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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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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