Home & Garden

Eye of the beholder

Valuable collectibles are made, not born.

“Anything that says ‘limited edition’ or ‘collectible’ on it probably isn’t,” says Mary Sudar of Mary Sudar Appraisals and Estate Sales in Tacoma. “History and popular culture make a collectible. A manufacturer doesn’t.”

During her 25 years of appraising and selling other people’s possessions, Sudar has seen plenty of items that clients assumed were worth big money, but turned out to have very little value.

When Sudar enters a client’s home and is asked to assess the value of items, she rarely looks in the china cabinet.

“We always head to the attic or the basement, or the cabinet under the sink,” she says. That’s usually where the forgotten treasure is buried.

There’s no formula to determine the value of an old piece of costume jewelry, a poster, a statuette or a toy from a bygone era. It’s a combination of factors, including an object’s condition, how rare it is and what other people are willing to pay.

“Knockoffs have hurt the value of genuine old stuff,” says Peggy Colclasure, owner of Antiques Olympia. While reproductions can be enjoyed for what they are, they don’t often hold their value into the future.

And there’s a difference between fads and true collectibles.

“Don’t even talk Beanie Babies to me,” says Colclasure. She says there are collectors still out there, but nothing like in the 1990s, when the cute stuffed animals were the hot item to have.

At that time, says Ingrid Fortunato, owner of Katy’s Antique Mall in Tacoma, “people were killing for them. You can’t give them away any more.”

So what makes something collectible?

“So much of what people collect depends on their job or career,” says Cheryl Rux, a sales associate at Katy’s. Retired members of the military, for example, often like to collect old medals and military regalia.

“Everything is collectible, depending on your taste,” says Rux. That includes anything from old fishing flies to turn-of-the-century postcards to vintage Tupperware.

Items with baby boomer nostalgia can be collectible.

Mark Blom, co-owner of the Disc Connection, which sells used records, CDs and other music memorabilia in Parkland, says buyers young and old like old albums for two reasons. They appreciate the artwork on the covers, and they also comment on the warmer sound that is said to resonate from vinyl, as compared to modern digital recordings.

As with other collectibles, condition determines the sale price of old record albums.

Beatles albums from the 1960s sell well at Disc Connection, for example. But most of the Beatles vinyl Blom sees sells for only about $5 or $10.

“What’s good to have are original releases,” Blom says, noting that most people have second, third or fourth pressings of the records.

The rare exception is a record that was purchased new in the 1960s and never touched – something still in the shrink wrap, with its price tag attached.

Blom says other highly collectible record albums include mint condition copies of 1960s albums by the Rolling Stones, pre- “Dark Side of the Moon” releases by Pink Floyd and releases such as the first three Led Zeppelin albums.

Most surprising: Elvis’ market value has left the building.

“So many people have so many of his records that stores are saturated,” Blom says. “I have a whole shelf of them. If you’re an Elvis lover, you can pick them up at very good prices.”

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635