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.


“Links in this post may be affiliate links. By clicking + purchasing I would receive a commission.”

Please follow and like us: