Were We Born to Collect?

This Marklin Germany Ho Gauge Electric Locomotive model sold for $390. The locomotive was part of a large train collection that went up for auction in December 2020.

Do you remember the Beanie Babies craze of the early ‘90s? How about Cabbage Patch Dolls in the ‘80s. It seems as though we’re hard wired to want to collect things. And the more difficult they are to find, the better.

Personally, I enjoy collecting rare, vintage sideshow banners and vintage amusement park rides. In fact, you’ll find most of my collection on display, if you visit EJs Auction.

There’s something about the thrill of the hunt and the exhilaration of finding something special that you were looking for.

Why do people collect things? There seem to be several main reasons we encounter.

For some people, collecting seems to be an escape from the worries of everyday life. Some enjoy the social interaction with other collectors or just enjoy having something interesting to talk about with other people. Some collectors do it as an investment.

And for many, collections seem be connected to sentimental reasons or because they enjoy the nostalgia of collecting items from their childhood. This seems to be the reason behind the most frequent type of collections we receive – which is antique or contemporary toys.

Toy trains, Star Wars, Transformers, Hot Wheels, He-Man and comic books are collections we see most often. There’s an ongoing demand for these items, so they tend to do well at auction.

One of the rarest, but still interesting and noteworthy, collections we ever auctioned was of antique tins.

Deciding when to sell off your collection can be difficult. How do you know it’s time to sell?

A recent toy train consignor said his collection of hundreds of trains became overwhelming. He had so many toy trains, he wasn’t able to fully appreciate the pieces he loved. Selling the majority of his collection gave him the ability to display and enjoy what was left.

Many consignors also decide it’s time to part with their collections after talking to their family members. Younger generations don’t always value the same things their parents and grandparents did.

While your family members may be interested in your Star Wars collection, they may be less likely to want to inherit silverplate or china sets. Have an open and honest conversation with your family members about what items they might be interested in and which no longer have value for them.

Finally, you may want to consider selling when you know the value for the items you own is high.

If you are collecting as an investment, you want to sell before demand and therefore prices begin to drop. Collectors of fad items like Hummel figurines, Pokémon cards, Precious Moments collectibles and Beanie Babies probably wish they would have sold their collections much sooner.

When you do decide it’s time to sell, be sure to do your research to determine the value of your items first. Take advantage of free appraisal fairs, and if you’re in doubt, consult with a certified appraiser.


Erik Hoyer owns EJ’s Auction & Appraisal in Glendale.

Contact him at erik@ejsauction.com, www.ejsauction.com or 623-878-2003.


The Sopranos Stern Pinball Machine SOLD $6,000

c.1987 Robinson Pro 14 Old School BMX Bicycle SOLD $1,700

Platinum, 1.5ct Brilliant Diamond Pendant Necklace SOLD $5,500

Salvador Dali Signed Limited Edition Lithograph SOLD $1,100

1971 GMC C1500 Pickup Truck SOLD $12,750


18K Gold Dee Morris Navajo Cuff Bracelet SOLD $5,000

Yamaha Disklavier Baby Grand Player Piano SOLD $5,500

C. 1927 Buddy L #208 Steel Passenger Bus Coach SOLD $3,750

Ardeshir Mohassess (1938-2008) Signed Illustration SOLD $1,300