5 tips for storing collectibles, antiques

Collecting Treasures: Following a few simple tips for storing collectibles can protect and retain their value.

storing collectiblesI often tell people there’s a market for everything. Believe it or not, people will pay a lot of money for old firecracker labels, unopened cereal boxes from the 1980s, old fountain pens, vintage comic books and many other collectibles. But they won’t open up their wallets if the firecracker labels are damaged, the cereal boxes are opened, the fountain pens don’t work and the spines of the comic books are tattered.

Unfortunately, in the busy world we live in, many people either don’t take the time to store their collectibles correctly or they don’t realize they’re doing damage by not storing them properly. Whether you have a large collection or you’re just trying to organize your valuables, keep these tips in mind:

  • Keep a detailed inventory. There are many inventory software programs out there, like Capture My Assets and Software 4 That, as well as apps for your phone likeKnow Your Stuff, that can assist you. But even if you keep a handwritten list, it will help you keep track of where your items are stored, especially if you have them packed in boxes and out of sight for long periods of time.
  • Control the climate. How many of you have boxes of items stored in your garage or attic? You could be exposing them to too much heat, bugs and other factors, like humidity. Some antiques also can be damaged if they are exposed to too much light.
  • Take care when cleaning. This one is tricky because some items are best left alone, while others can be cleaned, if very carefully. It’s best to ask an appraiser before cleaning an item so you don’t do any damage, like removing part of the patina on a piece of furniture. For some items, you can use soft bristle brushes, moisture-free compressed air, distilled water or isopropyl alcohol. Never use harsh chemicals. Again, check with an expert before cleaning a collectible.
  • Keep original boxes. Toys, jewelry, Hummels – really, any item that came in a box should stay in the box. If it was never opened, that’s even better! I’ve seen a vintage G.I. Joe figure sell for $150 because the box was included and was in good condition.
  • Keep original receipts and documents to prove provenance. This is often the deal-breaker. Either you can prove it’s authentic or there’s doubt. Keep receipts in the box with the items in question whenever possible so they don’t get misplaced. Don’t tape them to the item’s box because the adhesive tape could damage the box.

Remember: It’s always a good idea to let at least one other person know where they can find your detailed inventory. Hopefully, you’ll sell your collectibles on your own terms, but this way, in case of an emergency, your relatives or friends won’t be scrambling to figure out what you’ve been collecting and where the items are stored.

Erik Hoyer co-owns EJ’s Auction & Consignment in Glendale (www.ejsauction.com) and J. Levine Auction & Appraisal in Scottsdale. Reach him at erik@ejsauction.com or@EJs_Auction on Twitter.

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