Copyright 1990 by Harry L. Rinker
Every credit card collector enjoys sharing his collection with other collectors. I am no exception.
Inevitably, any visit includes a question that I wish would be left unasked: “What’s going to happen to all your stuff when you die?” No true collector or accumulator ever thinks of dying. It is something that happens to other people, not to them. Collecting goes on forever and so do they. The bumper sticker on my car reads “Born To Collect,” not “Dying To Sell.”
Why don’t credit card collectors sell their collections?
Most collectors fall in love with their collection. Their collection is an extension of their family. It assumes a personality. It is alive, it grows. Selling one’s collection is equivalent to selling one’s children (something I know to be socially unacceptable, but contemplated once or twice during the raising of mine). The end result is that most collectors do not sell their collections during their lifetime.
Collections tend to be assembled by an individual. They rarely are family affairs. Most partners and children who inherit collections couldn’t care less. Their interest in maintaining the collection is minimal or non-existent. In fact, the collection often represents the trips to Hawaii or the new car that the family did not buy because the collector could not pass up the opportunity to add the one piece he truly needed to make his collection truly great.
Unfortunately, this “one” piece has a bad habit of multiplying.
The credit card collecting bug
When I visit a fellow collector, I often see an object or two that I would like to add to my collection. I make it a firm practice to tell the collector that if he would ever wish to sell that object, I might be a willing buyer and would he please call me. If you do not ask, how will the collector know you have an interest?
I also make it a practice to make my remarks within hearing of the spouse. It may seem blood-thirsty. But, when that collector dies, I want his spouse to remember that nice man that offered to buy some or all of the collection.
Individuals who inherit collections usually face two problems:
- They are overwhelmed by the collection
- They want to sell it as quickly as possible
But haste makes waste. Collectibles are not liquid. In order to achieve a maximum return on investment, a firm selling plan needs to be developed.
Selling a collection of credit cards you’ve inherited
If the person inheriting the collection does not have the expertise to evaluate and sell the collection properly, he should seek outside help. First, obtain an appraisal of the collection. A good appraiser not only provides value, but also can develop a sales plan indicating where to obtain the values that he has assigned. Make certain that the appraiser has high ethical standards.
When you pay a professional for an appraisal, ethics dictate that the appraiser be prohibited from buying any object that he has appraised or directing the sale of the appraised objects to his place of business. Since there are no licensing standards for appraisers, many do not practice these strict ethical considerations. You are well advised to find someone who does.
Second, move slowly. You do not have to take the first course of action that presents itself. There are many options, including auction, consignment, private sale or donation. It is your choice. Take time to make a wise one and one that fits your needs.
Why don’t most collectors dispose of their collections during their lifetime or leave behind adequate records and a sales plan for the person inheriting the collection? The answer rests in how many collectors view their collections. Rarely do they see the collection as an investment.
The value of the collection is measured by the joy involved in the collecting and not in potential for financial gain. They never intend to recover the money they have invested. It is an alien concept to the true collector.
What I’ll do with my credit cards when I die
Personally, I plan to amend the adage of “live long enough to be a problem to your children” to “live long enough to leave a big problem for your children.” If all goes well this is what I will do. My collection is growing at such an alarming rate that I simply do not have the time to adequately catalog it. I hope to do it someday, but…
My collection is my children’s legacy. But, if they are going to get rich from it, they are going to have to work for their money. Unless they research the objects and their values plus develop a multiplicity of sale approaches, they will never receive the best value possible. I want them to gain their inheritance the old fashion way, “earn it.”
Most collectors have a sadistic streak in them somewhere; I am no exception. Sometimes I am not certain that I want another collector to own my things. They are mine and ought to remain mine. King Tut showed one solution to the problem. He was buried with his collection. What a way to go! I thought about this, but I simply do not have the money to build a pyramid.
Well…it is time to give my answer to the question I posed earlier: “What’s going to happen to your stuff when you die?” I thought and thought. Then I realized how simple the answer really is. After I die, it is not going to be my problem. Who cares? I am just going to keep on collecting.
Harry is a nationally recognized antiques and collectibles writer, teacher, and collector. He’s consulting editor for Wallace-Homestead Book Company; editor of Warman’s Antiques and Their Prices and Warman’s Americana & Collectibles; author of Rinker on Collectibles and How to Make the Most of Your Investments in Antiques and Collectibles; coauthor with Frank Hill of The Joy of Collecting with Craven Moore; and syndicated columnist of Rinker on Collectibles.