Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Where to Start? Collecting Historical Memorabilia

Collecting historical memorabilia is a fun pastime for many people. Unlike other hobbies, this one is one that can be very expensive, depending on the time period and items that interest you. Many people with collections of historical memorabilia decide to show off their collections by displaying them throughout their homes. These displays are a great way to share your hobby with others.

If you are new to historical collecting, then you will need to spend some time doing your research first. Your initial task will be to narrow down what you want to collect. Saying that you are interested in collecting historical items is far too broad. What do you want to collect? Many people collect campaign buttons from past presidential campaigns. Although these buttons are not as popular as they once were, they have been in the past the primary expenditure for campaign advertising.

Some people are interested in certain items. I know someone who collects kitchen appliances from the 1800s. He has egg beaters from every decade, for instance, so that you can watch the evolution into an electric mixer. You also may want to collect items related to women, the police, or nature. There are many different types of items you can collect. When you are at this stage, think about the amount of space you have for your collection. That same egg beater collector also buys farming equipment from the 1800s, but he has a huge yard in which to put it. You will need to be sure that you can display or house your collection.

Once you have an idea of what you want to gather, begin to think about the time period. That may be decided for you based on the item you want. For example, riverboat memorabilia will help to narrow down your timeframe. Still, you should be sure that you have an idea of the time period you want to capture. The antebellum time, the twenty or so years before the Civil War, is one of the most popular time periods used to define historical collections. The Revolutionary period and the World War II years also are common time periods for collecting.

Now that you know when and what your collection will be, it is time to get down to the mechanics of putting the collection together. First, you should know that the collecting of historical memorabilia is a lifelong hobby. It is not something that you will find anywhere at anytime. Instead it is something that will lead you to go to auctions, yard sales, and the Internet time and again until you find what you want. Be prepared to spend a good bit of time looking for items to begin your collection.

You should start by researching online to see what products may be out there. One of the easiest places to begin your search is eBay. You can search for the time period, the specific pieces, or other keywords to see if people are putting the items you want up for auction. If they are, you should spend some time studying the auctions to see the relative price of each item. Try to determine what makes some items sell for more and others for less. Also get an idea of how common items are so that you will know when you must jump on an opportunity and when you can let an item pass by because another one will come along.

After you have done some searching on websites and visited a few stores likely to sell the items you need, then you can begin to connect with other people who share your hobby. Begin by searching online for newsgroups, such as those on Yahoo, that will lead you to other people who share your passion. They can provide you with ideas, tips, and even leads, so you should find message boards and groups and start reading everything you can. You also should make it a point to read about the time period from which you are collecting. Get your hands on some good textbooks and start there. Then you can contact a local history professor who specializes in the time period and ask for references for other books. Keep going. You are just getting started.

By Julia Mercer

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