3 Personal Risks to Collecting

January 24, 2016 by  
Filed under New, Spotlight

3 Personal Risks to Collecting
No matter where our interests may lead us there will be ‘pros and cons’ to everything we do. The trick is to find out what those issues actually are before we set out. 

This article is about the 3 personal risks to collecting that I’ve distilled down over several years.

You may have developed something similar for your own personal circumstances.

If we’re undecided about the suitability of an endeavour we usually resort to this mental balancing act. Weighing something out. Analyzing on a point by point basis before taking that final step. The step where we commit whole-heartedly.

You may want to apply this ‘weighing-out’ process to your collecting as well.

We may become seduced by the pros and may not notice the cons until it’s too late. I’ve been guilty of that one many times. In the real world they refer to it as an impulse-buy.

“This is what I consider 3 personal risks to collecting pretty well anything.”

Or …we may indeed see both sides and the pros outweigh the cons. Or vice-versa. We collectors are just as vulnerable as the everyday  consumer.

We need to make the decision based on information and not only emotion.

If you move forward on your decision to pursue collecting you’ll need to decide what it is exactly you’ll want to collect. This is the time you’ll apply that critical thinking. A mistake at this stage will translate into something much larger for you down the road.
There may be more but this is a good overview. If you’ve experienced something in addition please share it in the comments. Starting with the most obvious…

Physical Risk:

With anything old, vintage or antique there will always be risks.

In order to understand what poses a risk you need to have a good look at the item itself. The riskiest items, and usually the most obvious, would be those that were originally intended for causing injury, such as weapons. These sit at the top of the list.

We first think of antique firearms or edged weapons but there are many more categories to collectible weaponry. 

Consider the construction of those medieval type trap devices. Some relied on momentum or weight. Many were spring-loaded. But even something as simple as an mace (club) is just as deadly today as it was a thousand years ago. Any of these could still have the potential for a fatal injury.

That should give you an idea of the blunt force injuries possible. But what else could be waiting for us?

Let’s look at what’s right in front of us.

I’m referring to the finishes on some antique or vintage items. Many product manufacturers or craftspeople had no idea of the toxicity of their products.

It usually took science and many years of people dying to unlock some of the breakthroughs we are lucky to have today.

Let’s start with metals and metal toxicity. The banning of lead and lead-based paints was a huge change. Lead toys and lead paints are still found in collections to this day. If you are an antique toy collector you certainly have some of these culprits tucked away.

But lead is not the only offender. Mercury, believe it or not was utilized as well. As was cadmium. It was cheap, soft and had a lower melting point. Making it ideal for cheaper casting into moulds. Cadmium was also used in oil paints for fine arts.

Glow-in-the-dark paints and plastics contain a radioactive trace element called radium. Right into the 60s it was still found on toys. Problem is we now consider it highly toxic to the human body.

What about physical dangers we don’t necessarily see?

Let’s start with molds, spores or insect harborage which is just a fancy way of saying, “where bugs can hang out.”

Some older items are perfect breeding grounds because of their grossly outdated design standards or material compositions. This could be layers of fabrics or glues that have started to breakdown. Reactions to these could have disastrous effects on some people.

Many years back I was considering collecting antique medical equipment -‘quack’ medicine. You know the stuff I’m talking about. Those crazy devices that measured intelligence or that promised to make you taller.

While researching I had to sort through many things and one day I ended up impulse-buying a set of vintage false teeth. It was a crazy purchase as I’d never come across a set of these before.

When they arrived I opened the box and immediately regretted my purchase. I was so unnerved by these things as they stared back at me grinning from the carton. I almost immediately put them back up for sale.

Unfortunately I found out very quickly that most auction sites have strict rules against these.

I had no idea since this is where I bought them originally. I was so shocked and not just by the creepy-factor. It occurred to me that this was once attached to a human body. That could mean traces of biological contamination. I seriously doubt anyone sterilized these things before selling them.

And by the way, that goes for edged weapons as well. Anything that was once used specifically for cutting flesh probably has some biological traces still intact. Think about that next time you take that knife out to admire it.

Social Risk:

The risk of offending someone nowadays is pretty great. This could be socially, politically or professionally. The internet has brought a voice to anyone who cares to speak up.

Sometimes you’re best advised to just stay clear.

This is a considerable concern nowadays. With the increasing reach of the web and the damage it can do. Even someone wrongly pointed out for the most innocent of slights can be dealt an onslaught of negative attention.

If you were a public figure you would have the most to lose but even the average citizen could put themselves at risk.

I’m thinking of an story I once heard about a gentleman that served in the Second World War. He had brought home wartime items. Whatever his reasons for keeping these at the time were his own.

He had collected items such as used weapons and various pieces of memorabilia. Such as NAZI badges and pins. These were genuine war collectibles.

The point being he was vilified for having such items. And that happened to him over 25 years ago. Nowadays with social media I can’t even imagine what could happen. And it could happen overnight.

This is something to be aware of.

Your collection would be very difficult to keep private in this day and age. And with social media many people have made careers from commenting on the lives of others.

Is your collectible affected by the 3 personal risks to collecting?

Here are some other examples.

Items of a macabre nature such as memorabilia from serial killers. Which believe it or not it is highly collectible. I’m not referring only to their tools of the trade but childhood items such as drawings or teenage love letters.

So what are some items that could draw negative attention?

The rule of thumb here is basically anything that profits from another’s pain, suffering or misery.

If you have a sizeable collection of a particular item…when public sentiment turns against such a topic, you may find yourself a social leper. Attempts to liquidate your collection may also be unsuccessful.

Don’t forget about the stigma.

People could assume you’re a hoarder. Or at the very least you’re just plain weird.

That goes for publicly associating with someone else, through your collection, that may be guilty of something as well. Remember collectors are a clique driven bunch.

Financial Risk:

This is the easiest topic to go through. I could probably stop right here.

If you want to see where you can lose financially just re-read the first 2 parts of the 3 personal risks to collecting. That should be explanation enough. But sadly there’s more.

You may simply have over-paid for the purchase of your collectible.

After all, who determines the price for these things we pursue?

If you bought online who can say for sure you weren’t affected by shill bidding. Our zeal in obtaining that item at- any-cost, is not lost on the seller.

Shill bidding can be a real problem. That’s where a third party manipulates your auction, places bids, for the purpose of artificially driving up the price.

Buying an outright fake, being defrauded, is always a possibility. The seller himself may have even been unaware he had owned a fake all these years.

Buying an item that is in fact genuine but turns out to be stolen from the rightful owner prior to being sold to you. This is a tricky one that involves not only huge financial losses but social risk as well. You could be identified in a news story and be forced to defend yourself.

The risk of robbery and theft once you finally get your genuine item home safe and sound is always a risk. Just look to the crime statistics for proof of this disturbing trend. If you happened to also be present for the theft this would be an obvious physical risk as well.

All said and done you’ll still have the maintenance costs associated with your collection. That could include storage, display and insurance.

That may look like a lot to consider. But hopefully it gives you food for thought before committing to a particular collectible.

And I bet you figured it would be all fun and games. but looking closer when you distill it down you will find at least 3 personal risks to collecting almost anything. Hopefully all that hasn’t put you off completely.

Best of luck and collect well.


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Why We Collect

January 22, 2016 by  
Filed under New, Spotlight

Why We Collect
Have you ever stopped to wonder why we collect things? What switch is flipped in our head that pushes that desire? Drives us onward to possess something at any cost? Or to make us search out a particular niche or specific item?

Is there a root psychology behind that urge?

In the course of a normal day the cycle of search and purchase replays over and over. Practical things like the necessities or services that go hand in hand with our daily routine. Like groceries or fuel for our vehicles. This is simply our hunting gathering instinct at work.

The urge to hunt and gather is actually one of our most basic survival systems. It’s a long developed primitive instinct. For our ancestors this could’ve determined the difference between life and death in an extreme situation, such as a harsh winter. So part of ‘why we collect’, could actually be hardwired into us.

We’re all familiar with the gathering habits of an animal packing away food for the winter or perhaps to feed a growing brood. Think of the rat or maybe the crow.

Many animal species have been classified as collectors …close to 70 around the planet.

That would account for the necessities of life but what about everything else?

You know …the impractical, frivolous or even ridiculous items. That achilles heel that every collector seems to have. I know … I’ve had one or two in my life. For me, the focus of my collections changed as my interests changed.

That would account for my losing track of items I collected 15 or 20 years ago. A fact I’m reminded of each time I venture deep into one of my storage units. On any such housekeeping day I would find cartons containing dozens of a particular collectible, years later. That happened again recently as I opened some of my older boxes.

There were die cast cars I had collected almost 20 years earlier. It was a small collection of around 30 models, still-in-box, 1/18 scale quality die cast vehicles. It was also a bonus to discover I had originally collected well. That is to say these models were no longer available. At least not at that level of quality.

Their production quality was quite high compared to what I would have to pay today. For example quality paint finishes and soft rubber tyres on chromed wire rims.

Which may not mean much in the context of this article. But the differences to me were quite surprising as I usually handle a lot of this stuff.

And I say collected well but what I consider my good fortune was probably more so a reflection of the better manufacturing standards of that time period. And not some particular insight I had when originally buying. The bottom line? My collection sold very quickly.

I lost track of these items once they were in storage. 

If I had catalogued my collection back then that probably would never have happened. I’ll be addressing the topic of cataloging in a future article. It’s an absolute necessity nowadays.

As for the single niche collections out there, I know of other collectors that will pursue a specific item their whole life. So how do we begin to address why we collect anything at all?

“There appears to be some general consensus on why we collect”.

If you ask around you’ll probably hear things like…

Learning – “Collecting butterflies teaches me about butterflies.”

NOTE: As a kid I had a close friend, one of my best friends actually. He was fascinated with rocks. He collected them everywhere. Now as an adult he studies rock compositions within glacial ice movements. Maybe not a typical example but it shows there can be a range of differences in why we collect.

Social Bonding – “Collecting butterflies brings me closer to my peer group of butterfly collectors.”

I’m reminded of the days long before the internet. Back in the 60s, as a child I remember my mother entertaining other neighbourhood women for lunch or tea. Sometimes we would go to the neighbour’s house as well. And in each home you could always notice small collections of items in a curio cabinet.

Or sometimes they would line the kitchen window over a sink. The collections were highly visible and identifiable. The one item I remember in particular was the tiny ceramic figurines available in each box of Lipton tea. It seemed like whatever house we visited there they were …displayed on the window ledge.

It became almost ritualistic in it’s bonding.

It made sense actually. It was a safe common collectible item. It made everyone the ‘same’. Or at least made you similar to your neighbour. Plus they were included free in each box.

I doubt Lipton’s marketing had this bonding effect in mind but if they did then they are geniuses.

The women would admire each other’s tiny rare collection poised over the kitchen sink as they sipped tea. The tea was a social lubricant between neighbours. The window sill collection gave them something to talk about as they sipped away.

Could the answer to why we collect be distilled down further?

Could it be that collecting was something so appealing because it brought in those that were on the social fringe? Regardless of looks or status.

To be part of a group that collected a certain item brought you casually into that fold. You were part of a clique.

Look no further than fans of Star Trek.

It’s almost commonplace now to hear something negative about collectors of Star Trek memorabilia. Being part of the larger group keeps them insulated.

The buzz – “It’s simply the thrill of the hunt”.

Researchers have actually reported that collecting, or finding something new for your collection, releases a shot of dopamine into our brains. That means we could be getting a buzz from this activity. Sounds reasonable. It’s the reason we do anything really.

But with collecting the dopamine effects begin to have a lesser influence each time we discover something new. This leads us to shore up that buzz. We seek out our chosen niche target over and over again. The items get more rare and the collection gets bigger. You can see this with some of the huge collections out there.

They could be responding to a dopamine hit.

There is also the case of brain injury. Researchers have noted patterns between those individuals with abnormal collecting behaviours and those that have suffered brain damage. Particularly brain damage that has occurred on the right side of the frontal lobe of the cortex .

Before you jump to any conclusions about your own collecting habits consider this. The Bower bird of New Guinea and northern Australia, is the king of collectors. Not only is the Bower’s nest a sight to behold as it can cover several metres across, but the Bower gathers and collects a range of items.

These items include things such as nuts, distinct leaves and colorful flower buds.

They also tend to organize their collections into individual stock-piles. But the really interesting part is that it’s all arranged separately from each other. It’s absolutely fascinating to look at.

At first glance you may think it to be housekeeping or decorating. Some have actually theorized it’s all in order to attract a mate. The stock piles contents representing supply and survival to a potential partner. Whatever it is it’s definitely a fascinating topic to explore.

The focus of our collections don’t seem to have as much relevance as the Bower bird. Our collecting seems to be governed simply by what we have an interest in on a day-to-day basis.

It’s more about the process itself.

That process being to learn, to belong or …just to get a buzz. There may be many reasons why we collect.

Best of luck and collect well.


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Display your Collection

January 16, 2016 by  
Filed under New, Spotlight

Display your Collection
The time has arrived to display your collection of ‘whatzits’. The day it will no longer be relegated to that stuck drawer. No longer stuffed into those generic plastic storage tubs marked, “Shoes“…lurking at the back of your garage.

What brought on this new insight?

Maybe you’ve just tripped over that bloated cardboard box.  You know … the one full of ‘whatzits’, for the last time.

Or, maybe it was the purchase of that final collectible …the crowning jewel for your collection.

Whatever it is that got you here I say, “good on you, ..it’s about time.”

It’s not been an easy journey. Your collecting road has taken you to out-of-the-way shows, auctions and even online. You’ve met others along the way. Some like yourself and some slightly fanatical.  

You’ve spent years buying and selling individual pieces. Tweaking your collection. Massaging it into what it has today.

Which has brought you to where you are now. You’re ready to display your collection. Ready to share with the world.

And why not?

Every piece you own has a long ribbon of story in it’s wake. Snippets of facts and trivia you can recite on cue like a Shakespearean actor. But there’s more.

You also know the story in acquiring each piece. Your story. What it took to find and to make it a part of your collection and your life.

We go from privately enjoying what we have quietly gathered to showing the world the collection we have built. And developing that into something shareable for everyone.

I’m talking about your willingness to now display your collection.

Letting those around you in on what you’ve spent all this time collecting.

There are many positive reasons for displaying your collection too. It may have become large and unmanageable. This will compel you to take stock of what you have.

If you display your collection you will be forced to distill it. To trim off the fat. After all, collections require physical space. In some cases lots of it. This will help you to identify which items will move to the top shelf and which will become part of the next sell-off.

Displaying will make you more social too. When you collect you get a sense of identity. When you display your collection you now gain a sense of community. Think back to the last time  you admired someone else’s collectibles. I’ll bet the conversation flowed as free as honey.

You were always going to get here. It’s the collector’s nature. In fact it’s the one biggest differences between a collector and a hoarder. Hoarders simply gather in guilt.

Displaying is not an option. True collectors move to making their collections public. They are proud of what they have accomplished.

So how do you begin to display your collection?

There are going to many variables to consider first depending on the individual and their unique collections. Space needed versus space available is a huge consideration …maybe the biggest. Followed next by your budget.

This is a story about an experience I had many years ago.  This is especially for those who may feel they have far too many items to display. It opened my eyes to a whole new world. A new way of thinking really.

First a bit of back-story. Fifteen years ago or so,  I was running my own landscape construction outfit. One day I received a call from a gentleman inquiring about me coming to work on his property. He was brief and to the point. His address was close to mine and we made arrangements to meet at his large rural property the next day.

His was originally a farming community named “Snelgrove.” It was now dotted with new subdivisions. Including one where I bought a small home. The community had been annexed by the encroaching city but large farm properties still existed.

I arrived at his address as arranged. It turned out to be over 100 acres of rolling property with a large ranch style home and 3 large barns. All very well kept. Except for the fact the construction styles were decades old it looked like everything was brand new.

I started down the paved driveway and arrived at a wrought iron gate framed with brick pillars. I pulled my truck close  enough to reach the intercom when the gate suddenly lurched. It began slowly churning out a rhythmic, “clak-clak-clak…”

And like the great “Oz” himself…revealing himself as the curtain drew. I now could see that gentleman that had placed the call.

There sitting silently on a large gleaming riding-style mower was a man close to 80. He looked one size too small for his clothes. But he was dressed very neatly in crisp beige cargo pants, spotless white sneakers and blue shirt buttoned to his chin. A tall straw cowboy hat tipped heavily to one side. He looked like a character from a movie. He was extremely dapper.

After introductions I learned he had owned the property for well over 50 years. He had farmed thousands of the surrounding acres. That is until the “city people”, as he referred to them,  started arriving and building subdivisions.

My home too was on land he had plowed decades earlier. He even grumbled about the clay content he had to deal with on my corner.

As times changed he switched careers and began to sell insurance. He’d now retired from that as well but had apparently been quite successful. Throughout it all he maintained his property, never downsizing below 100 acres. In fact he renovated the barns and home while adding paved walkways and sitting areas all over the property.

We talked very briefly about the job he originally called me about. And while he was an extremely likeable old gent I could not afford to work for him. He had some ideas that would’ve taken me days to complete.

Offering me $30 per day was the tip-off that he was very out of touch with current operating costs or he considered labor to be very cheap. He came from a time where simple hard work got you through and he seemed surprised I had to turn him down.

I then suggested he may be better off looking for someone more in line with his budget. There were many students in the area that would’ve been happy with the arrangement. As I began to climb back into the cab of my pickup he suddenly asked if I’d like to see his collection before I left.

Okay, now this could be interesting, I thought.

So I happily accepted. He stayed seated on his riding tractor and started down an immaculately paved winding pathway. I walked behind him.

After a few minutes we arrived at barn #1. He opened the door and turned on the lights. I was stunned. Looking at this gentleman should have been an indication of what I would see inside but nothing could have prepared me…

I watched as the lights flooded the interior. Besides the aisle there wasn’t an unfilled spot in the entire building. This barn was jammed full. Antiques dating as far back as World War 1 dressed the ceiling and walls.

My head had to catch up with my eyes. I was looking at antique advertising everywhere there was available wall space. Many for products I’ve never even heard of. It was part old time country store and part museum. It was stunning. Vintage glass display cabinets formed a labyrinth of aisles to follow.

There were saluting mannequins wearing military uniforms and medals. Some sitting on overhead wire shelving suspended by cables. Display cabinets were neatly stuffed with even more arrangements of military ribbons, patches, awards and photographs.

Wartime hardware was positioned wherever he found space. I saw antique field radios, knives and helmets. A military motorcycle was frozen in time with a mannequin rider. There were letters, books and magazines that looked like they would be more at home in a pre-war office. I moved throughout the space in awe. The old gent remained politely quiet.

The silence was finally broken by an old style ringer.

One of the many antique wooden phones came to life. He had about a dozen of them mounted to the wall right beside the door we entered. He walked over and answered one of them. He muttered a response then replaced the receiver.

He turned to me and spoke for the first time since going inside. He said that he rigged up old phones in each of the barns so his wife could check on him from the house. He then laughed to himself.

Wait…each of the barns?

Suddenly I remembered there were two more barns. I stammered something along the lines of… the other barns…they look like this too? No, he replied. They were more organized.

We eventually went to the other barns. They were just as mind-blowing. But inside them the collections were more focused. In barn #2 he had partially recreated the platform from the original Snelgrove Train Station. A station that had been gone for almost 25 years.

There was a ticket booth, overhead signage, ceiling and wall fixtures, benches for waiting passengers, luggage dollies with antique luggage…it was truly amazing. He told me he was there at the station the day it was torn down. He bought everything that was salvageable. His goal was to preserve it’s history.

Barn #3 was the same as the other two but this time he had recreated the Snelgrove Telephone Exchange. Antique desks, those strange looking displays with cables plugged everywhere and operator headsets were surrounded by mannequins wearing fashions of the day.

And of course lots of signage, glass display cabinets, desks, lighting and anything else to recreate the illusion of a typical work day for the telephone exchange employees. It was truly amazing. This was way beyond a typical display.

This was a dream project for him. I remember thinking it would take several lifetimes to build this project. And here this little old man had accomplished it all in one.

He noticed that I was overwhelmed trying to take it all in.

Something he had probably seen in the faces of visitors many times over. Admittedly I was a little sad for this guy. These were just barns after-all, not professionally constructed facilities. How could this be sustainable? What would become of all this effort?

He told me that memorabilia collectors and antique dealers have been calling him for years  from all over north America. He didn’t mention a successor so I think he was contemplating finally selling it off in pieces. Not because he needed money but because he wanted some control over where it ended up. He believed strongly in this piece of history.

It wasn’t a wasted effort though. For years now he had been holding tours for local school children and senior centers. About once a week a school bus would arrive for a scheduled tour. The visitors would be shown around the huge collection as well as learn the local history.

He not only spoke of the individual pieces and their significance but how they came to be in his barn. He kept a giant medieval-looking book for comments and signatures. It sat atop an ornate pedestal near one of the displays. It was stuffed with commentary. He even invited me to sign.

Remember what I said about you becoming a part of the story fabric? This old guy had that down pat. He became a part of the living history of each of those pieces I experienced that day. He gave me new insight that hit me like a tsunami. And it’s stayed with me ever since. All in exchange for about one hour of my life. It was a bargain.

“If you display your collection will it change the world?”

Maybe not. But instead, ask yourself this. Will it change one person’s life? If you have dedicated yourself to the message behind your collection then to that I would answer…just maybe. Maybe it will indeed change one person’s life.

So you’ve got some thinking and planning to do. First have a good look at what it is you are collecting. Obviously size is a factor. Collecting vintage buses will present a different set of obstacles than collecting vintage belt buckles.

It’s unusual to have the kind of available space that old man had. His circumstances were unique. But then your collection probably doesn’t rival the size of his either. If you ever feel your task is too great just think back to that old man and his three barns.

The old guy had a very first day too. He started with a single vintage glass display cabinet. In it he placed his most prized pieces. The rest of his collection and his story grew from there.

Now you have some choices to make. You need to start by taking stock of your space requirements. You do that by looking closely at your collection.

Is this going to be displayed in your home or place of business? Will it be viewed by large numbers of people, as in an office lobby, or just a few, as in guests to your home?

Will your display involve a simple ‘stand’ or would you prefer an enclosed case? An enclosed case will need only a wiping down where exposed individual pieces could be a dusting nightmare. Not to mention a case will keep curious fingers at bay. Depending on what you have to display may require a custom approach.

The benefits to an enclosed case are pretty obvious but it does come with a cost consideration. The choices for display cases can number in the thousands. Full glass, glass and wood, custom finishes or you could go with one of the formed acrylics. That’s always an option if cost is a concern.

The possible configurations are as varied as the number of collections out there. You really need to look closely at your situation and identify your ideal solution.

One suggestion though with regards to the glass. Opt for tempered glass, or safety glass if possible. You’ll also want something that protects against UV rays. Those are the  natural ultra-violet rays present in sunlight.

UV is notorious for fading color on whatever it contacts, over time that is. The last thing you want to find on your prized possession, is one side is a brighter color than the other.

After deciding on what you can afford there are some styling cues you should be following. It should blend with it’s surroundings while providing an unobstructed viewing experience. Don’t forget the small details as well. Details such as shelf dimensions or locks. Display cases are big business and you get what you pay for.

One good thing about the display case expense is that it’s cost will be amortized over the life of your collection. You will likely buy a display case only once. After it’s paid for you won’t need to spend any more. Unless of course you decide to expand.

If you’re already thinking ahead to expanding you must consider how many pieces are going to be displayed. Will you display everything or just the cream of the crop? Do you have a location for the additional cases?

The display will cost real money and you want to make sure it is within your budget while adapting to changes in your growing collection.

If your collection grows will it accommodate your additional pieces?

The higher end manufacturers may be able to configure something that can grow with your collection. And don’t forget about the finer details like custom wood finishes and mirror inserts.

You’ve dedicated a good part of your life to collecting what you love. You have painstakingly grown your collection to the point it’s at today. Sure, you will eventually part ways. Your pieces will one day find themselves with new people, that’s life. But for now you are the caretaker.

Which means like it or not you are part of it’s fabric…it’s living history. In 100 years regardless of where that item ends up it will have once been displayed by you. That fact can never be changed. That responsibility alone deserves a well thought out way to display your collection today.

Best of luck and collect well.


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The Compulsive Collector

January 13, 2016 by  
Filed under New, Spotlight

The Compulsive Collector
When I started this article about the compulsive collector I actually had a different direction in mind. But then I began to recall a particular event in my life from several years ago. That first idea now started to fade and the following story came back to life. Hope it’s as good to read as it is to remember.

So what is the compulsive collector?

We all know what a collector is. Or at least we have a pretty good idea. And if we’re not one ourselves we probably know of one personally. In is this day and age of downsizing and people living with less a collector stands out quite readily.

So that just leaves the compulsive part. I think there too we all have a good idea but let’s take a look at the definition of  compulsion.

This one is from from dictionary.com.

“Compulsion: an inner drive that causes a person to perform actions, often of a trivial and repetitive nature, against his or her will.”

Hmm, …trivial…against his or her will?  I may have to re-think collecting.

You may ask yourself …could I be a compulsive collector?

Anyways, back to my story. I guess it was about  7 years ago. I had been on the road …job related, when I pulled over for lunch at a deli-style Italian bakery.

It was a great little family-run place that oozed atmosphere. Anywhere there wasn’t a table stood open racks of newly baked breads. All of them cooling in full view. Probably more due to a lack of space than an attempt at ambience. But it provided for a fantastic setting nonetheless.

There was also a deli hot counter. Where a very short, very heavy and very matronly woman was filling take-away containers. You know the kind …metal foil …cardboard lids.

I lined up with several people. Most of them sounded like regulars. The “specials” rolled from their tongues like they were schooled in the old country. The old woman too, she could recall exactly who preferred  extra toppings …even before they did.

I definitely made a good choice in stopping there, I thought. Especially when you see burly truckers and clusters of tradespeople. 

You couldn’t ask for a better endorsement of a food place.

As the line progressed my eyes flashed over row upon row of different meats, noodles and side dishes. I could hear the older woman. She became easily agitated if anyone stumbled in ordering.

Even more-so if they mispronounced a signature family dish. I did my best to listen as orders were placed and the line shuffled forward. I silently practised.

When I finally reached the hand written, “Order Her..” sign, I had to bite my lip. But suddenly, and after all the now wasted rehearsals, the old woman was suddenly distracted by a loud commotion in the back room. Wringing her hands in her apron she magically glided her frame through a sliver of a door and disappeared.

And this is where the real story begins.

A much younger gentleman now appeared to take up her position at the cash register. My first impression was that this was her son. His English, while very good, was delivered in a thick Italian accent. He was quite personable while he took my order.

Which by the way was for a veal sandwich with peppers and mushrooms. I decided to forego any of the complicated sounding combination plates at the last second.

I watched them cut the fresh bread roll. Then layer in slices of steaming veal. And after a generous helping of peppers and mushrooms they drizzled on a bright homemade tomato sauce.  The whole thing was presented to me wrapped in aluminum foil.

I placed my key chain on the counter and reached for my wallet.

I was anxious about holding up this line of hungry tradespeople when the register guy locked his gaze on my key ring. I could half-hear him ask about my folding ring knife.

Still fumbling for my wallet I was sure he was just being polite so as to not make me feel like I was holding everyone up…which of course I was. And then it happened – the compulsive collector appeared.

He asked me where I got it and how long I’ve had it. And the truth was I couldn’t recall. Sure I stammered something about picking it up at a garage sale because in all probability I did. But I was more interested in paying for my sandwich and letting the next guy get his order.

“And then the compulsive collector in Joe took over.”

He sensed the next customer’s impatience and began to take his cash while waving me aside. He wasn’t letting me pay …or leave until he had a chance to talk about my ring knife.

I stepped aside with my sandwich and waited until he cashed out the next couple of people. He then walked around from behind the counter to continue the conversation.

He introduced himself as Joe. He went on to tell me he collected pocket knives and lighters. It was at that second that I politely asked about his collection when I noticed his replacement at the cash. I later found out to be his wife.

She simply rolled her eyes …likely having heard it all before.

I told him I also collected.

Not lighters but I did look for interesting hardware and I did come across lighters and knives frequently. To make a long story short I didn’t pay for that veal sandwich that day. And once a week for about a year or so I would pass that bakery and drop in on Joe.

Some weeks I had information on a great lighter I spotted on Ebay so I’d pass that along. Or I may have even found something interesting at a garage sale. They were never too expensive so I was happy to pick them up for him.

Whatever I found he would happily reimburse me for. And to make it worth my while he always built me a beautiful sandwich whenever I arrived.  I had a lot of fun searching out this unusual niche.

And since it wasn’t my normal niche it was somewhat empowering. I could enjoy this hunt while remaining objective. Joe on the other hand was fanatical about this. Maybe he needed me to insulate him from the activity directly.

Either way, I have to admit it was fascinating listening to him. He gave me all kinds of input on what exactly to look for. I never looked at a lighter the same way again. He had been into this a long time and had built a sizeable collection.

But he never balked at anything I purchased in his name. I would have to say he was the compulsive collector. Not to mention the king of sandwich building. It was a great balance.

Best of luck and collect well.


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Collectibles that can Kill

January 10, 2016 by  
Filed under New, Spotlight

Collectibles that can Kill
I’ll admit collectibles that can kill sounds like a fairly extreme title. Just the very fact that something is collectible probably means it’s also rare. If that rarity is age-related then this article could very well apply. While products today are generally safety tested and certified that wasn’t always the case.

There are many combinations of collectible items that can cause bodily harm.

Obviously collectible items such as weapons, for example firearms and knives, can be lethal. This article is referring more  to the type of item you wouldn’t normally associate with an obvious risk or danger.

This article is leaning more  towards the type of item you wouldn’t normally associate with an obvious risk or danger. I’m referring to your normal consumer type goods. Things you would find in the average home. This article will explore some of those items,.

This is especially true for products created throughout the 50s and 60s. During this period there were many advances in industrial manufacturing as well as in the use of new polymers.

Polymers were the building block compounds in plastics and rubbers.

Manufacturers everywhere were anxious to begin producing an assortment of consumer goods. Plastic and rubber toys were simple and engineered to a lesser standard than something like a machinery part.

Military collectibles that can kill are not the only dangers.

While the benefits of new plastic combinations were welcomed the negative impact was not mentioned. With less restrictions and less product knowledge in general, combinations of plastics could easily have been off-gassing.

To determine how dangerous something may be or might have been we look at the most vulnerable areas in our lives. For example, any product that would come into contact with food or water. This may very well be a toxic metal component such as lead, mercury or cadmium.

Or it could be an item that would normally be enjoyed by children.

Toys would be the most obvious items.  The bright colors may indicate lead or cadmium traces in paint finishes.

The first toys to require warning labels only began to appear in the 70s. They were legislated in direct response to the  choking death of a small child. The child had apparently swallowed a tiny piece of plastic. One that was part of a space ship model.

The model was made popular by a science fiction television series. This would probably be a collectible model today. Maybe even more-so considering the ‘ushering in’ of the safety labeling era can be attributed to this specific toy.

Were toys accident-free prior to that?

It probably wasn’t the first fatal accident from a consumer product. There just didn’t seem to be a lot of consumer complaints. Or maybe they weren’t identified as anything but accidents at the time.

My  theory is they just didn’t give toys a second thought.

This generation had experienced true hardship and had serious things to fear. Toys just didn’t even  show up on their radar. Remember that the consumer of the 40s – 70s had all been somewhat de-sensitized because of the wartime years.

Before a lot of the strict new product regulations we see today, many products made it into the marketplace. Some of these would leave you shaking your head in disbelief. Of course things are much different today.

I remember several examples of toys from the 60s that caused me injury.

I got off pretty easy actually since they had the potential to do much worse.  My first wood chisel set, complete with razor sharp carving bits and a wood mallet, lacerated my index finger.

This was a product marketed to children and sold in the toy aisle at a large department store. I remember begging for this set only to take it home and split open my finger within minutes of using it. The thick scar is still obvious almost 50 years later.

Another example would be the Creepy Crawler Maker. This contraption was basically a piping hot griddle where liquid rubber was poured into removable steel molds. I received several seriously burned fingers after making adjustments while this was still hot.

I can remember letting this contraption heat up in my room beside my bed without a second thought. I had no perception of the danger of fire. Not only that but I inhaled all the noxious fumes from the bubbling rubber goop.

There were some others as well. They may have been less obvious but they were still just as dangerous. Take the dime store figurine that I named the site after…the Smoking Monkey.

Keep in mind this was a ten cent ceramic figurine.

Inside the package was included several stick-like cigarettes. Kind of looked like incense sticks. You would fit one into the monkey’s mouth and light it up. Once lit the monkey puffed and blew smoke rings.

It was the coolest toy for a kid but you needed matches to light it. I remember lighting this thing up all the time. All very comical until you think about a kid of 7 or 8 playing with matches in the bedroom. Again I think since smoking in the 60s was totally acceptable it somehow translated as normal for a kid to be lighting play cigarettes.

Not really something to panic over I guess since cigarettes and matches were on par with the times, so commonplace. Back then smoking was mainstream. Even my family doctor had an ashtray on his desk. Pretty sure I remember him smoking while he sat and chatted with my parents.

At the time warning labels were pretty well non-existent.

This may have been due to many toys coming from overseas. Regulations and guidelines were probably very different. Or maybe none of the manufacturers actually cared. Not that toys were outright killing people but the likelihood of injury was certainly high.

Once the first offender’s products were identified the floodgates opened.  It wasn’t that there were so many more unsafe products being manufactured.  It was more a case of products finally being identified. My guess is that if you had a product that was deemed unsafe you had eyes out for your competition’s product.

Suddenly dangerous products appeared everywhere.

“Collectibles that can kill… sounds like it’s own category”.

Sometimes re-branding and label modifications weren’t enough. Some products were not salvageable.

These had to be discontinued or outright banned once they were found to be a danger to the public. The most serious offenders usually affected the most vulnerable…children.

This usually meant in the form of choking or strangulation. But that was no means the only dangers out there. Risk of severe burns also ranked high as did blunt force trauma. Items that presented danger from long-term chemical exposure were also identified.

Once the list of dangers grew to cover a wider swath the warnings began to extend beyond toys. Now it was moving into consumer and household goods.

This usually came about with the item being used for something not originally intended. For example, using a decorative item for drinking out of or to hold a food product.

Take the case of radium poisoning.

Radium is a highly toxic component used to create the glow-in-the-dark items you may have seen. Manufacturers used to paint the hands of clocks and watch faces with radium laced paints. This was very common for decades and unfortunately many people that were involved in their manufacturing and  assembly have paid with their lives.

Toys too could also contain traces of radium. The manufacturer had introduced a radium component into the plastic and rubber components. Remember those advances with polymers. This was usually done for effect. In the 60s I can recall many toys with glow in the dark features.

I personally had a series of rubber finger puppets depicting ghost cartoon characters. They were based on a television program at the time. Thinking back they were certainly treated with something to give them a glowing effect.

Some of these old toys were so bizarre they don’t really fall into any collectible category. If you don’t agree with collectibles that can kill as a category you could stick with bizarre toxic toys from the 50s and 60s. Though I’m not sure if that sounds any better.

Best of luck and collect well.


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Buying Collectibles online Safely

January 6, 2016 by  
Filed under New, Spotlight

Buying Collectibles online Safely
Buying collectibles online safely…emphasis on “safely”, should be the goal for every trade. But first we need to talk about the basics. There are many reasons for choosing to buy online. 

The vastness of the global marketplace, the number of items available at a glance, the speed at which we can search products as well as the convenience of one-click payments.

Who doesn’t love window shopping from the comfort of their home?

Or the choice to buy online might not be a choice at all – but a necessity. As in the case of a person’s physical mobility or lack of.

Online shopping has been around a long time. Long enough that most of us are pretty familiar and even adept at the process. Whatever the reasons, it’s safe to say that until we wear-out the internet buying online is here to stay. What started as a way to pick up those hard-to-find gifts or special occasion purchases has now become a way to buy our day-to-day goods and services.

But what about collectors?

Outside of a regular business enterprise, private collectors are probably the individuals best suited for online shopping. Having that global reach makes hunting for deals tailor made for them. Regardless of their location they can conduct research from almost any corner of the planet.

Information in the form of text, video and even voice is now just a click away.

Think Skype for example. Why wouldn’t they take advantage of the internet?

Okay, with all that boring due diligence stuff neatly behind them they can now go back to their real focus…the hunt for their next collectible! Now all that sounds well and good, except for one detail. … the issue of buying collectibles online safely.

Consider the buddy system for buying collectibles online safely.

The same features of the internet that give us reach, speed and all the other conveniences, has a lot of dark corners. It’s those shadowy spaces  we need to be vigilant about.

While the internet may be tailor-made for the collector it’s probably the collector that’s also most at risk. A business enterprise would face similar dark elements online they are usually better prepared. Most businesses have an IT department or  person that would act as their guide.

All businesses operate on a budget. They follow a business plan. Expenditures would be qualified through a layered system of checks and balances. It’s this straight-forward model that offers a degree of protection in all their transactions. 

When the internet first arrived the business world had to catch up.

Now after years of trial and error security is second nature for most businesses that complete transactions online.

The private collector on the other hand, may be thinking more with their heart than their head. And it’s not always about the bottom line. With the exception of an professional operation, like a sports or film memorabilia dealer,  it’s a good bet that most collectors are operating alone.

Without the disciplined approach of a business model the tendency may be to rush into a transaction once they spot that deal of a lifetime. It’s in that rush to claim the prize that the less-exciting details may be overlooked. Some of those details could easily be security related.

There is another type of transaction that finds the online world very tempting. I’m referring to the fraudulent transaction. The counterfeiter or fraud artist loves dealing with collectors. I refer to them as Fraud Artists because this can also be a trade to some.

They study human nature and sales techniques just as a legitimate salesperson would. So they are usually armed as well or better than a legitimate salesperson.

They know that emotion can rule this type of trade.

They also know the collector is probably working with disposable income. Their judgement may be easily clouded. Being a lone purchaser also makes them more susceptible to fraud since they lack the checks and balances that a business would surely utilize .

“So is buying collectibles online safely even a reality?”

I think buying safely is definitely a reality but not without a cost. As with anything there will be a trade-off. Whatever you lack in initial field work, your research and authentication process, will have to be made up for in the end. That usually means extra legwork and maybe even long distance travel.

But you may be asking yourself, “if I’m expected to travel anyways what’s the point of using the internet?”

The answer lies in better quality up-front field work. That will lessen the reliance on the back-end authentication process. That means doing your homework…well!

Know what you’re going after.

Have a target item selected and go after it – but also know beforehand the value of that item. Know the value of all the ‘grades’ of that item.

Have the best idea possible of the availability of that item. You want to go into a transaction as informed as possible so as to not be manipulated and knocked off course. Don’t be swayed by the deal that shows up out of nowhere.

Consider using the services of a professional authenticator.

Travel will cost you time and money. Why not find a someone local to your deal who can certify it’s authenticity? This will cost you as well but probably much less. Plus, being a third party will add some confidence to the deal. Just be careful about using someone the seller might suggest. Hopefully that’s self-explanatory.

As well as the professional authenticator, make sure to find a third party to hold your funds in escrow. Again this is a paid service but it’s worth the cost. Basically your funds are paid to the third party escrow account. Those funds are held back from the seller until you’ve received the item and are satisfied with the outcome.

This procedure is fairly standard and not many sellers would object to this. This is a contracted service so each side’s responsibilities would be spelled out clearly up front. It’s a legally binding agreement.

And last but not least, why not do all your collectible transactions within the buddy system. You could create your own person system of checks-and-balances. Find someone like-minded and share your interest.

At the very least one of you could be the voice of reason for the other.  Remember the goal here is buying collectibles online safely. The buddy system actually makes a lot of sense.

Best of luck and collect well.


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It’s a Fake

December 31, 2015 by  
Filed under New, Spotlight

It’s a Fakegive than take.

We accept it. It’s the built-in cost for acquiring the latest “whatzit”. If you want something badly enough there will be costs involved to find and acquire it. Those costs will begin to rack-up long before you make an offer.

Collectors know the pros and cons of this activity well and most wouldn’t change a thing. Sometimes those costs are worn as a badge of honor, or a souvenir of our participation. Other times they may be worn as battle scars when we recount the hills we climbed to plant the flag on Mount Whatzit.

They accept those costs that come with the territory of being a dedicated collector. Because at the end of the day they also know their dedication to tracking down that perfect new addition will have paid off. This is how the scenario plays out over and over again.

But let’s suppose it’s time for an appraisal of the items in your collection. You’ve done your due diligence and located a qualified appraiser.

The day of your appraisal arrives. The appraiser studies your collectible for a few minutes. Looking concerned but remaining silent, he methodically scrutinizes your whatzit for the most minute details …the tiniest of variables that gauge the authenticity of your item.

You bite your lip as you watch and wait. Putting your collectible down he now looks to you and says …

…those words you never want to hear …It’s a fake. 

What could be worse for a collector than to find out that a counterfeit collectible, a fake, has found it’s way into their collection?

Most collectors, or anyone for that matter, have a very close kinship with what they do or what they collect. Just as a tradesman identifies with his trade. An artist identifies with their medium. It’s the same with a collector.

To be informed you have allowed a fake into your collection will affect different people in different ways, to different degrees. It all depends on how seriously you identify with your “trade.”

The more serious collector among us may suffer a huge blow. They may feel humiliated and defeated. At the very least they could wonder about their future or their credibility.

Imagine someone who has collected for the good part of a lifetime. Someone who may have even been a go-to source when others  needed a qualified opinion.

If you were that person and then found out you had been duped by a counterfeiter would probably be devastating as well.

If you’ve been the victim of a deal where a fake was involved then you are not alone. But I will say this, the chances of being sold a counterfeit, or a fake, are extremely high. It could happen to any of us and the more fringe the item could possibly make it even more possible.

It doesn’t matter how much you know or how long you’ve been doing this. There are some basic rules to any transaction that unfortunately seem to get thrown out the window when a collectible is involved. Or I should say when emotion is involved.

The words you never want to hear,… “It’s a fake”.

Think about this for a minute. When we go to the grocery store to buy a loaf of bread and watch the cashier scan our purchase. We pretend to casually glance to the monitor as we recall the price in our head. If that price is out of whack by even 2 cents we speak up…well, my wife does anyways.

Now think back to your last big collectible trade or purchase. My guess is that hundreds or even thousands of dollars flew out of your wallet as you pictured that newest ‘whatzit’ sitting in your home. And you were probably happy to do so.

We have to accept some of the blame… for being human anyways. Get to know this human condition well because it’s something we all own. The counterfeiter knows it very well too. They know that to present us with the newest brand-name whatzit or the shiniest whatzit to have seen daylight in 50 years …and at a huge discount, they will own that deal.

Wikipedia’s two cents…

To counterfeit means to imitate something. Counterfeit products are ‘fake’ replicas of the real product. Counterfeit products are often produced with the intent to take advantage of the superior value of the imitated product. Counterfeit products tend to have fake company logos and brands.

This can include copies and imitations of brand-label clothing, brand-label handbags, and brand-label shoes. Unbelievably it can also include mechanical parts for equipment and vehicles including automobiles and aircraft.

Counterfeit products have also a reputation for poor and even dangerous quality. Sometimes the fakes don’t even work at all which may be a blessing in disguise considering many have been found with toxic elements.

Probably most affected by collectors is when the counterfeiters set their sites on watches, toys, art and movies. In cases like those it results in trademark and patent infringement. Both of which affect the collector directly.

While the counterfeiting of money directly is dealt with aggressively by individual governments the same can’t be said for goods. So unfortunately at this point in time as collectors we must be hyper-vigilant.

Take a few minutes and really analyze where your collectible of choice sits in the great pecking order of things. For example, are you only interested in high end luxury watches typically available from a single factory?

In that case you will have an easier time researching and gathering reliable information on your items. New ROLEX watches are available only from the factory or established dealers. Secondary markets are another story though.

One example where it starts to get tricky is if you are collecting vintage music memorabilia. Items like that may rely on a handful of people and their memories as to exact details. Now you are in the vulnerable gray area of collecting.

A good example is Beatles memorabilia. There is a ton of fake merchandise out there with duplicate logos and images. It’s easy enough to do with current technology. The market is there. The margins are there and the brand is still hot.

The skill level required to duplicate a logo is a lot lower than say to craft a counterfeit luxury watch. Depending on what you are collecting, and at what price level, you will have different options for researching.

If you haven’t decide on a collectible niche yet you may want to consider accessibility to accurate research before you do. It may make all the difference, depending if your goal is to make cash collecting or losing your proverbial shirt. Remember, the last thing you want to be told is that it’s a fake.

Best of luck and collect well.


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Collectibles as Gifts

December 24, 2015 by  
Filed under New, Spotlight

Collectibles as Gifts
Christmas is a perfect occasion to introduce collectibles as gifts to friends and family. The first thing that comes to mind for me is a starter kit. Starter kits for future stamp collectors or coin collectors are probably the most obvious.

The starter kits usually consist of the simplest tools, containers and tongs or soft gloves. You may also find a small manual or guide book as a quick introduction.

Just because your collectible of choice may not have a commercial starter-kit available doesn’t mean you can’t improvise. You could create your own pseudo-starter kit for anything. With some research, a little patience and a whole lot of determination, you could source and gather just about anything nowadays.

Another quick thought on the idea of a starter kit: look for a DVD on the topic and include it. If that’s not available the next best thing is to include a web address for information and video online.

How does one go about giving collectibles as gifts?

Not only is this a personalized gift but, in the case of children, what a great way to lessen their dependence on electronics and video games for entertainment. While it may seem there are not a lot of choices, for non-electronic entertainment, the opposite is actually true.

Do a quick search for vintage board games or  retro toys. You will be surprised to see what is still available. Not only are these some of the best games and toys for developing hand-eye coordination but they are also highly collectible.

Print some research that you find and label it as a manual or intro-guide. This has all the makings of an extremely memorable gift for someone special.
Your first step would be to decide on an area the recipient may be interested in. You have some questions to ask.

Do they have an interest in building or tools? Are they fascinated by automobiles or model cars? Are they the outdoor type?

They may be the type of personality that craves quiet reflection. Is it the creative process like drawing or photography that piques their curiosity?

Decide on something age appropriate as well. Make sure whatever you decide on is a good match for their level of skill and interest. No sense introducing them to something so complicated that they lose interest within days.

I imagine this is much more difficult with someone not directly related to you. In that case talk to family or friends of the intended recipient. If that’s not possible you may have to use your best judgement.

“Christmas collectibles as gifts sound like a perfect fit”.

For the reader or quiet thinker: why not give someone some first-edition books? They could be anything from classic cookbooks to comics. The topic chosen would be the goal of your research.

If you have a builder or contractor in your life why not give them retro or vintage tools? If you can’t find anything suitable you could always look for a book depicting retro or vintage tools.

The artist, the cook, the sports person, musician etc: these all have possibilities for collectibles associated with them. Even if they don’t you could always improvise with a little research.

One thing is for certain, collectibles as gifts can be a unique and interesting approach to an otherwise routine tradition.

Best of luck and collect well.


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Aluminum Can Collecting for Money

October 27, 2015 by  
Filed under How To, Spotlight

Aluminum Can Collecting

Most of us now realize there are tons of opportunities to make cash recycling various items. From human hair (yikes) to circuit boards and everything in between. While the list of recyclables seems to be endless but I’m going to talk about just one of those items, aluminum can collecting for money.

“Aluminum can collecting for money could net 2.5 cents per can at current prices”.

Discarded cans are pretty well everywhere you look. And it’s no surprise really when grocery store aisles are dedicated to canned soups, sauces, fruits and vegetables. Canned soft drinks are even more prevalent.

Cool Facts about the Aluminum Can collecting.

1.   More than  80,000,000,000 aluminum cans are filled every year.

2.   An aluminum can could be back on the grocers shelf in as fast as 60 days after recycling.

3.   Aluminum cans are the single most recycled item in the U.S.

4.  An aluminum can – can be recycled repeatedly – forever.

5.   Recycling just a single aluminum can saves the energy equivalent to powering a TV for three hours.

6.   There was a time aluminum was more valuable than gold.

7.   An aluminum can thrown into landfill will, in theory,  still be there 500 years from now.

A garbage bag full of cans could be worth $12 – $15. You could collect four or five bags with some planning.

So to be a ‘canner’ yeah, that’s what they call themselves, you need to have a plan. Most of them probably started out of necessity. Some specific reasons cited are, “I don’t answer to a boss” or “I can make as much or as little as I need.”

It’s clearly the route to a little independence for some folks.

The activity itself is low impact since the cans are easy to handle. They weigh very little making them easy to carry or haul on a wagon.

So that’s fine if your happy with $15 or $20 a night. But what if you’re looking for $100 or $150 a night? I’ll go out on a limb and say, “yes” I believe it’s absolutely possible. If you want to make cash recycling cans – serious cash, it will require planning and dedication. Let me go step-by-step through what I figured out.

Here’s a true story.

Several years ago I rented a ground floor apartment. I loved this place because of it’s size and because it had two entrances. One being the door from the interior hallway and the other was the door from my patio.

I had a sliding patio door complete with a fenced in patio area. I even had a little gate. This was ideal. It made it easy to move bulky items in and out as well as giving me a direct route to the garbage bin and recycle bins. I could simply exit out my sliding door and make my way to one of the appropriate containers.

The best reason for aluminum can collecting is they’re plentiful.

This building had designated recycling bins as well as a large trash bin. By the time trash day arrived those containers and bin were jammed full. And there were boxes of additional cans and bottles sitting on the ground.

Having an apartment within viewing distance of the bins gave me a chance to witness all kinds of activity. But the most notable was the visit from ‘midnight-man’.

He actually showed up once a week around 3am.

The first time he woke me I thought it was close to midnight and the name just stuck.  So anyways, on that particular night I heard something rattling around the trash. I cracked open my blinds expecting to see an over-sized racoon digging around but instead I saw a professional canner.

This guy was middle-aged and looked a bit weathered. He had on tradesman type clothing, you know – the canvas pants and matching jacket.  In the moonlight I could see his shaggy mane and beard. He kind of looked like the Lon Chaney version of the Wolfman.

But what caught my attention was his mode of transportation. He had a mountain bike all decked out to haul loads of cargo. Behind his bike was what appeared to be a small platform trailer. It was definitely homemade. The back wheel of his bike had a shelf – a long wood plank that extended straight back from the seat post.

And there were two large canvas pouches, one on either side of the back wheel. This guy wasn’t kidding. Oh, one more thing, he also had a small plywood shelf that sat above the front wheel. Some serious thought had gone in to setting all this stuff up.

So all of this got me to thinking.

Why would this guy go to the trouble of building that rigging for his bike and creep around at 3am just to handle sticky cans?  I mean, he did it for the money of course. But I still wasn’t convinced he was making more than a few bucks. But what if there was a way to make a hundred or more a night. I wanted to learn what I could so I watched for him.

Each time he arrived he was already fully loaded up.

I have no idea where he was putting the additional cans from the apartment dumpster but he found space. And when I say he was loaded he had what looked like at least two full large garbage bags on his makeshift trailer. They were tarped and tied with bungy cord.

He also had full saddle-bags and more full garbage bags stacked up behind his seat. They sat higher than he did. And all of it lashed with rope or bungy cord.

If you ever saw the animated special, How The Grinch Stole Christmas…think of the overloaded sleigh after the Grinch robbed the town of their toys. That’s how this bike looked. It was crazy.

And yet here he was at this dumpster – still looking for more. This guy was my hero.  I only saw him at most once a week but he was obviously doing a route that ended somewhere around my place. I mean, he had no more space on that bike – he had to be at the end of the route.

Anyways, I started to tinker with some ideas as to what kind of money he was making. By doing so I came up with a few strategies that most anyone could use to make money at this.

There are probably even more ways to expand on what I came up with. If anyone feels up to sharing please leave a comment with your thoughts on this. So what I did was to first try and figure out Midnight Man’s strategy.

His transportation was well engineered and practical.

I bounced around the idea of having a pickup truck but it wouldn’t allow for stealth or access around some of the narrow walkways. Not to mention the added cost to run it.

So for the collection part, the rigged out bike was ideal.

Nowadays you could improve on it with one of those electric bikes but he had a great system. Now you need a staging area or storage while you wait for drop-off to the recycler.

A good strategy would be to stockpile each night’s haul in a garage or storage unit. Once you build up a certain amount use an  appropriate vehicle to deliver to the recycle center of your choosing. Yes, it’s an expense but it’s a single trip per full truck load.

Free or low cost storage would, of course, be ideal. Your truck should be fitted with some kind of rigging to carry the bike and trailer as well.  That way you could drive the truck to each neighbourhood you were working on that particular night. Park it somewhere safe then off-load the bike and trailer.

Make your rounds and come back and fill the truck.

Load the bike and trailer onto the truck and drive back to your storage area. Unload your night’s haul and get ready for the next night.

Once a week make your trip to a recycler or if you were working a neighbourhood that was close to a recycling center, take a load in beforehand. That way you get one out of the way and make the best use of your fuel.

Midnight Man didn’t have a truck, that I saw anyway. But it could definitely help to expand his operation. Imagine if you partnered up with someone. Or maybe developed a route and contacts you could easily turn a hobby of aluminum can collecting for money into something more serious. Maybe this could even become a full-time income.

Best of luck and collect well.

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What do Cash for Gold Stores Pay?

October 25, 2015 by  
Filed under New, Spotlight

What do Cash for Gold Stores Pay

One thing that comes up from time to time is gold jewelry.
And what do cash for gold stores pay for the pieces brought in.

If you’ve been reading along with some of my other articles you probably have some interest in treasure hunting . You may have come across a (valuable) piece of jewelry at a storage auction, estate sale or maybe while metal detecting. The day may subsequently come when you decide to sell your found treasure.

And when that time does come I always opt for the slow route which includes thorough research prior to listing it online. But for those in a hurry to sell, jewelry and gold jewelry in particular, you may be wondering just what do cash for gold stores pay.

“Let’s peel back the layers to explore the question what do cash for gold stores pay?”

Individual gold dealers pay out amounts based on different percentages but it’s still calculated on the original value or spot price – I’ll come back to gold spot price in just a minute.

Okay, you’ve found yourself a beautiful piece of gold jewelry. It’s time to learn a little about it before you go anywhere. First you need to look for the gold mark or stamp.

It’s a tiny impression or indent usually placed somewhere not easily noticed – inside the band for example. You’ll probably need a jeweler’s loupe for this or at least a magnifying glass.

For example, let’s say you have a ring and the stamp indicates it’s 14k. With a stone may require some guess work as to the weight, unless you don’t mind prying out the stone.

If you hope to sell this ring for its intrinsic value you want to keep it as pristine as possible.

This is important if the ring has any type of stone. The only way to know the true gold weight is to remove the stone.
If you have a digital scale you can weigh what you have.

This is a starting point but keep in mind your digital scale is probably set for 28 grams per ounce. The gold dealer’s scale is measuring in Troy ounces which are 31.1 grams per ounce. It may be worth picking up a small (Troy) digital scale on EBAY if you plan on doing this often.

To make things even more confusing the dealer may use the pennyweights system (DWT) A pennyweight is 1.555 grams. This is important to be aware of because it’s possible to have a less-than-honest dealer weigh your gold in pennyweights and pay you out by the gram. Which means less money for you.

So in straight talk, exactly what do cash for gold stores pay?

If you listen only to the hype you may be surprised.Remember we said your ring was 14k (14 karats). One karat equals one part : twenty four parts of pure gold. Or, ONE KARAT = 1/24 Pure Gold. Always keep in mind that 24k indicates pure gold. That number 14 indicates the purity ratio of your jewelry.

So 14k means it’s fourteen parts gold + ten parts added metals (for a total of twenty four parts). The reasons for the added metals are for color and durability. It’s important to note because it lessens the overall value.

Now we need the spot price of gold.
This is the price at any given moment in time for 24k. I use www.goldprice.org for this. This is a live price website.

I’ll also include the chart in this article. I’ll give you a quick formula as well – it’s handy to know.

Let’s assume a search for the current spot price comes back with $1000 per ounce. Your formula would look like this.. $1000 / 31.1 (ounce price divided by grams). This means your gram price is $32.15 for 24k pure gold. If your ring was 24k it would be easy to find the value. Just weigh the ring and multiply the gram weight by $32.15.

But your ring is 14k ring. So since 14k represents 58 % of 24k, you now multiply the 32.15 spot price times 58% to get the value of your 14k gram. Which is $18.65 per gram.

We’ve seen the signs and heard the ads shouting – cash for your old gold.
Seems every dealer wants your old gold. But what they don’t mention is that they pay only a fraction of it’s worth.

Let’s look at an example. The ring you weigh turns out to be ten grams. At $18.65 you have a gold value of $186.50.
But the dealer also needs to make a profit. They may pay out 60 per cent on that figure which is the melt price. So your $186.50 may only return $99.30. And they may pay even less. I’ve heard some pay out only 30 – 40 per cent of the spot price.

So what can you do?
The most obvious answer is to shop around. But also educate yourself as to what you have. Know the karat of each piece. If you can purchase a scale then do so.

If you are going to take several pieces in to be weighed make sure to separate the karat weights.

What do cash for gold stores pay might not even be a consideration if the piece of jewelry has intrinsic value. If it’s exceptional looking or a designer piece then maybe selling it yourself is the way to go.

Yes it will require research and yes it is slower but it’s also much more profitable. If you don’t think you’re up to it you might want to consider a consignment sale agreement through a trusted dealer of vintage or fine jewelry.

Best of luck and collect well.


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