What Will Happen to My Collection After I’m Gone?


John Kuvakas is a great friend of hobbyDB and a connoisseur of cars in 1:1 and smaller scales.  He started a YouTube channel to highlight old and new models and we just love it. Give them a watch here!

But he also had dealt with many Collections that needed a new home and shares his thoughts on the matter here.


 

The thought passes by us occasionally, doesn’t it? “What will happen to my collection when I’m gone?”

For some, it’s not an issue. We enjoy our collection; we enjoy the hobby and what happens afterward doesn’t really matter. For others, we’ve put a lot of effort into amassing this precious hoard of you-fill-in-the-blanks, it has real value and can be either a source of enjoyment or, at the least, a financial resource for those we leave behind. For even others of us, our passion has run its course and we’re ready to liquidate and move on to something else.

So, what do we do?

For several years I ran a program that was designed to help either collectors or their heirs sell off their collections. During that time, I saw all varieties of the scenarios mentioned above and a few others that may fall outside those parameters. In nearly every instance, there was a common thread. I’ll get to that in a bit.

Let me share an all-too-typical story. I was contacted by a woman whose husband had passed away. He left her a 1,000 piece plus collection of diecast models. She said, “Tom told me it would take care of me when he was gone. It’s worth a lot of money.” I asked but there was no inventory. All this poor woman knew was that it was “…all old cars in their boxes and in like-new condition.”

Wanting to help and taking a chance, I drove three hours to look at the collection. I hoped to put her in touch with a dealer who could make an offer. When I got there, the woman had a garage full of nearly new diecast models, all of which were purchased at a big box store, most of which were still available through various retailers and online. Compiling an inventory was beyond her. All she knew was that Tom had told her that these were going to be worth a ton of money as “collectibles like these can sell for hundreds of dollars apiece.” I couldn’t find a dealer interested in even making an offer. Finally, I put the dismayed woman in touch with an estate sale dealer that ultimately sold the entire collection for the pitiable sum of $500 less their 30 percent commission.

When the heir isn’t a collector

The saddest situations always involved a collection left to an heir who knew little about the hobby and had even less interest in keeping the precious jewels assembled by Dad, Mom, Uncle Bob, Grandpa, Auntie May, etc.. These collections frequently are thrown together in a few cardboard boxes and farmed out to the easiest avenue toward liquidation, usually an auction house where mere pennies on the dollar are netted…and those can be some of the better outcomes.

Dave called me asking about his best-friend’s collection. “He’s been collecting for years and asked me to take care of it for him.” Dave had a complete inventory. On paper, the collection looked magnificent, assembled by someone who knew the hobby intimately. There were accurate descriptions nearly all of which included the original boxes and documentation. My first estimate was somewhere north of $50,000.

I got to Dave’s house, and he took me out to his garage where there were several large moving crates. When I opened them, the boxes were stored in some of the crates and the models piled in several others, one on top the other. “I put them in there carefully.” Dave said proudly. It was a complete disaster. The entire collection was ruined. Dave explained, “I don’t know much about cars, and I couldn’t tell which model went in which box. I didn’t think a few scratches here and there would hurt much.”

Situations like these can be avoided with some relatively easy-to-implement planning and forethought.

Some steps that can help

A few steps taken before liquidation can make things easier for those who follow or even maximize the value of the collection in the present.

An accurate inventory is an absolute necessity. The inventory should include pertinent information on each item, color, condition, make, model, etc. There should also be a mention as to whether the original packaging is present, how much was paid and when the item was purchased. This sounds like a lot of work. But the effort will pay off in spades when the time comes to sell. Once the initial inventory is compiled, any items added to or removed from the collection become an easy matter of a few minutes making adjustments.

A short list of potential buyers is extremely helpful. This should include dealers or sellers that are familiar with the hobby, people who are close enough to be trusted. Those folks should be updated periodically regarding the inventory list.

A realistic value for the entire collection is another necessity. This is where things get sticky. A typical collection will be populated with a relatively few items that are of high value with much of the collection being comprised of standard issue items. A reputable dealer or seller will take this into account when making an offer on the entire collection.

He/she will keep in mind that significant profit will be made on those precious items while it may take months or even years to liquidate the rest of the collection. An astute potential buyer will divide the collection into three categories; those items that will sell immediately at a tidy profit, the ones that will take a little time to sell, and those that will take a long time, if ever, to sell. His proposal will be based on those categories.

This is a time-consuming process, and the buyer needs to know, up front, that there are realistic expectations of the seller. A realistic expectation for the entire collection should be somewhere between 20-30% of the original purchase price. This may seem harsh at first. But, unless you are collecting original Picasso’s, your collection is typical with some of it appreciating in value while most of it has little to no value to another collector.

The entire collection should be sold to one buyer. No matter how attractive it may seem, pricewise, cherry pickers should not be allowed to take the prime pieces leaving unsellable items behind.

Putting it all together

All the information mentioned above should be easy to access and in one place; a file folder, notebook, clearly labeled computer tile (preferably stored in the cloud)
A few hours of preparation now can avoid a lot of heartache in the future. No one knows your collection better than you. Just a little research and a little keypunching can be helpful to your heirs, Even more importantly, should you need to liquidate in an emergency or, heaven forbid, have an insurance claim, everything you need will be readily at hand.

Do it now. Don’t let all your passion and work go to waste!  I have started working on adding all of my models here on hobbyDB.

 

For more helpful hints and information, click here.

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Keesie25
Keesie25
3 months ago

Good article, a thing we all think about once in a while. For me, I do not have kids to leave it to. I mainly restore old Corgi (1956-1970) and I made an Excel list (also handy for insurrance) of what I have and what I sold. It is about equal!

Karl
Karl
3 months ago

Great summary, John! Everything you said is good advise for us collectors. For those who have 1000s of items, you could consider breaking them up into sub-collections, and then finding different dealers/auction houses for each one. As you age, at some point you might consider doing most of it yourself so as not to burden your heirs.

After reading this blog, I think I need to go back and update my dealer/auction house/collector-friends lists! It’s been years since I put it together. I keep my spreadsheets up-to-date so that’s not an issue. As I take photos, I have also been adding them to hobbyDB, another great resource to document your collections.

The Collector
The Collector
3 months ago

I’m lame. I update every time something comes in. I’ve already had the the discussion on who gets what and if they want to sell who they/what they should sell too. I also remind them I’m not going to care what they decide to do with it when I’m gone. Just don’t get taken advantage of. I gave them the login and password for the secondary. The main one has all the details mentioned above.

cdragz
cdragz
3 months ago

Good points, I have my collection on a spreadsheet, but do not include what each item is worth. Is here a data base out there where I can find the value of each Diecast car / brand?

Joschik
Admin
3 months ago
Reply to  cdragz

hobbyDB now has 215,000 model cars with maybe 50,000 having Estimated Values and adding dozens more every day. You could join us and make sure that the ones you have have Estimated Values (at least the high value ones). Just contact us!

Mclarenman50
Mclarenman50
3 months ago

Really appreciate this article John. I have focused mainly on 1/18 scale diecast/composite cars and motorcycles. I have software like a spread sheet that I’ve used for a couple of years now, and its very detailed where you can put lots of info in, including pictures. I can only value my hobby based on what values eBay sales that particular car for, and I know this is not the most accurate way of doing it, but its the closes I can get on getting an idea of what each car is worth. I update these values (whether higher or lower) about every 6 months because I have over 500 cars. My worries are that I do live alone, my kids(who are not interested in the collection) have all that info, but I would rather sell all of it before I pass. Your articles has helped me in that proscess. You have given me a varity of ways I may delve in when I chose to sell my collection, so Thanks!

Jim
Jim
2 months ago

I’m Soo confused about this article

Joschik
Admin
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim

H Jim, what about so that we can better explain this?

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