collections. His goal is to resell minor pieces for a profit so that the main ones remain his at no cost. He put a lot of work into it for a few years and made a name in the art and numismatic world, and so far has managed to bring his costs really low. He got lucky with the appreciation in gold and silver too. You have to acquire an eye to avoid fakes though, and be prepared to take risks.

RyanTalley
RyanTalley

Ive got a couple shoe boxes of baseball cards from when I was young (late 80s, early 90s).  They are all organized and in order and in pretty decent condition.  I keep them put away, hopeful that they'll pick up a little value someday.  But really, I would keep them no matter what.  They're a piece of history from when I was a boy, and its something that I think would be neat to show to my kids and grandkids someday.I also have a few large rubbermaid tubs of every piece of star wars memorabilia I could get my hands on when I was younger...postage stamps, tv guides, comic books, posters, happy meal toys, etc.My wife has every beanie baby ever made, at least from the first couple generations before they got real big.  They're not worth much anymore either.  Again, we hold on to them for someday down the road when we're old.

The above mentioned "collections" are all from when we were young, so I do not see it as a waste of time.

 

I do collect coins, though.  That is one collection that will always have at the very least, its face value.  I got started by collecting silver, and then I branched into Jefferson nickels and State quarters - and then I was hooked.  Much of what I collect I pull from circulation, so I hardly ever pay anything over face value.  Hunting through pocket change and circulated coins is half the fun!

FreeAgentRogers
FreeAgentRogers

My brother-in-law has an auction house. Every few weeks they auction off an estate of collectibles. The new buyers add to their collections, which will someday be auctioned off.........

seedebtrun
seedebtrun

i have never been into collecting really.. okay.. the word never isnt accurate.. at one time, i poured my allowance for about 3 years straight into baseball cards.. and those cards promptly lost virtually all of their value..  perhaps that is why i dont collect today.. one bad experience kinda ruined it for me.

DebtRoundUp
DebtRoundUp

It all depends on what you are in to.  If you want to get into collecting in order to have a safety net, then you will be up sh*ts creek.  Most of the collectibles are worth nothing as they get older.  Do it because you enjoy it and if you can make money later down the road, then you are good.  I don't collect anything because my wife is a minimalist, she would just throw it out when I wasn't home!

Money_Angels
Money_Angels

I've seen loads of blog posts saying that collecting things is a great way to make money. It isn't. First and foremost you should collect something because you want too. It takes too much time and knowledge to really make any thing from it, unless you're doing it for the love of doing. 

 

I used to collect comic books, for no real reason except that I used to love reading them and then look back at the artwork often. My wife collects china and teacups, which is great - although we're starting to run out of space

FrugalRules
FrugalRules

I think it depends on the person and how much time you put into it. It does not necessarily have to have a financial value to it, but it certainly makes it a bit nicer. I used to collect baseball cards, but nothing really beyond that.

Brian @ Luke1428
Brian @ Luke1428

Are you so wrapped up in collecting that you are neglecting your family relationships? Then that's a problem. Is the money being spent on your collection keeping you from purchasing needed items in your budget or paying bills? Then that's a problem. I guess, like anything in life, if you overindulge, it's not good for you.

 

I have two collections at home and enjoy the minimal amount of time I put into them. 

MonsterPiggyBank
MonsterPiggyBank

You mean my basket ball card collection might not be worth millions of dollars!?!?! Oh man... why did I buy so many?

 

Seriously though, I think that as long as you enjoy it then it doesn't matter. Just make sure the collecting doesn't turn into hoarding though.

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @RyanTalley I would love to get into coin collecting, and I see myself doing it sometime in the not-so-distant future.

 

I have the same approach with my childhood collections - they will either be worth something downt the road or at minimum it will be fun to show my children and/or grandchildren.

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @seedebtrun It's almost a trick with sports cards...they are supposedly worth money, which is the whole motivation to collect them imo but in reality it's only the rare ones that are worth much.  Then again, I haven't collected in years and have my collection sitting in boxes in the basement.  Maybe my grandchildren can sell my Kobe Bryant rookie card for thousands of dollars one day??

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @DebtRoundUp Yea the collections can take up a ton of space and become more a hoarding issue than anything.  I do enjoy my little collections that mean something to me - shot glasses from places my wife and I have traveled to, plus the stuff I mentioned in the post.

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @Money_Angels space is the biggest issue.  Collections are great but if you don't have space for them, it becomes more a burden than anything.  Collecting can be fun but I wouldn't do it as an investment.

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @FrugalRules I like the idea of passing things I've collected along to my children or grandchildren someday.  I think it will be a lot more fun for them to look up the values and age of everything.  At least I would love it if my grandpa randomly told me about some collections he has that have been in his basement for 50 years : )

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @MonsterPiggyBank I agree, it can easily become hoarding.  I do have a Kobe Bryant rookie card I hope is worth something some day.  I will probably pass it along to my children or grandchildren in 50 years.