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How to Spot Trends in a Special Field

March 07, 1985|RONALD L. SOBLE | Times Staff Writer

Question: If I want to get into a trendy area of the paper-collectible market, what would you recommend?--H.O.

Answer: "Trendy" takes in a broad area, as does the entire paper-collectible genre.

First of all, for purists, the paper-collectible category spans everything from books to posters. Advertising art, autographs, baseball cards, labels, maps, newspapers and song sheets are all legitimate paper-collectible categories.

Second, you have to keep up with the times to spot trends. This involves reading general newspapers and magazines to determine changes in public thinking and attitudes. You should also read specialized publications to track how potential and active collectors view your speciality.

A good case in point might be the nostalgia movement, which appeared to pick up significant momentum in the 1960s. Coca-Cola bottles and Coke-related items, for example, suddenly began to leap up the price ladder at flea markets and collector trading events. Those who got in on the ground floor were, of course, able to put together sizable collections that have appreciated over the years.

The same could be said of comic books. Attics that were stuffed with bundles of old comic books in the 1950s became veritable paper-collectible gold mines in the next two decades. Comic books that sold for a dime following World War II exploded in value with first editions changing hands for hundreds of dollars.

What else controls value? Scarcity can be a factor too. A rare presidential autograph or a book that had a limited publication run could produce a better return over the years than taking a flier on a speculative stock.

But sometimes you might be able to anticipate scarcity and potential value. A trendy advertising poster which, in future years, might give Americans an insight into a particular era could become a hot collectible before long.

In short, the collector who wants to spot trends has to stay in touch with the public by doing some homework in the form of general and specialized reading and tracking public tastes in such areas as film, sports and clothing. Staying in touch with other collectors, dealers and the auction market also helps.

As you can see, there's no absolute formula for success in the fickle collectibles market.

Q: If I think I have a collectible firearm, what would be the most available outlets if I wanted to put it on the market?--W.L.

A: There are a few options open to you. If you have the firearm appraised and determine that it is fairly valuable in terms of commanding a high price, you might want to consider going the auction route. This generally involves a commission for the auction house. On the other hand, the pace of an auction can sometimes return a higher price than if you sought a different market for it.

Then, you could try to market your firearm at a gun show. The advantage here is that you would meet people with similar interests, and even if they are not interested, they might be able to provide you with sales leads.

And you always have the opportunity to place your own ad in a newspaper or magazine. Depending on the value of the firearm, specialized publications might be the way to go because they usually reach readers with more intense interest in your collectible. A newspaper ad, however, will usually reach a wider audience at less per-reader cost.

If you try a gun store, you might make a sale, but you're undoubtedly aware that a gun dealer has to make a profit to stay in business and therefore won't give you "retail" value for the firearm. But if time is of the essence, that could be the way to go.

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