Some say that the best things to collect are memories. But ask any serious collector, and you’ll hear something else entirely. Unless, of course, they happen to collect photographs.
From hardcore philatelists to vinyl lovers to comic book superfans, every collector community is an arcane universe peopled by individuals obsessed with whatever it is they are pursuing. Take stamps, for example. For us mortals, they are small, sticky labels that other people licked, but for stamp collectors, they are little pieces of art, a window to the world, and the hottest commodity.
All around the world, collectors are hunting for rare and beautiful items that belong to whatever genre they are passionate about. Here we look at some of the most popular collectibles of all time, so whether you have a passion for collecting or just want to start up a new hobby that you will enjoy, read on to learn about the 30+ hottest collectible items and memorabilia that are worth investing in.
Displates are a neat alternative to standard paper prints. They’re high-quality metal posters with select designs printed on them that can be easily attached to the wall with a magnet — no nails or screws involved. If you are looking for cool collectible items, check out Displate’s limited editions and licensed designs from Star Wars, Marvel, DC, The Witcher, D&D, and more. Some of these fetch hefty amounts on the second-hand market!
If you think stamps are untrendy or otherwise unchic in our instant-message, Snapchat age, think again. With approximately 60 million philatelists worldwide, stamp collecting is still considered one of the most popular pastimes throughout the world. Whether postmarked or in mint condition, these little paper squares are sought after by many within the philatelic world. The most valuable stamp in the world? The British Guiana One-Cent Magenta, which went for over 8 million dollars in 2021!
Collecting coins is like owning little pieces of history, each telling its own unique story. Numismatists around the world track down rare specimens or special edition releases, some of which can carry an exorbitant price tag. While some super rare coins are worth thousands of dollars, the most valuable coin in the world, the 1794/5 Flowing Hair Silver/Copper Dollar, was sold for a whopping 10 million dollars in 2013, setting a new world record for the most expensive single coin sale ever.
Few things fuel a greater sense of nostalgia than going through an old box of baseball cards. These small pieces of cardboard remind us of childhood memories, like the taste of the pink chewing gum they were packed with, or the first baseball game we attended with our dad. It’s no surprise then that many adults collect them as a way to rekindle a childhood passion. Interestingly, the onetime children’s hobby has recently turned into a high-stakes investment game with the rarest cards worth millions of dollars.
It’s no secret that vinyls have been making a comeback. Millennials love collecting old records from the 1960s and 1970s, and they could fetch a pretty penny in the years to come with first pressings by The Beatles or Bob Dylan already worth a small fortune. You can find vinyl records at flea markets, yard sales, second-hand stores, thrift shops, and even old-school music stores.
As geek culture became increasingly mainstream in the last decade, so did the popularity of comic books among the general public, a phenomenon bolstered by the blockbuster superhero franchises from Marvel and DC. The most valuable comics date back to the Golden Age of American Comic Books and are worth much more than their original sticker price. For instance, the 1938 issue of Action Comics that first introduced Superman to the world sold on eBay for 3.2 million dollars, making it the most valuable comic book of all time.
Vintage Movie Posters
Vintage movie posters are collectible items escalating both in price and demand (particularly those for films released before the 1940s). What makes them so valuable? Unlike comic books or coins, movie posters were never sold to the public. Instead, theater owners rented them for a limited time, displayed them, and then sent them along to the next theater. As a result, very few of these early posters survived, and those that did are now sought after by film fans and movie lovers all over the world.
Madame Alexander dolls, Kewpies, Raggedy Anns, Barbies, Blythe dolls… the list goes on. Many different dolls have become highly collectible over the years, and many people own large collections of dolls of all shapes and sizes sitting in display cases in their homes. As any serious toy collector can tell you, dolls aren’t just child’s play, with retro and rare dolls fetching thousands of dollars or more in auctions.
Toy collections often start with a real passion for a particular toy or brand, like Star Wars. And since we are always children at heart, they are some of the coolest things to collect, as they can grow with us as we mature. Collecting smaller-sized toys is relatively easy, but if you want to collect a big range, you might need at least a spare room for your precious hoard. Where should you look to start a collection? Check the attic and your parents’ basement — some playthings from your past can put serious money in your pocket.
Those who invest in collectibles predict Funko Pops are among the best things to collect for the future. If you’ve never heard of Funko Pops, they are vinyl toys that depict celebrities or characters from movies and TV. While many Pops are mass-produced, others are limited edition only. Some of the rarer figures can be worth a pretty penny. A Chewbacca Pop released exclusively at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con went for 2,700 dollars on eBay!
Vintage Action Figures
The mid to late ‘80s are a treasure trove of cool things to collect, with ’80s action figures highly rated and prized by collectors. Many adults still vividly remember playing with their action figures as kids. And since they finally have the money to fulfill their childhood dreams, they passionately collect Thundercats and He-Man action figures to rekindle their memories and reconnect with simpler times.
For those who collect cars (arguably one of the most expensive things to collect), we salute you in the most envious of ways. And for the rest of us, there is a more affordable hobby to get started in: miniature cars. From Hot Wheels to Matchbox, there are thousands of collectible toy cars that are yours for the taking! Also, if you’re lucky enough to have a miniature car collection gathering dust in your attic, be sure to check its value because there may be a little model car in your home that could make you a lot of money.
Things people collect say much about who they are. Lovers of things past often scour flea markets, antique stores, and garage sales in search of rare treasures and vintage bargains, including crockery, cutlery, and glassware. Their cupboards are usually overflowing with mismatched plates and chipped cups. Still, they are always looking for another silver spoon or a hand-painted mug to add to their collection.
Magnets are not only your basic holiday souvenirs but also great things to collect without having to break the bank. They are usually created to mark a specific time or place, so many of them hold a little piece of history inside them. Many collectors specialize in magnets from their travels, and others focus on a particular theme. The world record for the largest collection of magnets belongs to Louise Greenfarb from Las Vegas, who has 35,000 fridge magnets that she has been collecting since the 1970s.
Autographs are a big part of the collectible culture. Due to our society’s current fixation on celebrities, many fans are obsessed with obtaining signed memorabilia from their favorite stars. Their stories of meeting their on-screen idols are always memorable, and the thrill of the hunt only intensifies with each autograph acquired.
As Jane Austen would put it, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a book nerd in possession of a large number of books must be in want of even more bookmarks. In fact, bookmarks are one of the best bookish paraphernalia and cool things to collect because they’re relatively inexpensive, and, unlike some collectibles, they are meant to be used. During the Victorian era, it became fashionable to give bookmarks as gifts, and they still make great gifts for bookworms today.
First Editions and Rare Books
Collecting original first-editions and rare books is for those with plenty of space and funding. Also, since forgers can achieve the look and smell of an old book or fake an autograph, it requires extensive knowledge and experience. Eccentric? Yes. Boring? Absolutely not. Remember Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) from The Ninth Gate by Roman Polanski? He was a rare book dealer hired by a wealthy collector to find a book said to be able to summon the Devil. One can only wonder what mysteries await you in your local second-hand bookstore!
Those bored with trading cards or fountain pens turn to vintage candy wrappers — and often manage to amass a pretty sweet collection. Yes, die-hard candy packaging collectors never outgrow their childhood candy fixations and obsessively collect bright plastic and paper wrappers that most would consider trash, from silky Snickers to Sour Patch Kids to Wonka Sweetarts.
Dried Flowers and Plants
When we think of things to collect, we often think big price tags. But does that mean you can’t become a collector if you’re on a budget? Of course not! Many people go on nature hunts and collect flowers, plants, and small branches. They don’t cost a cent and can be used in craft projects or as home decor. Botanical lovers dry and press them using a traditional flower press or heavy books and make wall decorations, botanical journals, or gifts for friends and family.
Postcard enthusiasts can be roughly divided into two camps: those collecting topographical cards and those collecting subject cards. The former choose to limit their acquisitions to cards depicting a given geographical area, while the latter focus on a theme, such as animals, children, novelty, railways, fairies, etc.
Magazine collectors and pop culture enthusiasts often collect printed ephemera for the specific content on and between their covers. Serious Elvis Presley fans almost certainly want a copy of the 1977 issue of The Memphis Press-Scimitar covering his death, while Sherlock Holmes book collectors may seek out copies of The Strand Magazine that ran the stories before they were published as books.
These may seem like bizarre items to collect, yet gas station collectibles, known as petroliana, attract a variety of hobbyists eager to decorate garages and auto-related businesses. From gas pumps and grease guns to retro-style metal oil cans and containers, oil and gas memorabilia are in high demand among vintage car enthusiasts and automotive buffs.
A symbol of glamour and luxury, perfume bottles are often miniature works of art highly sought after by connoisseurs. There is a vast range of collectible vintage perfume bottles worth investing in, but the top of the league remains René Lalique. A renowned glass designer, he teamed up with perfume maker François Coty in the 1920s and launched the concept of selling high-class perfumes in exquisite, specially-designed bottles, which still appeal to scent bottle collectors around the world today.
While some people collect antique furniture or license plates, others collect tattoos. Tattoo aficionados can be divided into two types: those who prefer a patchwork style with many random designs and those who approach their body like a curated tattoo exhibit and cover themselves with cohesive pieces that work together. And like any other collector, it’s the rarity and style of their ink masterpieces that really gets them going.
Collecting Zippos has long been a popular hobby for smokers and nonsmokers alike. Whether military or non-military, brass or silver, Zippo zealots are fascinated by their artistic and vintage appeal for many different reasons. They buy and trade old lighters with boxed and unfired lighters commanding the highest prices. While at first glance, Zippos may not seem like highly sophisticated products, don’t forget that it took us nearly a million years to create a portable form of fire!
The hobby of collecting matchboxes is called phillumeny. While not half as popular as stamp and coin collecting, it is a legitimate hobby with thousands of phillumenists worldwide. The basic design of standard matchboxes has not really changed in almost 200 years. Still, they are remarkable historical artifacts and miniature works of graphic art that can teach you a great deal about history and art, which makes them one of the most interesting (and often relatively affordable) things to collect.
As a pastime, smoking has become passe, but ashtrays continue to hold a distinctive place in design history and are now coveted collectible items. From the sleek, stylish lines of art deco ashtrays to comedic head-shaped designs of the 1950s, ashtrays produced during the heyday of American smoking are a collector’s dream, and, of course, they don’t come cheap.
Snow Globes and Glitter Domes
Once happy holiday trinkets, snow globes and glitter domes are some of the most collectible novelties these days. While some consider them the height of bad taste, to others, they are tiny, untouched worlds that remind them of the lost simplicity of childhood. They feature everything from snow-blasted popes and flamenco dancers to cityscapes and landmarks from all around the world. The largest collection of snow globes is 4,059 and is owned by Wendy Suen from Shanghai, China.
While some of us stow away boxes filled with fading family pictures, others comb through flea markets and antique shops to find them. With millions of Americans obsessively tracing their roots, many are trying to unlock the past, scavenging for snapshots of daily life, family scenes, and historical moments. For newcomers to this hobby, make sure to have a theme that you will base your collection on; otherwise, you might get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of photos out there!
Watches and Clocks
Anyone who’s seen the opening credits of the first Back to the Future knows that Doc Brown had a thing for clocks. And so do all those avid collectors who happen to have a passion for collecting watches and clocks. They relentlessly pursue vintage alarm clocks, pocket watches, and antique clocks everywhere, from local shops to conventions to online marketplaces. So, it seems that in the age of smart devices, the hobby of collecting old timepieces is still alive and kicking.
While many think only guitarists collect picks, most pick collectors don’t even play the guitar! (And they probably never will since they’re too busy trying to score that next pick.) Collecting these tiny wafers of plastic is a lifelong hobby of many music fans, who usually keep them in plastic storage units with little see-through drawers and pull them out only on really special occasions. Vintage celebrity picks are arguably some of the most unique music memorabilia on the market, but collectors, beware! There seem to be quite a few fakes out there, and even these are carrying hefty price tags.
Fountain pens are one of the few collectibles that do not devalue with everyday use, so besides sitting around and looking at them, you can actually use them! There are all kinds of pens out there, from the disposable BICs to ultimate luxuries like Mont Blancs. If you want to start collecting pens, ask yourself why you want to start a collection, then assess how much you’re willing to spend, and begin exploring! Flea markets, pen shows, and antique stores are great places to hunt for pens in the wild.
What Are Your Favorite Things to Collect?
Compulsive collectors are an insatiable bunch. Their houses are overflowing with vintage jewelry, video games, old furniture, and what-not. Still, there’s always room for more because, as every seasoned collector knows, no collection is ever complete, and every new find is an absolutely irresistible trophy.
Do you plan on starting a collection of posters? Traditional plastic or paper posters are prone to tearing and ripping and aren’t the best long-term solution for wall art. Try Displate’s metal posters instead! They are more durable, last longer, and don’t need a frame to mount them!
Do you collect something completely bonkers? Is it a hobby? Or a business? Could you turn it into one? Let us know in the comments if there are any other things to collect that need to be added to our list!