What Is a Collectible?

A collectible refers to an item that is worth far more than it was originally sold for because of its rarity and/or popularity. The price for a particular collectible usually depends on how many of the same item are available as well as its overall condition. Common categories of collectibles include antiques, toys, coins, comic book, and stamps. People who amass collectibles take a lot of time to collect them, and usually store them in locations where they will not be ruined.

Key Takeaways

  • A collectible is an item worth far more than it was originally sold for because of its rarity and popularity, as well as its condition.
  • Collectibles aren't always as common or as great an investment.
  • The term collectible is sometimes applied to new items that have been mass produced and are currently for sale.

Understanding Collectibles

As mentioned above, collectibles are items that usually fetch more money than they were originally worth. Many collectibles can go for a pretty penny if they're rare. The condition of a collectible also has a great deal to do with its price. Having a collectible that's in pristine condition means the price can definitely goes up. But if an item has deteriorated over time, there's probably a good chance it won't be worth much—if anything at all.

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 eventually sees the market signal and produces 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, some items become collectible due to their relative scarcity

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 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 drives the value of true collectibles. 

Collectibles vs. Antiques

People often use the term collectible and antique interchangeably. But it's important to note that there is a distinct difference between the two. While all antiques may be collectibles, not all collectibles may not be antiques because collectibles don't necessarily have to be old to be worth money.

Antiques may be collectibles, but collectibles aren't always antiques.

An antique is something people collect because of its age. Antiques may include furniture, art, knick-knacks, jewelry, and other objects. Some antiques can be worth a lot of money. Rare and authentic antiques that are in high demand may come at a high cost. But other antiques may not be worth much—other than sentimental value. For example, a piece of furniture passed down within a family, from generation to generation, may be valuable for emotional reasons, and not for money.

Examples of Collectibles

There are genuine collectibles that have become extremely valuable, namely trading cards and stamps. 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. A few have even 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 collectibles that appreciate. It is difficult to predict what the next million-dollar collectible will be, so you or your estate might get lucky — just don't bank on it paying for your retirement. But feel free to hang on to the stuff you love and hold dear.

A good example of a mass-produced item being marketed as a collectible can be found in the Beanie Baby fad of the 1990s. Ty, the product's manufacturer, produced hundreds of varieties of small plush toys with a floppy, beanbag-like feel. Consumers went crazy over them, believing they would become valuable one day. 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.