My own business is pretty much all about selling vintage and antique collectibles (sometimes spelt ‘collectables’) – this is one of the most profitable, as well as most enjoyable selling areas on eBay.
Hence the reason why today I’m focussing on my own top two collectable product types – vintage comics and antique snuff bottles.
1. Vintage comics
Comics are bought for more than just collecting value. Collecting value is strong and represents some of the highest finishing prices on eBay, but interest and consequently bidding wars are hotting up between bidders wanting comics for their stunning art work, as alternative investments to resell when prices peak, or to keep for the proverbial ‘rainy day’.
Vintage comics can fetch four-figure prices on eBay: they’re worth looking out for at boot sales, flea markets, local auctions and collectors’ fairs. You may not find anything unique and worth many thousands of pounds at these local events, but they are great places to find early comics worth £10, £20, £100 per copy, or more, on eBay.
- Generally the older the comic the more valuable it is. This is mainly due to low production figures in the early 1900s, when only the wealthiest families could afford them in the UK and USA and virtually all other civilised countries.
‘Older’ generally means more valuable because comics and newspapers and most other paper items were made to be used, and once used were quickly discarded. That means very few delicate paper items have survived the decades unscathed. So low-production high-quality items from 50 or more years past are usually extremely rare and very collectable. And highly priced!
- Comic artists are often in as much and sometimes greater demand than the comics they originally helped to create. Original art fetches very high prices on eBay and elsewhere, especially from well-known names like Rowland Turner (Super Detective Library and Thriller Picture Library), George Studdy (creator of Bonzo Dog whose work appeared in hundreds of UK comics and serious newspapers and magazines from the 1920s to 1940s), and Frank Hampson (creator of Dan Dare for The Eagle).
- Condition is vital to potential value of most comics, although early rare comics can fetch hundreds of pounds – even in generally poor condition. But an early comic in pristine condition is a rarity indeed, hence the high values often reached on eBay.
- Early comics were made from inferior paper, which tore easily and quickly discoloured and darkened with age. Originally white or creamy coloured, most early comics emerge years later as anything from off-white to dirty brown. The closer to white the more valuable a vintage comic is likely to be. Restoration is possible and sometimes worthwhile on very early and low-issue comics and will increase collector value way beyond the price paid for restoration.
- Scribbles, writing, holes and other damage can reduce prices considerably. You must watch out for these problems on comics picked up at auction and other offline resources. Even a tiny imperfection on a comic from 20 or 30 years back can render the item worthless.
- Many comics had giveaways printed as part of the publication or bound into the pages or placed loose inside the issue. Comics with their free gifts intact are worth a big premium over others with pieces missing.
Comic collectors are amongst the most finicky you’ll find anywhere on eBay. So you will need to create high quality pictures and point out even the tiniest flaw. Use a scanner rather than a camera: the first creates close up images (couldn’t really be closer!) and highlights even the tiniest fault.
2. Antique snuff bottles
Snuff is powdered tobacco, usually mixed with herbs and spices and designed to be sniffed up through the nostrils. Snuff originated in America and became immensely popular in 17th century Europe.
Like scent, special bottles were created to hold snuff, some being ornate and often unique and among today’s most popular collectibles. Designed to carry in the pocket, most bottles are less than three inches long and an inch or two wide.
Many of the most beautiful and valuable snuff bottles were made in China and feature amongst eBay’s highest-priced specimens, especially those resembling miniature vases with tiny stoppers and frequently made from porcelain, ivory, horn, glass or bronze, overlaid with delicate hand painting or encrusted with precious stones.
There’s a good following for modern snuff bottles, so don’t turn a blind eye to what’s available from craft workers and glass makers. Some enthusiasts collect snuff bottles regardless of age; others want antique bottles aged 100 years or more, and you must be very clear about age in your listings.
Although the majority of quality snuff bottles were and still are made in China, some better designs also came from Japan, usually of carved ivory or hand-applied lacquer.
Look for tiny cracks and abrasions in glaze and coating and avoid any specimens that are badly damaged.
Snuff bottle collectors are picky and even tiny irregularities can deplete value considerably. Also be on guard against fake ‘porcelain’ and ‘ivory’ snuff bottles, which are in fact commonly made from resin, hard plastic or bone. At auction look for ways to confirm items are old, such as letters or receipts relating to whatever is offered.
So there you have just two highly popular, sometimes extremely high-value collectibles to look for selling below value where collectors and dealers are few and sell for massive profits on eBay’s international marketplace.