What is a 'Collectible'

A collectible is an item that is worth far more than it was originally sold for because of its rarity and/or popular demand. Common categories of collectibles include antiques, toys, coins, comic books and stamps. The term collectible is sometimes applied to new items that have been mass-produced and are currently for sale. This is a marketing gimmick used to stoke consumer demand. Items that are currently for sale may run into supply issues that drive up the price asked for by resellers, but this is a different phenomenon from what is driving the value of true collectibles. 

BREAKING DOWN 'Collectible'

Collectibles aren't as common or as great an investment as marketers would have you believe. If the product is still in production, the company will eventually see the market signal and produce more to supply the market. The store of value that makes a collectible usually doesn't come into play for many years, and for the vast majority of items it never comes at all. As the number of a particular product dwindles through attrition after its production run is over, then some items become collectible due to their relative scarcity

A good example of a mass-produced item being marketed as a collectible can be found in the Beanie Baby collecting fad of the 1990s. Ty, the product's manufacturer, produced hundreds of varieties of small plush toys with a floppy, beanbag-like feel. Consumers purchased them like mad, believing that they would one day become valuable. Limited editions that were hard to find became valuable the instant they were released due to resellers snapping up the refreshed stock. However, most of the plush toys were so widely owned that they never became valuable, instead becoming garage-sale castoffs.

The Most Valuable Collectibles

There are, of course, genuine collectibles that have become extremely valuable. The most valuable collectibles in the world include the T206 Honus Wagner baseball card issued by the American Tobacco Company in 1909. Honus Wagner cards almost always sell for over $1 million if they are in good condition and a few have sold for over $2 million. That is an impressive haul for a card that was stuffed in cigarette packs as a free gift. Another example is the Treskilling Yellow. This is a misprinted Swedish postage stamp that sold for somewhere around $2.3 million in 2010. More recent examples of pop culture like the comic Amazing Spider-Man #1 and Superman's first comic book appearance in Action Comics #1 have joined stamps and baseball cards as appreciating collectibles. So feel free to hold on to the stuff you love. It is difficult to predict what the next million-dollar collectible will be in the future, so you or your estate might get lucky — just don't bank on it paying for your retirement. 

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