5 Steps To Build a Collection

Collections vary in substance and value, but there are general measures that are necessary to build any collection. Whether you are interested in acquiring art, historical objects, memorabilia, or any other items, these five steps will guide you through each stage of the process.


Step One: Curation

The term “curation” refers to the selection and care of particular items. As the first step toward collecting, it refers to determining what you intend to collect and planning your strategy. Whether you have already begun gathering collectibles or plan to start in the future, you should get a sense of which items are available that you aspire to own. Consider the size and the level of specialization of the collection you hope to amass and set initial parameters for your budget, time, and level of involvement as a collector.

This type of curatorial planning is a critical step toward gathering items of meaning and value. The price and value of collectibles is determined by the market of collectors, auction houses and dealers, and third-party experts. These items differ from most consumer objects by virtue of being among the few purchases that stand a chance of retaining or even increasing in value like investments.


Step Two: Information

Determining the price or value of items is only one part of the extensive learning process that goes with building a collection. To do so, you should refer to auction results, pricing guides, and sales history records. A number of factors such as condition or quality, provenance, and rarity also impact the cost and significance of collectibles. Increase your overall knowledge by forming a network. The more you learn about items you plan to purchase, the better you will become at identifying articles that meet your criteria. It may take more time to learn the ins and outs of some collectibles or memorabilia than others.

It is relatively easy to accumulate items with personal value that are of questionable authenticity, dubious provenance, or are in poor condition. This miscellany is unlikely to have a monetary value that compares to an orderly gathering of genuine items in mint or perfect to good condition. These concerns have led to the emergence of third-party agents that provide authentication and grading services and mediate between buyers and sellers to ensure that all are aware of the real status and value of collectibles.

Dealers can be useful for keeping an eye on the wider market once they know what you are looking for and have a sense of your budget. Third-parties should enter in when it comes to authentication. Rather than having sellers who are primarily interested in making a sale represent the authenticity, condition, and value of a collectible, these independent agents provide objective assessments that increase the general body of available knowledge and determine the expert consensus regarding the importance and value of items of interest.

Assessments of authenticity have a long history when it comes to art or antiquarian items. Verification and grading services have also emerged to regulate markets for popular collectibles such as trading cards and memorabilia. No matter what you plan to collect, you can probably find independent experts or services capable of providing evaluations. Make sure that any consultants you hire have credentials recognized in the field in which you are interested. The most trustworthy services will have been in business for a long time, certified many items, and maintain a sizeable following among individuals with enough experience and knowledge to confirm their assessments.


Step Three: Limitation

Some curation experts recommend picking a theme. Even if you focus on particular items, you may find that there are other materials such as authenticating documents or accessories that are part and parcel of a complete set. As you get a clearer sense of the details about whatever items you plan to collect, you can set reasonable limits for your collection.

Even if you have a lot of money to invest, it is important to remain focused on your primary objectives and rationale for collecting. This is the only way to have an archive that is complete, in any sense. You may be tempted to acquire items that go beyond this theme, but these items should be considered separately. You may, however, decide to broaden your collecting focus. This decision will call for more extensive curation and research.


Step Four: Preservation

It is a good idea to plan ahead when it comes to storage and display methods for collectibles and memorabilia. Physical items can degrade when kept in improper conditions. Determine the best location to keep or show your collectibles early on in the planning process.  Some high-value items call for off-site, high-security protection.

Whether you end up choosing a safety deposit box or another solution, you should ensure that costly or rare items do not sustain damage or run the risk of theft as you prepare the proper preservation or display solution. You may also want to investigate methods for insuring or protecting the value of a prized collection.


Step Five: Realization

As you build your archive, rely on dealers and assessors you trust and beware of bargains that seem too good to be true. You may not always be able to obtain items in mint or perfect condition, but you should always try to purchase the best quality you can afford. It is important to set a budget and allow for some flexibility, which may be the difference between taking advantage of a unique opportunity or passing it up. Remember that there is no guarantee that any item or memorabilia will retain value or become more valuable over time and try to remain realistic.

At the same time, it is also important to allow for the significance of sentimental value. If you truly desire an item, regardless of its cost or condition, and the desire goes beyond sheer impulse, seriously consider whether it is a worthwhile acquisition. The major factor to consider is whether an item is of high quality or possesses other types of value that justify making an addition to your growing collection.