Settling a loved one’s estate can destroy a family. The resentments created by the acrimonious disbursement of assets can linger across generations. There are countless horror stories out there, and many forward-thinking folks are already on top of dividing up their cash, real estate, and other big-ticket properties because of them. But what often falls through the cracks are the collectibles, the tangible items of fluctuating value that can be worth as much as a car or, in extreme cases, make you a millionaire. How do you handle divvying those up? Here are some tips from the experts at Back to the Past.
Focus on Equitable Outcomes
This one feels like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how often this is ignored. Collectibles aren’t like cash or bonds; they don’t have a fixed value. Dividing your collection up into three equal piles for your three heirs could be the same as bequeathing one a classic car and the other a rusty bicycle.
Here’s a hypothetical: grandpa has a complete run of the original Uncanny X-Men, #1-544. He has three grandkids that he wants to have the collection when he passes. Divided equally, it comes out to one-hundred and eighty one issues for each of the grandkids. He bequeaths #1-181 to the oldest, #182-364 to the middlest, and #365-544 to the youngest. The shares are physically equal, but they are not equitable.
In low grade, the first ten issues of that series can be worth around $10,000. In high grade, which is admittedly quite rare, they can add up to over $100,000. The final ten issues of the series struggle to reach $100 in value, even in perfect condition. Each grandkid gets a similar physical piece of the collection, but the monetary value they get is insultingly uneven. The goal should be, of course, to prevent that from happening.
Set Realistic Expectations About Collectibles
We see it all the time: Dad inherited grandpa’s coin collection and always told his son that there was big value in it. Dad dies and the son, now an adult with some kids himself, becomes the second generation to inherit it. He brings it in to a reputable collectibles dealer, such as Back to the Past, in the hopes that it will fund a nice family vacation or seed some college funds. And it becomes our unenviable duty to tell him his dad was wrong. The collection of Wheat Head Pennies just isn’t all that valuable. That’s always a gut punch, especially if the circumstances around the attempt to sell are more dire.
Which is why it’s important to set realistic expectations about these things! Collectible values can fluctuate a lot, so what was worth some solid money twenty years ago might be worth significantly less today. Collectibles are like stocks in that way, and they’re just as risky in the possession of the uninitiated. You can easily miss your window of value and end up underwater on the investment.
Clickbait has made that job even harder. Retro video games that set records at auction aren’t the kind of thing you’re going to find at a garage sale. And no matter what anyone tells you, your “Black Diamond” Disney tapes will probably never be particularly valuable. Which is why it’s important to…
Know What You Have
Both above tips can only be done once you know what you have and what it’s worth. Luckily, active collectors themselves usually have a broadly realistic understanding of such things. Folks with a long dormant or inherited collection, not so much. Like any asset, you can’t plan what to do with a collection until you have it evaluated.
Which is where experts like Back to the Past Collectibles come in. We can use our decades of collectibles experience to give you a great idea what a collection is worth. That experience can help you divide up that run of Uncanny X-Men fairly or warn you that Grandpa’s coin collection isn’t the savings bond you think it is before it becomes a problem
We can even help you bring that collection to market – wouldn’t it be fun to treat the grandkids to Disney World yourself and make some memories with them while you’re still here? Our auction services can help make that happen, as we’ve helped dozens of families throughout the years. Get in touch to get that process started!