A scenario I will describe below no longer surprises me when it happens, and yet what does make me wonder a bit is how our hobby hasn’t taken more advantage of such situations. Let me explain.
I received a call from a lady in Iowa whose father, in his mid-70s, had to go into a nursing home. He was a big sports fan and collected many different things related to his favorite teams, including the University of Iowa Hawkeyes.
Now the family has “a ton” of stuff and has no idea what to do with them or what’s even in the inventory. They know something must be of value to somebody because of the age of some of the items, but they aren’t sure what is more coveted than others.
Here is the first thing that surprises me a bit. In this day and age when it’s really much more difficult to find valuable pieces in garage sales, antiques shops and flea markets because people are realizing they can sell on their own and/or know to at least keep pieces in the hopes of some monetary value, these folks just waved a white flag. I shouldn’t say that, because if that was the case, they would have simply filled a dumpster or placed on the curb with the words “free.” And at least they contacted someone with possible information to help them.
However, I would think you would have some thoughts on where to look for assistance. With a big collector in the family, he must have some friends with similar interests, or there were some shops he visited to acquire some of the items. Perhaps a little communication with Dad would go a long way in finding some solutions.
If these items were valuable, even just intrinsic value, some plans should have been made as to their succession if something happens. Like family heirlooms, sports collectibles need a plan when the original owners can no longer care for them. When my dad recently passed away, he had a lot of automobile-related collectibles, publications and the like. I had zero interest in them, but I knew they had some value and I knew where to go with them. Most went to like-minded collectors for free, because I knew they would enjoy and take care of them. I had a ballpark idea of what was in the house and made a plan long before the day arrived when I had to make a choice.
That would be my suggestion to those in a similar situation with an aging collector who has a lot of stuff. Make a plan, talk to the person involved and come up with a plan. With older collectibles, there is only so much left and it’s a shame for it to be lost because a plan wasn’t in place.
My second suggestion is for dealers. If I owned a shop, I would run an ad in every Sunday paper stating if you have sports collectibles and don’t know where to turn, I can help. Need advice, someone to go through the stuff and possibly even buy? I’m your man. Many folks don’t want to take the time to go through things, and having someone offer to do that for them is usually welcomed.
If you do a good job of that, offer fair prices when those decisions arise – word of mouth will lead to similar opportunities down the road.
While it surprises me in this information age that many don’t know where to turn or fail to plan, it also surprises me more folks don’t offer their services to help. I’m not talking about being a scavenger and taking advantage of people, but honest answers and assistance would go a long way for both sides.