Collecting Posts

How to Best Sell a Collection

Young Christian Braun

Musings By Joschik

Christian is one of the founders of the hobbyDB project and his musings share some of his collecting experience. Over the last 30 years, he has bought and sold more than 50 collections, owned a physical auction house and operated Europe’s largest eBay store. As part of his work with the hobbyDB Advisory Board Christian has also seen many of the largest collections of the world.

What does Collecting have in common with getting married?

Most collectors collect for collecting’s sake and this will only make sense to a collector. For me, preserving history and relaxation are part and parcel of this same collecting rationale. Collectors rarely (if ever) think about what happens when the love cools and how they will then have to sell everything.

Motormax Ford Mustang Newly-Weds

Consider that your collection might not be with you forever


While there are ways to make this sell-off significantly easier, it is like prenuptial agreements – something most don’t want to touch. This blog post tackles why collectors sell, how to go about it and how to best prepare for an eventual sale.

Like the 40-50% of spouses who eventually head for the divorce court, the vast majority of collectors eventually fall out of love with their collections. How long it takes that to happen depends on the type of collectible. For example, pocket watch collectors keep collecting longer than collectors of newer things like Funko Pop Vinyls. On average, the latter will collect for around four years, while collectors of more vintage subjects like Decoys collect for 18 years.

Funko and Vintage Decoy Owls

Until becoming a vintage item himself, Bubo will live in five times as many households as his unhappy neighbor!


Why do collectors stop collecting?

There are five main reasons why folks stop collecting and then want to liquidate and recoup the value of their collection:

  1. Lose interest in the subject (this is often followed by a segue into collecting something else)
  2. Need money (and if so, they usually need it fast – which makes being prepared to sell even more important)
  3. Down-sizing
  4. Other-half is strongly opposed to collecting and wins the battle
  5. The ultimate show-stopper – death

Realizing full value for a collection requires both expertise, motivation and time. The reason for selling can have a major influence on how a collection can be sold. For example death often takes the necessary expertise with it.

How to know the value of a collection?

Collectors of vintage items will know a lot about the value of their individual items as they can only buy them in the secondary market (no retailers stock vintage uniform patches ;-). That said, a vast majority of these collectors have no clue how many items are in their collection and significantly underestimate the quantity of item they have bought over time. Often, they need to do an inventory or at least take a count or make an estimate of the number of items they own.

Collectors of more modern type of collectibles such as NASCAR racing cars often over-estimate the value of their collections as they bought at retail and modern collectibles (say everything sold in retail post 1990) generally loses 50% or more of its value as soon as you buy it.

Bandai Tinplate versus Jeff Gordon NASCAR model

A Bandai Tinplate car will beat a NASCAR model in value appreciation every time!


A lot of these collectors get a rude awakening when it comes to selling, as they relied on labels such as Limited Edition or Special Collector Edition, erroneously thinking that these automatically ensure the items retain value. While there might be only 500 models of a particular Jeff Gordon model there are hundreds of other Jeff Gordon models and as long as they continue to sell, more will be produced, making it very hard for any of them to ever appreciate in value. Also, as these items were produced for the collector market, most will be carefully stored in glass cabinets so there is very little rate of attrition.

When assessing a collection, there are five different types of value:

  1. Catalog Value. Where price guides exist, you can add the value of each item and come up with an aggregate value. The accuracy of that value depends on how the catalog authors calculated the values it gives and how long ago it was compiled. Catalog Value also do not take into account costs of selling (market place fees, fees for a stand at a fair, time, fuel etc). It is not unusual for collectors to use a catalog value, adding or subtracting a percentage to compensate for these factors.
    Stanley Gibbons Price Guide

    It is not unusual to value stamps by using a catalog price and then apply a discount such as “Stanley Gibbons minus 30%”


  2. Insurance Value. This is the replacement value and varies between the Catalog Value and the Wholesale Value, in particular if a whole collection has been lost, for example through fire.
    Broken Doll

    Insurance value should cover replacement costs or, if that is not possible, repair plus the value loss that results from being repaired


  3. Wholesale Value. This is the value of a collection if sold to a dealer for resale. The dealer needs to make a profit, so will obviously pay less than retail value. Wholesale value value is often quite close to having the collection sold through an auction house as the net proceeds of an auction sale exclude Sellers Fees, Insurance Premium, Picture Fees, Buyer’s Premiums etc.
    Auction Houses often have to sell large parts of collections as lots, here Star Wars toys.

    Auction Houses often have to sell large parts of collections as lots, here Star Wars toys.


  4. Retail value – this is the value of each item sold individually and at the prevailing market value (for example at a physical location like a collector fair or on a website where collectors of this type of collectible transact.)
    Selling on trade fairs gives you the best value but will take a very long time

    Selling at trade fairs gives you the best value, but will take a very long time


  5. Realized Value – this is what you actually have left over after all is sold and all costs are factored in.

For me the only value of interest is the Realized Value (unless you currently have an insurance claim) as its the only meaningful measure. Realized Value is either the Wholesale Value or the Retail Value after deducting all direct and indirect costs. Your calculation should also include a value for your time spent on selling the collection, for example at an estimated time-taken-per-item when you sell items online.

The various routes to Monetization

There are many different ways to sell, but they all fall into this five groups:

  1. Selling the collection in one transaction. This is the easiest way to sell a collection but also the one that gives the lowest Realized Value overall. If you have more than 500 items in your collection you can expect to realize less than 15% of the collection’s Retail Value.
    Selling everything is sometimes the only option, but it is always very painful!

    That’s how much you can lose. Selling everything is sometimes the only option, but it is always very painful!


  2. Contracting a 3rd party to sell the collection for you. This could either be done via (a) an auction house or (b) as consignment sales with a specialist dealer. Auction Houses are great if you have lots of high value items that are difficult to handle and have a world-wide market. Consignment Selling is the best compromise if you want to receive more of the actual value of your collection but are not willing to do the work required. It does, however, require you to be able to wait for your money and trust whoever you give your collection to, as it is almost impossible to draw up contracts that protect the vendor sufficiently.
    Barrett-Jackson is one of th best places to sell a 2006 Ford GT

    Barrett-Jackson is one of the best places to sell a 2006 Ford GT


  3. Selling at Events. The right event provides great returns for items sold and the fees are fixed. That being said, you will only sell a fraction of your collection at your first event and then less and less at later events (unless you are willing to significantly discount). Please also take into account costs such as fuel and your time!
    You might want to count food, hotel, fuel etc - or you might say I enjoy the show and would have come anyway!

    You might want to count food, hotel, fuel etc – or you might take the view that you enjoy attending the show and would have come anyway!


  4. Selling online. This can be done anytime and you can do it from home! You can sell either via Auction (faster, but potentially risky in terms of how much you receive) or through a fixed price sale (no surprises but it can take a long time to sell your items). If you have the time, the willingness to photograph, write a good description, pack, ship and deal with customer service issues, this is the way to go!
    Sometimes you find a specialist site that is just perfect for what you want to sell

    Sometimes you find a specialist site that is just perfect for what you want to sell


  5. Giving it to a museum – this is not only a nice way to give and have the ability to continue enjoying your collection but can also make financial sense as, subject to your tax jurisdiction, this could result in a substantial tax deduction or credit!
    Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 16.45.45


Incorporating an eventual selling plan into how you collect

Even if you are not considering selling your collection now, it’s always wise to plan what you can do now and over the coming years to make it easier for either you or your loved ones to eventually realize the value of your collection when it does come time to liquidate. If you are male (and 90% of collectors are), and in a traditional marriage, you might want to consider that your wife will be an average of 3 years younger than you and will live an average 5 years longer than you. As such, it’s an excellent idea to document your collection by making an inventory in Excel, via a video or, of course, here on hobbyDB.

More Information

It is my plan to improve this article over time. That said, here are some articles that cover specific aspects of selling a particular type of collectible:

  1. Books
  2. Classic Cars (opens as a PDF)
  3. Coins
  4. Comics
  5. Lego
  6. Stamps IStamps II


Please leave a comment!

If you:-

  • have queries about selling your collection, including questions on good consignment sellers,
  • want to discuss any aspect of selling a collection,
  • have tips to share, or
  • know of other good resources that I should link to

Please leave a comment below. If your question is about your own collection, please include a quick description of what you collect, approximately how many objects there are in your collection, roughly where the collection is located and how much time and expertise you have. This would allow me to give you more specific answers.

What’s That Toy Worth? Depends Why You’re Asking

by Ron Ruelle

by Ron Ruelle

” What’s That Toy Worth? ” Ahhh, it’s the eternal question among us collectors. And usually the answer we seek is “what’s the fair price to buy or sell that thing?” Of course, what’s fair depends on which side of that equation you fall on. But I’ve been thinking about the question a different way lately.

hot wheels 1967 redline rally case

I have an original 1967 Hot Wheels Rally Case in my office. I know it’s original because a) the copyright date is molded into the case and b) I’ve had it since I was a kid. And inside, it’s full of original Hot Wheels, mostly early Redlines, and a few from the mid-to-late 1970s. And yes, I know they’re original too, because I’ve had these since I was a kid as well.

A dozen original Hot Wheels in an original case. Without seeing it, what would you think it’s worth?

Okay, now take a peek inside.

hot wheels 1967 redline rally case

To describe most of these cars as “played with condition” is generous. They’re all scratched, their axles are warped in most cases, and some of them have clearly been stepped on. A few of them still have sand in their crevices from being buried in the backyard. One or two have the remnants of someone (okay, me) attempting to redecorate them with Liquid Paper and markers.

hot wheels redline custom amx heavy chevy cockney cab

So how much is all this worth? If you saw this pile of cars in a yard sale, you would be reluctant to pay more than a dollar for some of them. The Beach Bomb is pretty nice (not original surfboards, though), so you might be willing to shell out $30 or so for that. There’s a Custom Corvette that isn’t too bad either, which you might be willing to pay about the same for. That Mercedes might tempt you for $20. The T-Totaller is in good condition, but it’s a newer model, and not particularly rare… maybe $5-10 for that?

hot wheels redline beach bomb mercedes 280 sl custom corvette t totaller

matchbox redline poison pinto packin pacer mighty maverick deora

You’d maybe offer the seller $75. They would insist these are obviously worth more because they read that on the internet, and demand $500. Somewhere in between is a fair price, but it’s possible you part ways without a deal.

To me, on the other hand, this particular collection is priceless. If you offered me $1,000 for the whole set, I would think about it for about two seconds before I said no. And I’m not that interested in acquiring better copies of most these cars. There are far too many memories attached to these things that make them more valuable to me.

By the way, did you notice the interloper in my collection?

matchbox gruesome twosome

That gold car with the two engines and the magenta canopy is a Matchbox Gruesome Twosome, my favorite toy car of that era. Considering the amount of time it spent in my pocket traveling with me everywhere, and scooting around on every conceivable surface, it’s in amazingly good condition complete with both engines. Heck, it’s a miracle I didn’t lose it somewhere along the line. This is one car where I decided to pony up and buy a copy of it in very nice condition for about $15 a few years ago. But if I had to flee my house and grab only one of them, I would probably take the one with the memories in the trunk.

Fiddlers Furlets – Last Hello from a Firm that Improved Britains Animals

Young Christian Braun

Musings By Joschik

Christian is one of the founders of the hobbyDB project and his musings share some of his collecting experience.

Around 5 years ago I met a gentleman on a car boot sale in Buckinghamshire that had what appeared to be three trade boxes of Britains farm animals and one of Crescent Swoppets – so potentially exciting! When I opened the boxes all of them had animals in them – which while nice were not one of my areas of interests.‚   But then when I looked closer they all had some kind of fur applied!



So I asked the owner what happened to these?‚ He explained that he had been to an auction where they sold the assets of a defunct company and that they had machinery to flock objects and then these boxes that demonstrated finished products.‚ He knew nothing more besides that the company was based in the New Forest and was called Fiddlers Furlets. I had discovered perhaps the only remaining box of Fiddlers Furlets in the world!




My interest was piqued but not really satisfied. A search on the web found no information whatsoever.  Does anybody know more about Fiddlers Furlets?  Have they ever sold anything or do I have all the stock ever made?






The fur on some of these are (still) great and quite realistic!‚ By the way the three Britains boxes are for Donkeys (two boxes) and for the feeding calf. In a later conversation with a Britains collector Barney Brown we found that there were animals by Britains, Crescent, Herald, Timpo Toys and at least one other brand (the big bambi) in the lot. He also told me that he heard that some ‘flocked’ zoo models by Timpo and Charbens were sold in zoo gift shops during the 1950s.

Expert Only versus Crowd-Sourcing, a Personal Perspective on how to build Collectible Databases

Rob with just a small portion of his collection.

Rob Graves is a Hot Wheels collector and was the creator of the South Texas Diecast database.  He is now the Head of Data for the hobbyDB project.

For years, my site, South Texas Diecast, was one of the leading sources for Hot Wheels information on the internet. It catalogued thousands of Hot Wheels variations dating back 40 years – and I did all the cataloguing myself. It was a labor of love and I enjoyed every minute – but it was also exhausting and I started to wonder what would happen to the site in the future.

Like thousands of other collectors who build catalogs of their favorite collectibles online, I’d spent 16 years on STDC and because it was all me, I dreaded the thought that in the future it might become a similar “ghost site”, falling into neglect before ultimately disappearing when the hosting ran out.

Far too many good websites are not with us anymore

Far too many good websites such as AlleyGuide or Diecast Illustrated are not with us anymore


That was when hobbyDB stepped in and introduced me to the concept of crowd-sourced data. Of course, I was familiar with Wikipedia (who isn’t?) and its community-created information repository. But I hadn’t previously considered using the same model for STDC – which is just what hobbyDB was proposing.

The much wider mandate, documenting every collectible ever made excited me as I also collect records, my wife is a collector of Supernatural Collectibles and I have many more interests besides Hot Wheels. Wikipedia has nine pages on Hot Wheels, hobbyDB already has more than 31,500 pages on Hot Wheels related collectibles! I was also attracted by the fact that like Wikipedia hobbyDB has vowed in its Manifesto to be free forever.

Naturally, I had some questions and skepticism at first. After all, if STDC was a Wiki-type site, wouldn’t it be open to vandalism and manipulation? And even if incorrect data wasn’t maliciously-intended, how would we make sure that all the data entered by users was to my exacting standards?

Of course, these are all the same questions leveled at Wikipedia when it began. And as I researched, I realized that all of them had been answered. In 2005, a blind study was completed by the journal Nature that compared 42 science subjects and biographies between Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica (here’s a write up about that study on the BBC site and here much more background on that subject). They concluded that “Wikipedia comes close to Britannica in terms of the accuracy of its science entries.” And by that time Wikipedia was only four years old!  From everything I could find, Wikipedia not only got better over time but also more and more trusted.

Wikipedia is constantly gaining quality and trust, even compared to some of the most established expert only data sources in existence

Wikipedia is constantly gaining quality and trust, even compared to some of the most established expert only data sources in existence


A combination of a passionate userbase and the right amount of oversight ensures that data is exactly what it needs to be. Of course, that doesn’t happen overnight, as contributors need to find the project (whether that’s through their own efforts or marketing outreach), become familiar with the site, and learn to work together. Given that hobbyDB is not a pure wiki either, time and effort has to be expended on developing proper tools too. hobbyDB is only 18 months old, so we still have a long way to go!

Just as Wikipedia introduced its famous “Talk” pages, at hobbyDB we take care of all of this in a similar way with a team forum. There, Curators (all our official data gatherers/editors get this title), Champions (Curators with enhanced on-site features and powers), the hobbyDB Advisory Board members and Admins can converge to discuss cataloging conventions, site improvements that would help their job, and which bad data to weed out.

Many hands make light work, the saying goes, and that’s certainly proving to be true here. We’re far from being the only entertainment/research site in this space to follow the model either. IMdB and Bricklink are just two of the diverse examples of sites which have made this model work in spectacular ways.

Moving STDC to hobbyDB and starting to work in this way has certainly taken the pressure off of me and ensured the longevity of the data I spent so long putting together. I have seen others making the same move with the same feelings – worried before the transfer, relieved afterwards.

How hobbyDB decided on the best Setup for Data-Seeking Collectors

Here at hobbyDB, we’re all collectors. And when we started work on the site, one of the main things we knew we wanted was to make it a great place for collectors to research their interests. So we knew better than almost anyone how much time collectors like to spend reading about whatever it is that’s their own particular passion – something our research bore out when we talked to the 10,000 collectors we interviewed before starting the site to see what they wanted.


Eric Marcoullier, a poster collector and great supporter – we talked to 10,000 collectors just like him…

Those interviews also resulted in some fascinating conclusions about collectors. Whatever their subject area of interest, from chairs to teddy bears to corkscrews to vintage shoes, they all approached research in exactly the same way – and for exactly the same reasons. Newbie collectors read to learn about their area of interest to find things to collect. Veteran collectors read over copious amounts of information they likely already knew to try and find more things to collect; stuff they’d overlooked or perhaps just never heard of.

All collectors thirst for more stuff! We wanted to make sure that hobbyDB would slake that thirst like nothing ever before!

We had wondered whether it made sense for hobbyDB to be one platform for ALL kinds of collectibles. But then we realized that not only would a site that covered everything provide a far more robust platform to preserve information about collectibles than the homespun sites that already existed, it would be a huge boon to all those collectors searching for the things they’d missed.

That’s why we made the site a full-on inter-relational database in the mold of sites like IMdB.

Consider, if you will, the plight of the PEZ collector. He needs an encyclopedic resource of all the PEZ dispensers ever made. hobbyDB can easily give him that on it’s PEZ subject page (or through a simple search). But there are dozens of other PEZ items that’ll interest him too. Items that he might never know exist because they’re a different type of thing; for example, a model delivery truck with the PEZ logo on the side. Or a PEZ tie-in Beanie Baby. A PEZ pin. Or a PEZ promotional pen.

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 3.16.26 PM

1940 Ford Pezmobile. A must-have for the PEZ completist.

On hobbyDB, he doesn’t have to rely on running a search for “PEZ” and seeing what shows up to find those things. He could do that on eBay, but there, he’s limited to seeing what’s on sale, or the limited view of what’s already sold. On hobbyDB, he can see everything that’s ever existed, regardless of whether it’s for sale or been sold recently or not.

And if you’re a collector who collects by theme to start with – for example, one who collects Simpsons-related items, there’ll be an even wider spread of item types that’ll include things you need to own. And they’ll all be there right on one page for you to view, whether they’re a doll, an action figure, a diecast car, a slot car or anything else.


Hot Wheels’ Homer Simpson’s Nuclear Waste Van; of interest to collectors of Simpsons-alia, Hot Wheels, van models and Nuclear-themed-items…

So not only can hobbyDB flex to accommodate ANY type of collectible by all its most important data points, it can also flex to accommodate any type of collector and give them exactly what they want to see! And as many users have told us – once you start going on hobbyDB, you can just click on and on forever!