You don’t have to drive an hour to visit a dilapidated antique shop, you can find your next treasure from the comfort of your couch. A growing number of collectors on Instagram, along with more websites selling collectibles, makes it easier to find just about anything online that you could imagine. Better yet, prices often lower as the market size increases.
A few well-chosen pieces can add a touch of personality to your walls, or make a room spring to life.
When it comes to collecting, opt for items that interest you or that you are passionate about first, and keep investment purposes secondary, says Lori Ferber, owner of Lori Ferber Collectibles in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“Collecting for investment or profit is like trying to predict the stock market – it’s very difficult.”
Following are ideas to help get you started as you gather items to treasure in the years to come.
Traditional Collection Ideas
“The collectibles market has changed considerably over the last five to 10 years, as so many hardcore collectors have passed away and their estates are selling off their collectibles,” Ferber says.
If you head to these sales, you might find a deal on items often considered to be traditional pieces. Look for:
1. Coins. Build a collection of currency from different eras or countries. Coin collectors are called numismatists.
2. Stamps. Keep a neat, well-organized display for easy viewing. Philatelists study and collect rare stamps from around the world.
3. World War II memorabilia. From uniforms to equipment and correspondence, items abound from this era.
4. Antique jewelry. Focus on a time period or specific style to create a captivating display.
5. Old toys. Think miniature carriages, carousels, and circus equipment to sound the joy of the past.
6. China. Choose between delicate patterns, solid colors, or floral designs to find a look that matches your tastes.
7. Spoons. Each engraved, decorative spoon has a story to tell. These were often sold at gift shops at tourist attractions throughout the globe.
8. Classical literature. Opt for an arrangement showcasing your favorite author, topic, or time period to draw in guests’ attention.
9. Model trains. A basement, den, or family room is the perfect place to begin setting up tracks.
10. Comic books. Start with favorites such as X-Men, Avengers, or Spider Man, and gather stories to keep you feeling young for years to come.
Tech-Centered Collection Ideas
“Early technology is beginning to spark interest,” says Mike Rivkin, owner of Antique Galleries in Palm Springs, California. “If tech is your thing, those items are on the rise.”
You might gather items from previous decades and set them up on a bookshelf to present progress in a particular area. You could also look for older pieces that still work or gear in need of repair to tinker with. Consider:
11. Calculators. These instruments did not always fit in your pocket. Look for mechanical models to use as a comparison point with today’s tools.
12. Digital watches. Take a step back in time to create a classic or vintage look you can display at home, or use as an accessory when meeting up with friends.
13. Typewriters: Keep an eye out for models that coincide with a particularly pivotal point in history, or look for unique designs that make a statement of their own.
14. Early computers. A study of models from several decades ago will likely make it easier to appreciate what’s available today.
15. Flip phones. Given the ever-increasing demand for smartphones, a collection of flip phones can help visitors to your home see how far communication tools have come.
16. Polaroid cameras. The technology that enabled instant gratification in the photo industry is at the heart of the Polaroid design. Purchase one or two that still function and you’ll be able to document memorable moments for years to come.
17. Televisions. Think antennas, black-and-white screens, and a box design when putting together a vintage look.
19. Record players. Vintage models can be used as statement pieces in a room, and can add ambiance when family and friends visit.
20. Old radios. Choose systems from a specific year or time period to incorporate a historic look in your home.
Retro-Focused Collection Ideas
If you’ve watched Mad Men, decorated your home with modern mid-century furnishings, or find a sense of innocence connected to that era, vintage items might be a good fit.
“Original mid-century illustration art is finally getting its due,” Rivkin says. “Illustration is still relatively inexpensive and spans a wide range of interests.” Try the following for a retro vibe:
21. Mid-century depression glass. Brighten a shelf with shades of green, blue, pink, or violet, or create a rainbow look with an arrangement of colors.
22. Old bicycles. Take a ride with a basket, comfortable seat, wide handlebars, and simple brake systems.
23. Vintage commercial signs. Add a Coca-Cola ad to your kitchen, or fill a living room wall with entertaining signs from the past.
24. Record albums. Start a collection of vinyl featuring your favorite singers or genres.
25. Mid-century art. Add to a room with bold designs, graphics, or landscape pieces.
26. Milk glass vases. Use these white pieces for flowers, or create a display with several different sizes.
27. Small birdcages. Different designs can be displayed together for a complementary look. Hang them on a garden wall or along a backyard patio.
28. Dollhouse furniture: Tiny ice boxes, sewing machines, and milk bottles create instant feelings of nostalgia.
29. Lanterns. Look for lights that operate, or try restoring your own. Use certain time periods, like the height of the railroad, to bring in some historical background: kerosene lamps were used to give signals to trains.
30. Copper. Handcrafted pieces can be used as decorations or serving ware.
Geeky Collection Ideas
“Sometimes people collect items based off of a similar theme,” says Angela Poch, a marketing specialist at Fun.com. This might be your favorite movie like Star Wars or a beloved TV show like The 4400.
It could also be related to a particular preference. “It never ceases to amaze us what people collect and what gives them pleasure,” Ferber says. “We recently heard from a collector who collects campaign buttons from any candidate named Tom – but his name was John.”
Look for items that speak to your inner self, such as the following:
31. Quirky nutcrackers. Whether it’s a Santa Claus, skiing moose, sledding cow, architect or horseman, nutcrackers come in nearly every shape and size.
32. Anything with a kitten on it. From lampshades to clocks, pillows and purses, nearly every room in your home could be decorated with a hint of feline.
33. Super soakers. A collection of these water toys could be put on display and brought out for some fun on warm days.
34. Nerd glasses. Wear tortoise-shell or wide black frames, or use a shelf to perch your favorites.
35. Candy dispensers. Choose from personalized options, retro models, and miniatures to add depth and hold different kinds of candy.
36. Lego figurines. From aliens to Aladdin and Abraham Lincoln, this collection can be customized to your interests, providing endless possibilities.
37. My Little Pony figures. Launched in the 1980s, these toys vary in size and color, and often include different accessories.
38. Videocassette tapes. Hang on to the time of VHS with a collection of your favorite movies from the past.
39. Rubber duckies. Stick with the classic yellow, or branch into new colors and customized versions of this standard bath time toy.
40. Super Mario figurines. Include the Princess, Toad, Mushroom and others to recreate this classic video game.
Lesser Known Collection Ideas
“What has tended to hold its value – or increase in value – are the unique and rare items,” Ferber says. Consider the Chicago Tribune newspaper error of 1948 as an example. The issue’s front page declared Thomas Dewey had defeated Harry Truman in the presidential election. “Those newspapers were sold for 4 cents in 1948,” Ferber says. “Today we have them for sale, when we can find them, for an average of over $2,000.”
Think about items that are hard to find, such as:
41. Bells. Look for specific engravings, limited editions, and time periods when shopping.
42. Rare jewelry. Expect higher prices for hard-to-find accessories.
43. Newspapers. Start with issues that coincide with the day your were born, when you graduated, got married, or began your first job. Editions from well-known or notorious dates in history will often have higher price tags.
44. Asian art. Choose a specific century or style as a starting point; then look for a piece that could be used as a focal point in a room.
45. Carved silver pieces. Add an elegant candlestick, coffee set, or jug to your dining room to brighten the space and begin a serving ware collection.
46. Rare books. First editions can be hard to find, making the accomplishment that much sweeter when you discover a prized piece.
47. Baseball cards. While building a large collection may be fairly easy, the most valuable cards will be those that are extremely limited in number and availability.
48. Autographs. If you build your own by sending out letters and requests, expect to put in a large investment of time.
49. Rare maps. For geography lovers, there is little more satisfying than documents depicting early exploration around the globe.
50. Inkwells. Add pieces to your desk or office that symbolize this historic form of the written word.
Futuristic Collection Ideas
Items you use every day, or are currently fond of, could appreciate in value during the next years. Even if their worth doesn’t increase significantly, you’ll have the chance to keep treasured and meaningful pieces to enjoy in the future. Keep in mind the following:
51. Scrapbooks. Collect photos from your vacation this year, along with ticket stubs, brochures, and other memorabilia to highlight the special time. Compile it into a scrapbook; if you make a scrapbook every year or after milestones, you’ll soon have a collection to pass to the next generation.
52. Crypto collectibles. If you’re short on living space or don’t have the room for a large collection, consider going digital. Crypto collectibles, which are unique digital assets that can’t be duplicated, have been selling in recent years. Due to the technology backing these items, if you purchase a collectible like a crypto kitten, you can have the assurance that no one else has one quite like yours.
53. Family history. If there are old photos filling boxes in your home or a relative’s place, consider gathering all of the memorabilia together. Put together a family tree, store paper records in one spot, and make a central station where all of your family’s records are kept.
54. Current culture figures. “In recent years, there has been a surge of people collecting Funko Pop! vinyl figurines,” Poch says. True to their name, these pieces capture popular media like movies, music, and sports. If you’re a devout follower of Game of Thrones or Stranger Things, you can start a collection of figures from the shows. In years to come, you’ll be able to pass on the figures, or set them up next to characters from other favorite shows.
55. Christmas ornaments. They can be purchased any time of the year, and offer the chance to add variety to your holiday decorations. Pick up an ornament when you travel to a new place, or purchase handmade ones sold through a charity close to your heart.
If you have children, you might decide to start a holiday collection for each of them. Give them an ornament each year, or let them choose one. Then store each child’s collection in a separate box. Later, when your child leaves home, you’ll be able to send the ornaments to their new home.
Remember, if your collection gets too big SpareFoot can help you find extra space for it. Happy collecting!