NOW THAT YOU HAVE TIME, HERE ARE 5 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR COLLECTION
By Pamela Wiggins Siegel
With collectors spending so much time at home these days, there has never been a better time to examine collections closely. We talked with a number of experienced collectors about some of their strategies to tackle organizing tasks. Here are five ideas for your to-do list as you wait for things to get back to normal.
1. The Inventory
If you haven’t done this recently, take an inventory of the items in your collection. As you go along, evaluate each item and ask a few questions:
- Does the object need to be cleaned?
- Is it being stored properly with conservation in mind?
- What is the current value, and does it need to be insured?
- Do you still love it?
Sort your collectibles as you evaluate. Group items that need to be cleaned, re-sleeved, sold, etc. so you can keep moving forward with those tasks.
2. Organize, Evaluate Storage Methods
Organization can be as simple as sorting and categorizing. How you accomplish the task largely depends on what you collect. Some research will likely be required to find the best supplies available to protect and store your treasures if you’re working outside your usual comfort zone.
For things like comic books and sports cards, as examples, procuring needed archival materials and albums can be a great point of departure. Kathleen Decker of Florida, an avid collector of vintage postcards shares, “I keep them in albums according to subject matter. Top loaders are good for very special cards. I recently purchased six huge albums of postcards in an online auction. [It’s] keeping me busy sorting during sheltering-in-place time!”
If your collection is already sorted out, make sure the materials you are using are still in good shape. Replace any protective items like sleeves, archival papers, padding and packing materials that have deteriorated or are excessively worn to make sure they continue protecting your collectibles as time passes.
3. Clean the Right Way
Before you start a cleaning project for any of your collectibles, be sure to research the best way to go about the task. In some cases – take coins, other metal objects, and antique furniture as examples – doing any type of cleaning without guidance from a professional can be a big mistake. The patina that forms on these objects as they age can add tremendous value, so naïvely cleaning it away can end up being quite costly.
Fine art and decorative objects are also tricky because they can be quite delicate. When in question, do some research before attempting anything more than light dusting. Consult a conservation professional if you’re not comfortable cleaning those items on your own.
Maureen McCullough of North Carolina, who collects vintage clothing, suggests dry cleaning most vintage items made of wool, cashmere and silk. “Most other fabrics can be hand washed,” she says. “Linen and cotton, if stained, can be soaked” in a mild cleaner. Other experienced collectors familiar with textiles, including Kathy Gettel of Maryland, caution that vintage fabrics like silks can be quite fragile, so inspecting them for signs of weakness in the fibers is important before cleaning. She also suggests, “Test in a seam to make sure the item is colorfast.”
Other things like jewelry, glassware and certain ceramics can be less risky, but again, seek out pro tips for each type of item you’re dealing with if you’re not already well-versed in that collecting genre.
4. Consider Other Ways to Protect Your Items
As an extension of protecting precious collectibles, insuring valuable items is one of those things people tend to put off. Whether it means adding a rider to a homeowner’s policy to cover fine art or luxury items, or scoping out insurance that specifically covers high-dollar collectibles, this is a great time to explore those options and take action.
Buying a safe for your home can be a viable route to protect not only against theft but fire as well. Look for safes with fire ratings of at least 90 minutes and models that would take even an experienced safecracker a considerable amount of time to open. Freestanding safes should also have the option of being bolted to the floor. Some safe options will likely set you back at least a few thousand dollars, but there’s a good chance what you’ll be protecting is worth a whole lot more.
5. Thin Out and Monetize
For most every collector, the time comes to just let go. Why not make that move now? In fact, you might find as you’re organizing your collection that it’s quite easy to set aside items you can now live without. This can happen when you’ve upgraded or acquired duplicates, or when your collecting interests change over time.
Some collectors, like Matt Burkholz of California, author of The Bakelite Collection (Schiffer Publishing), use the one-in-one-out method. “I collect decorative Bakelite objects and have a very large collection of them. When I buy something new, I take something out of the collection and sell it. My home is full of vintage everything and does not look cluttered or hoarded.”
When you’re contemplating an auction or selling outright, the first thing to do is obtain the current value of the object so you’ll have an idea if the timing is right. This may mean contacting an expert at Heritage Auctions for a consultation or doing further research on your own regarding values before you reach out to a professional for help.
Now that you have some ideas to explore, set a goal and accomplish that collecting challenge you’ve been putting off. There truly is no time like the present.
PAMELA WIGGINS SIEGEL has been educating collectors on buying, selling and caring for antiques and vintage collectibles for more than 20 years. She is the author of Collecting with Kids: How to Inspire, Intrigue and Guide the Young Collector, a book based on her columns in The Intelligent Collector.