Welcome back to Hammer Drops, where Back to the Past shares the lessons of decades in the collectibles business! This week, we’re not looking at something we sold. No, we’re looking at something we chose not to buy and why that is.
Bonus Lesson: 90s Anime Toys Can Hold A Nice Value
Let me tell you a story about a collection: it’s a Saturday evening, just Demi and I in the store. A person walks in with a tub of 90s-era Dragonball Z action figures. Now, typically, 90s action figures don’t hold value very well. That’s when the collector’s market took off, and various companies (like Kenner) were making figures of just about everything. Except for anime. While anime and manga are massive pop cultural forces in the U.S. today, that wasn’t exactly true when DBZ first crossed the pacific in 1996. Even when it caught on in 1998 in reruns on Cartoon Network’s Toonami (after the dub had been discontinued!), it never quite caught on to the degree over-the-air shows like Pokemon did. As such, that early merchandise has accrued some solid value.
And this was true for this collection. Every piece that Demi researched had realized prices in the $50 range. As such, there was a solid couple hundred dollars worth of value in that plastic tub. Or, at least, there would have been, except when Demi opened the tub for the first time, she immediately noticed enough cigarette smoke smell to bring tears to her eyes. Being in the room where this evaluation happened myself, I would call it the funk of forty-thousand coffin nails. The odor lingered so badly that I had to spray air freshener in the gallery after the collection left. We declined to purchase. Since Demi and I grew up on 90s/00s anime, we hated to do that but the value just wasn’t there anymore
Tobacco Stains Are More Than Visual
Both tobacco and marijuana leave a strong smell that soaks into objects, particularly porous paper objects like comic books or cardboard packages, that are stored in a room where users regularly light up. Habitual smokers of either substance will not notice the smell in the same way that people don’t notice their house smells like dog. If you’re around it all the time, you eventually go nose-blind to it. And there’s nothing wrong with indulging either substance in your own home. Its your decision.
The problem that collectibles stored in a smoking home have is finding an audience. Simply put, most people don’t smoke these days. As such, their homes don’t smell like smoke. Ergo, even one thing that does smell like smoke is going to be incredibly noticeable. That’s doubly true when an item has to be shipped, where its going to be packed into a box to stew in its own smell for a few days. When you first open that box, the smell will dang near bop you physically in the nose. And if you’re a person with respiratory sensitivities, it can trigger an attack.
That’s not even getting to the yellow nicotine stickiness that often comes along with the odor. That’ll even coat objects that don’t absorb odors. Luckily, those can be cleaned off. Unluckily, most methods for doing so can ruin cardboard packaging or materially alter the condition of an item. Its a double edged sword.
The Lesson: Tobacco Stink Tanks Value
That all adds up to non-smokers wanting nothing to do with collectibles that come from a smoking home. They’re certainly not going to pay full market value for them. They become incredibly difficult to sell at any price. And unfortunately, that smell is never coming out. Not fully. Back to the Past’s fearless leader Scott Lovejoy reminded me that we have handled collections from smoking homes in the past.
We put the items through a treatment that included, where possible, a spray with some deodorizer before sealing the item in a plastic bag with dryer sheets. We then put the bags in plastic totes and didn’t touch them for at least a week. After all that extra time and manpower, the smell was still there. Even thought it had been greatly dampened, it was noticeable.
For something like mint-in-package toys, there is something of a fix: simply remove them from their packages! However, toys (and, to a lesser extent, statues) start dropping precipitously in value once they’re out of the package. Even if you can successfully lose the odor and the residue with the packaging, you’ll be losing a lot of the value too. Either way, you won’t be able to get top dollar for your item.
And that’s a shame, because there are so many people looking for cool old finds! But don’t take this as all doom and gloom: if you’re ready sell, we want to hear about your collection. Full stop, even if it comes from a smoking home. But it is better for you if you give us a call, let us ask some preliminary questions, and get some pictures to do preliminary research. If there’s still value there, all factors considered, we’re absolutely game to help you out. And if there’s not, at least you didn’t waste a trip.
Its a reality that, well, stinks. But its an important Hammer Drop to remember, whether you’re looking to sell with us or go it alone. Come back every Wednesday for more tips!