Maximum Future Vintage
March 4, 2014 1:39 AM   Subscribe

What is your guess about the everyday items of today that are likely to become the collectibles of the future? To maximize ROI, what are some cheap disposable items today that may be greatly valued in the future?

What would make the best collectibles now for the future? Fifty years ago if you knew what was coming, you might have bought a Ford Mustang, or a used Chevy and set it aside; it would be extremely valuable now. But you may have gotten more ROI by using the same money to purchase cheap comic books, or fast-food give-aways, or even empty cereal boxes. In fact the cheaper and more disposable items were back then, the more valuable they can become later -- because they were generally thrown away. But of course not every thing cheap or old gains in value. It needs a cultural gravitas as well.

What is your guess about the everyday items of today that are likely to become the collectibles of the future? Forget personal passions. Let's say you had an average sized closet you were willing to nail shut for 50 years, maybe for the benefit of your grandchildren. What are your nominations for what you might stack in it for maximum return on present day purchase price? Extra points for anything that is free today.
posted by kk to Society & Culture (26 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Sealed iPhones/iPads/OXO utensils and other objects of design, perhaps.
posted by pipian at 1:56 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

A sealed packet of plastic cutlery.
posted by Chairboy at 2:41 AM on March 4, 2014

I'd take a punt on chequebooks appearing as charming as ration cards in about 50 years time.
posted by AFII at 2:42 AM on March 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

Certain Lego sets, but the trick is knowing which ones you can buy at retail now which will sell for 5 times or more in the future once they're out of production. Some become very sought-after, others less so.
Past examples: 1980s-era classic Space sets, more recent but out of production large Star Wars sets.

If you'd bought a few Bitcoins last year for $10, that would be worth putting in the collection (in a paper wallet), because it's worth a punt. Wouldn't bother buying one now for ~$500 though.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:28 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

A lot of things which are collectable now are only so because, despite being mass-produced, few kept them in good condition, and few pristine examples survive thirty, forty or fifty years later. I think now we're all a lot more aware of the idea of collectability, and more people are saving the boxes from their toys, or even collecting toys produced with collectability in mind ie. Blythe dolls and designer vinyl toys. So I think there will be a lot more ephemera from 2014 surviving in 2044 than there is ephemera from 1984 around today.

I'd suggest saving things that are very popular with kids/young people now - Moshi Monsters, Monster High dolls (which some adults collect because they look pretty cool), Doctor Who figures, even 1D merchandise. When those kids get middle-aged, wealthier and more nostalgic, they'll want to acquire artifacts of their youth. If I had the money and space, I'd be online trying to track down the magazines I read in my childhood and teens from eBay, or buying a Big Yellow Teapot to display on a shelf.
posted by mippy at 4:24 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sneakers, guns, ammo.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 5:14 AM on March 4, 2014

There are two factors - one is that there is an established Collectibles market, and these will be commoditized and given a lot of lip-service by people who make their money sellling and re-selling items designed to be collected. This includes most pop-culture merchandising.

This stuff will be as common as dirt, as people are buying to collect as much as they are buying to use.

The other factor is that people are collecting just to collect - Toys are tough, as there are toy collectors keeping mint-in-box copies of everything from Barbie to Crayola (who has released "retro" packaging just to appeal to toy collectors!)

There is one sure fire bet, and that's marketing material for nationally recognized brands that are well liked. Beer and liquor, motor vehicle and industries related to motor vehicles, bicycles, outdoor equipment, popular processed foods, etc. They have to be displayable and striking - neon signs and placards, branded sales tchotchkes like pens and keychains.

Even then, you won't get rich off it, but a dated and slightly tacky Captain Morgan wall clock you buy off the liquor store owner for five bucks and keep in storage for a couple decades will yield a considerable return on investment.

Provided they're still decorating with nostalgic kitsch in a couple decades, which is not a certainty.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:40 AM on March 4, 2014

Pre-meltdown Justin Bieber artifacts?
Pre-meltdown Miley Cyrus artifacts?
Pre-meltdown Rob Ford political campaign artifacts?
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 5:59 AM on March 4, 2014

Asian baskets. Within the local markets where they're produced and sold, they're consumables, things you use as household or farm containers, with nicer ones for gifts or special occasions. Baskets are all handmade and the skills to make them, especially the more elaborate ordinary ones, are slowly fading because of plastic bags and boxes. There's a pretty good collectors' market for ordinary baskets in Europe and the U.S. from as recent as the 1970s, because they got used up and discarded. Asia has a huge variety of traditional basket making, and they're just vanishing outside of rural areas. I bet the same is happening/happened in Africa. Collecting well-made non-art craftsmen (not Ikea/Pier 1) baskets from rural areas would be a very safe bet for value, IMO.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:01 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are you asking this as a mental exercise or an actual plan? As previously discussed here, planning on a zeitgeist occurring or sticking around is rarely a good plan.
posted by Candleman at 7:18 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

"There is one sure fire bet, and that's marketing material for nationally recognized brands that are well liked. "

YES. Examples. Recently sold (30 years old) Macintosh dealer materials. Poster $350.00 and up. Signage up to $1000.00 for essentially throw-away items. Even brochures can go for a few bucks. The key is that these were iconic items in limited distribution. I would say the same would go for certain other iconic brands, and brand-tie ins. Coke, or Pepsi, or Mountain Dew with NASCAR for example. Timing is critical. When Steve Jobs died the first edition of MacWorld Magazine were going up to $400.00. That lasted only a couple of weeks.
posted by Gungho at 7:28 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

There are certain kids books that have really beautiful art, in hard cover, that will likely be worth quite a lot in 20 years. Some of them have already appreciated astronomically within 10 years of publishing (1500% + - ) . I bought several, partly because they are gorgeous, but also because they may have significant value. I have considered laying up a pristine case or two of certain authors for speculative purposes. In fact, thanks for the reminder!. Prefer not to mention authors, but a bit of kicking around would probably find you some likely candidates. (Just went back and looked at one of the authors I had in mind, two of his books, which are quite popular, are up 1500% in 5 years.)
posted by jcworth at 7:28 AM on March 4, 2014

Speculation of this sort is almost always a poor bet for long term gain considering what the same money could have done in the stock market or other investments.

Now paying attention to short term opportunities makes sense. I bought a car with my proceeds from a short term Beanie Baby play in the 90s and more than doubled my money on BtVS action figures toward the end of the run of that show. But those were things that I literally lucked into. Someone had gifted me a Beanie Baby and then I found out how sought after they were. Similar happened with the BtVS figures.

However if you buy things that you really like and keep them in good condition - that's a win/win.
posted by FlamingBore at 7:54 AM on March 4, 2014

I think it's pretty tricky to try to second guess exactly what sort of personal commodity might have the best relative commercial "value" for future generations. If you are curating a time capsule for your grandchildren (a very cool idea) you might just want to collect as many different sorts of items as you can find. Be sure to try to include some completely random household things that you wouldn't normally expect in a trove, as we might be surprised what other people might find interesting in the future.

I've uncovered a few small caches in floorboards when I worked in demolition. Nothing really valuable, but always a pleasant surprise. Perfectly functional old hand tools were not uncommon.

Newspapers, magazines and personal written documents probably will not bring in the most $$ on future-ebay, but this kind of stuff could be of the most potential interest to curious people of the future. Important note: store flat, unfolded and wrapped in plastic if possible.
posted by ovvl at 8:39 AM on March 4, 2014

Sporting event bobble-head giveaways at the stadium. They're limited edition and if you get one for a player that eventually becomes Hall of Fame Famous or infamous for a scandal they'll be valuable as collectibles.
Keep them sealed in their boxes, though, as with any collectible.
posted by rocket88 at 9:18 AM on March 4, 2014

bus tokens and car keys
posted by WeekendJen at 9:30 AM on March 4, 2014

So many killjoys here on the green! It might be worth zilch but if the space is free...

Obama campaign paraphernalia, signed by Obama (keep for 100 years)

1¢ coin freshly minted

Kate & William stamps (commonwealth countries)

A Twinkie (with stamp date of fabrication)

Art Deco home decor or vintage 60s style kitchen gadgets (mint condition)

Scotch? Research a good brand or one that might go out of business
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:31 AM on March 4, 2014

Response by poster: Despite my emphasis on the dollars, I don't see this as an investment opportunity. Not even a get rich slow scheme. It is more a way to focus on unappreciated creativity now. Often the high art of tomorrow is the low art of today. As mippy and others said above, professional collectors are onto mint condition toys in a big way, but surely there must be other things not as appreciated. This is the internet age so somebody somewhere is collecting one of everything made, but that's okay. Maybe another way to ask my larger question is: what commonly produced genre of artifacts today is underappreciated for its beauty, genius, quality, and art -- and may be more appreciated later?

I like mippy's suggestion: "saving things that are very popular with kids/young people now." First loves return as we age. Toys are covered. Maybe working video games on original hardware?
posted by kk at 9:32 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

There should be a numbered rule for this phenomenon, but for almost every ephemeral artefact of everyday life, there are some people who will collect it. I met a guy who collects cereal boxes. Whatever.

If I were going to bank on something, I'd bank on stuff that was made right around some major transition point. So the very first iPhone will probably be collectible, and so too might be some of the smartphones (and dumbphones) that immediately preceded it.

What commodities are going to disappear or become scarce thanks to global warming, the bee die-off, agricultural monocultures, etc? They say chocolate is one. So maybe collect chocolate-related ephemera.
posted by adamrice at 9:36 AM on March 4, 2014

Pretty much any item that was considered "cheap and disposable" in the past is not a valuable collector's item today. (Until you get to literal antique status, where we're talking about things that are 100+ years old. And even then, a genuine Tiffany lamp is a lot more valuable than some Laura Ingalls Wilder kerosene thing.)

All that Danish Modern furniture you see nowadays that costs an arm and a leg? That was swank designer furniture in the 60s. It's expensive because it's always been valuable, not because of some quirk of the antiques industry.

Midcentury Modern knockoffs are actually quite affordable, because those pieces were ubiquitous and cheap back in the day, as well.

Likewise, cars that were rare and expensive back in the day are much more likely to be valuable on the collectors' market than a '76 Honda Civic or whatever.

So I'm going to say, whatever the prestige, rare, or exclusive things are today are also going to be rare and exclusive to own in fifty years.
posted by Sara C. at 10:01 AM on March 4, 2014

If you can find some old computer systems that are already 20 years old and in working order, including software that will actually run on them, you could put that in the closet for 50 years and I think it would grow in value.

Also, movie posters.
posted by CathyG at 10:36 AM on March 4, 2014

A Rainbow Loom. It's ridiculously popular with children right now, and the trend is ending. It'll be one of those things that's impossible to find new-in-box in 20 years since everyone will have used theirs.

I would say an even better bet is pens. Not even good pens, cheap inkjoy or Pilot Precise V or whatever. There will come a day when they discontinue your favorite pen or the maker is bought out and changes the design, and you'll miss your favorite go-to everyday writing tool. I am maybe a little weird for pens (I collect fountain pens, particularly the cheap drugstore and student versions) but plenty of otherwise normal people will pay serious money for the last remaining box of their favorite pencil.

Similarly, you should buy big boxes of the "weakest link" replacement part for a product everyone uses every day. Ink cartridges, replacement blades, o-rings, gears, latches.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:45 PM on March 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ah, I get you now kk - and here's something I've been thinking a lot about lately. Plastic membership cards. As some of you know I was a card carrying member of the Magic Castle for a few years and I think those cards are quite striking and I've kept my membership cards. When my father died in the 80s I found his Playboy Keycard and held onto that until my mother found it and destroyed it.
posted by FlamingBore at 1:11 PM on March 4, 2014

You know what sells for a fortune on eBay right now? Pears soap. The recipe was changed a few years ago, so now the bars are made overseas and with considerably more ingredients, and those who have used it for years will pay a premium for the original.

So if a well-loved product changes formula, that might be worth a look. Changing cosmetic regulations recently have meant that many perfumes have had to be reformulated, and therefore smell different. If you can get some original recipe Eau Savage or Miss Dior, you may do well in years to come.
posted by mippy at 1:21 PM on March 4, 2014

I like the idea of beautifully illustrated children's books. Just discovered recently that copy of Outside Over There one of my kids got for her birthday would be worth, oh, 70 odd quid if we'd kept the dust jacket.

(I mean, £70-odd if anyone was going to pay that much, which might not be.)

But a well-illustrated book is a beautiful thing, even though it's sad to think that if it's in pristine condition no kid got the pleasure of it.
posted by glasseyes at 3:37 PM on March 4, 2014

Yeah, I definitely like the idea of buying beautiful things and taking good care of them. That's probably the closest you can get to a future "investment" in vintage stuff unless you have some way of anticipating when a perfume is going to get discontinued or polaroid is going to stop making instant film.
posted by Sara C. at 4:36 PM on March 4, 2014

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