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10 Popular Collectibles That Never Paid Off

4 Minute Read

In the 1990s, Chris Robinson spent an estimated $100,000 stockpiling Beanie Babies.

The Los Angeles man planned to resell his vast collection and fund his five kids’ college educations with the profits. Unfortunately, the Beanie Baby market crashed, and Robinson was left with nothing to show for his “investment” but tie-dyed bears and purple platypuses.

So why choose teddy bears over actual college funds?

Because he got a thrill from buying stuff. And he liked the idea of this stuff making him rich someday.

Collecting as a hobby is fine. But when it turns into an obsession and costs your retirement fund or your kids’ college fund, it becomes a serious problem. Here are 10 more collecting trends that fell out of fashion before they ever paid off.  

1. Hummel Figurines

After WWII, returning soldiers introduced these German statuettes of boys and girls carrying umbrellas, baskets and violins into the mainstream. But with an oversaturation in the market and little modern interest in the figurines, your grandmother’s “priceless” Hummels sell for less than $75 today.

2. Baseball Cards

If you find a vintage Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle, you’re going to make bank. But if you have binders full of ’80s and ’90s rookie cards, you’re out of luck. Hey, at least your kids will have a good laugh flipping through all those plastic sleeves of dudes with enormous mustaches.

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3. Happy Holiday Barbies

Beginning in 1988, little girls had something new to look forward to on Christmas morning: the Happy Holiday Barbie. She was sparkly and gorgeous, but too valuable to play with. Today, the “special edition” Barbies don’t even fetch their original asking prices. Should’ve opened the box and played with her!

4. Collectible Coins and Plates

Go to any yard sale and you’ll find a table full of commemorative plates featuring famous faces like Jimmy Carter, Elvis Presley or Princess Diana. They’re right next to those framed, “rare” coin collections. For a really good selection, try Goodwill.

5. Star Wars Action Figures

Some of the earliest Star Wars action figures sell for a profit, but the vast majority don’t. A better use for your collection? Introduce your kids to the timeless tale of Darth, Luke and Leia. At this point, sentimental value may be your best bet.

6. Cabbage Patch Kids

Before Tickle-Me-Elmos, kids went crazy over these yarn-haired dolls. In fact, more than 65 million Cabbage Patch Kids were “adopted” by 1990. Now, they’re neglected in the back of closets. Poor babies.

Related: 10 Ways We Waste Money on Our Kids

7. PEZ Dispensers

If you’ve ever tasted PEZ candy, you know it’s nothing to write home about. Good thing they invented those quirky dispensers. With new editions coming out every year, fans eat up the latest Smurfs and SpongeBobs to add to their collections. They’re cute, sure. But worth anything? Nope.

8. Comic Books

Like the baseball card boom of the ’80s and ’90s, there was a time when kids spent all their spare allowance on comic books. A few rare classics like the first appearance of Superman or Spiderman still command high dollar, but most aren’t worth their pristine, plastic protectors.

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9. Precious Moments Figurines

These teardrop-eyed figurines first caught collectors’ hearts in 1978. And while the company’s website still markets these sad-looking ceramics for upwards of $150, after-market prices are more like $5—if that.

10. Stamps

Franklin D. Roosevelt helped legitimize stamp collecting in the ’30s and ’40s. But only the rarest of stamps in the best of conditions makes a big profit today. So unless you own a 1867 Abraham Lincoln, just enjoy your collection for what it is—pretty paper.

Don’t mistake here-today, gone-tomorrow fads for investments. They almost never pay off.

If you need to save for your child’s future, try a college fund. It most definitely beats a basement full of Beanie Babies.