Majel Barrett Interview
Majel Barrett biography
Hallmark Trek Ornaments
Practical Star Trek Gifts
Saul Jaffe of SF-Lovers
Lost in Space Models
Collectibles as Gifts
The Artful Collector
Strange New Worlds Issue 10 - Oct/Nov 1993
To give or not to give . . . collectibles as gifts
by Jane Frank
Director of Worlds of
Wonder Gallery, Washington DC
If you have ever spent hours tramping through a shopping mall, trying to imagine what
would please Aunt Harriet, convinced that anything you choose to give her will be
considered eminently unsuitable, then triple that anxiety if you are contemplating a gift
for Harriet as personal, and as idiosyncratic, as a collectible.
Gifting, as merchandisers like to call it, is no simple matter these days.
Major department stores even provide special gift consultants; too bad these services are
useless where collectibles are concerned. Even dangerously personal items such as perfume
and lingerie can be returned often collectibles cannot. This contributes mightily
to the trauma of gifting. Imagine trying to return an item to a science fiction convention
art show or huckster room the next year!
So, do you dare? Is it sheer folly to presume to know anothers taste in art? Is
it worth the Christmas morning drama when Aunt Harriet, who previously disclosed her
interest in Smurfs, discovers your little Smurfs animation cel from the 1980s TV cartoon
series (which you bought for $201) under the tree? Will she give you big hugs,
pleased to be able to add to her collection of Smurf memorabilia? You bet!
If you are considering buying collectibles as gifts, you must be brave. It helps
to be informed and somewhat rational about the process. The chances that Harriet already
owns dozens of Smurf figures are great. The chances of her owning this exact cel, however,
are small. If you also collect Smurfs, so much the better, because you could have
spent $10 on that cel or $40, depending on its image size, content, expression, and
condition. It pays to know what you are doing when buying collectibles, whether for you or
It also pays to take a moment to answer this important question before you decide to
buy collectibles as gifts: "Who is the collector?" Is this your passion,
or theirs? You can buy collectibles as gifts because it gives you pleasure, or
because it gives Harriet pleasure. Either way can be fun.
You can please yourself by buying gifts that expose your own collecting interests,
while also matching the giftees interests. Or, you can add to anothers already
established collection. Or, you can simply decide to solve the gifting problem by buying
something that is not likely to be duplicated by anyone else . . . something
collectible. Any one of these possibilities can be satisfying.
If you and the recipient both enjoy the same collecting interests, then there is a
higher likelihood that your gift will be well-received, so long as you keep a close eye on
what your giftee is collecting. If the recipient is a collector but you do not share
collecting interests, how much - exactly - do you know about their collection or
about the collectibles in question? If the answer is "not much," you
run the risk of buying an item that the person already owns or would not consider
If you are buying something unique, unusual, and valuable beyond its obvious looks, and
the recipient is not a collector, will they know what they are receiving? I have
heard horror stories about rare airplane models that arrived in their original packages,
only to have the box discarded and the model given to the giftees son for a
I know collectors who have a wonderful holiday time because they use it to indulge
their own collecting passions. For example, if everyone knows you are a Trek fan, then
they might be amused to find you have turned this holiday season into a memorable Star
Trek holiday for your family and friends. Why not gift them all with an object related
to your collecting passion. To be sure, you will match gifts to age, gender, and size of
the recipient. Your budget will also influence choices. But, year after year, you can keep
up this practice, until you, and your collecting interests, are not only memorable, but
It is fun and easy to do this if you, or the recipient, are thematic
collectors, since there are usually available inexpensive items in all price ranges. Pins
and memorabilia for office colleagues, special edition tree ornaments for those with
Christmas trees, limited edition porcelain and pewter items, signed prints . . . plus
rarer collectibles for those on your list who deserve something special.
Whether the interest is unicorns, dragons, or mermaids; Beauty and the Beast or Star
Wars; Superman or The Hulk, holidays can be the ideal time to exploit any collecting
Risks and Opportunities
Collectibles cover a wide range of gifting possibilities. One of them is
unique works of art. It takes real guts to buy a one-of-a-kind item. But one
of the best fits I ever gave to a friend, and surely one of the most memorable he ever
received, was a small painting I purchased at a science fiction convention for only
The man was an avid golfer. One of his special goals was to play every masters golf
course in the world. He had no interest in things science fictional or in collecting art;
indeed, he was not a collector of any sort or kind. No, science fiction is my hobby
and interest, not his.
But at a convention, I spied a painting of a conventionally cute little BEM (bug-eyed
monster) teeing off on the greens in front of the requisite flying saucer (neatly parked,
or course). I immediately thought, "Now, wouldnt this make an appealing present
for Jim?" It was entertaining without being too trite, and only a $45.00 minimum bid.
Even if I had to pay slightly more, it would have been a great buy because it allowed me
to accomplish several important things at the same time:
|It was within my budget for gifts for close friends on an important occasion yet
the gift would be perceived as priceless.|
|It satisfied my missionary urge to introduce all friends to the beauties and
satisfaction of science fiction art. |
|It was directly related to my friends interests and so would tickle his funny
|The gift was definitely one-of-a-kind, yet fit into a collectible category: golf art.|
|I could stop my search for something special.|
As holiday season nears, thoughts inevitably turn to gift buying and the tempting
thought of purchasing a gift that is unique, different, possibly original, and which might
just might have worth to someone beyond its immediate entertainment value or
Downside risks to giving collectibles:
|Some collectors are picky about what they collect. What they would consider a
good addition to the collection may be difficult to determine.|
|Collectibles are perceived as special, hence carry obligations not
associated with ordinary gifts, such as the need for display, potential for future value,
|Not everyone likes Star Trek (almost everyone, but . . . ) or whatever your personal
collecting passion is.|
|Shopping for a collectible can be much more time-consuming than shopping for an ordinary
|Not every collecting hobby lends itself to this gifting strategy.|
|The recipient may not realize the value of what you are giving them. What is a valued
collectible to you may be only a book, comic, toy, miniature, model, to them.
This especially applies to everyday items with utilitarian value in working condition,
such as radios, tools, cameras, vases. The flip side: Uncle Harold may be terribly
insulted to find a broken (dusty, torn, used) toy under his tree. He is "too old to
play with toys!" If the giftee is the obsessed collector, of course, this problem is
eliminated - and you can indulge THEIR interests, instead. |
All you have to do is mention that you are hooked on Super Heroes, or your passion is
pentagrams, or you crave Cthulu, and you will enjoy an endless stream of gifts from
me with that theme. And what fun that is for me! I love to buy presents for people that I know
they will like . . . dont you? Heck, we are probably some kind of Aunt Harriet
ourselves. And we love getting our version of Smurfs!
On the other hand, and as one friend confessed, "how many Darth Vader pins can one
person wear?" If you are a casual collector, it is possible to have too much of a
good thing. Even maniacal collectors like the occasional mundane present. You also must
know a person pretty well before you would want to spring for an expensive addition to
their collecting. If the collector has been collecting for many years, the danger is
always great that she/he will already have acquired that item. If you can find it, so can they
and probably in mint condition.
The most satisfying use of collectibles as gifts may be for you to just use them when
the opportunity presents itself, when the match between the object and the giftee seems
right. The trick is to know a potential gift when you see it, and act!
Its Holiday Time and I need presents!
No one says you have to buy gifts just when you need them. Part of the pleasure of
buying collectibles for others is being freed from the tyranny of shopping at the last
minute. When you see just the right piece, at the right price for your gift-buying budget,
you should buy it, then and there. Then stash it away for the appropriate moment.
But what if you have not thought ahead? For well-known and nationally distributed
collectibles, try local gift stores and gift/art galleries. You can find Real Musgrave
Pocket Dragons, any number of plates, figurines, cottages/houses, ornaments,
as well as Gurneys Dinotopia signed books and posters. For specialty items,
miniatures, models and the like, you can try gaming or comic stores, hobby shops, regional
science fiction/fantasy conventions, or niche conventions (Dr. Who, Star Trek,
etc.) For historical items or more esoteric collectibles, you will need to visit
mainstream antique and collectibles shows, collectibles expos, and dealers who specialize
in such items. Several times I have been called by friends and relatives of collectors who
ask for my help in finding an appropriate gift. Most have a modest budget. When I can, I
help to locate something suitable. I especially enjoy taking on the challenge when the
collector is already a client, for I know full well exactly what the collector likes and
covets! Finally, for surprisingly interesting items at affordable prices, there is nothing
like local garage/yard sales, local auctions, estate sales, and school book sales.
Remember that art and collectibles do not go on sale the way that everyday
commercial products do, nor are they likely to rise in price just before major holidays
when shoppers are out in force. The most critical factor affecting prices of collectibles
is supply and demand.
The combination of an influx of new fans hungry for science fiction/fantasy items,
combined with older collectors with fond memories of science fiction from them youth
hungry for original merchandise, has resulted in tremendous recent interest in many
science fiction/fantasy collectibles. Both categories of collectors have driven up the
prices, but will this last? However much science fiction fans try to downplay the impact
of trends in the greater collectibles marketplace, fads and buying trends do tend
to be cyclical and are impacted by larger market forces.
It is best not to think in terms of worth or investment when buying or giving a gift;
you cannot control either the future value of the item or its condition. If your budget
can afford it, buy it. And it is healthier not to dwell on how that Darth Vader ceramic
mug by Sigma, already valued at $302, will be worth a fortune some day.
Otherwise, after gifting it to your younger brother you will find yourself lunging at him
every time he uses it.
You do not have to buy the real McCoy in order to make a hit with your gift. Some
collectibles are just too expensive or fragile to make reasonable holiday presents. But
there are alternatives. I call these collateral gifts because, while they are
not exactly the thing the giftee is collecting, they are supportive of the collection, or
related in such a way to the main collectible so as to be perfectly acceptable as gifts.
Plus, they are often surprisingly affordable. Sample items in this category are:
|books (also book marks, book bags, auction catalog subscriptions, book ends, book
|presentation or storage containers (frames, albums, carrying cases, protective bags)|
|gift certificates (for hobby shops, book stores, etc.)|
|entertaining, educational items related to the collections (for example, videos,
how-to workshops, memberships in clubs, posters, magazine subscriptions3)|
|functional/miscellaneous (for example: clothing, desk accessories, stationary)|
A final note: many times, the effect of giving collectibles as gifts are lost on the
recipient because we are shy about disclosing background information, or reticent to make
clear that the item is not what I cent to make clear that the item is not what it seems.
Thanks to mass marketing, we have learned to be ashamed of gifts purchased at flea markets
even though these are just the places where we are likely to turn up highly
desirable collectibles. But, if you are giving a strange and collectible gift, it behooves
you to present it properly, and with appropriate instructions, to diminish the probability
of misunderstanding, mishandling, or destruction.
Action figures in their original packaging, for example, demand huge premiums at
least two to three times as much as loose figures. Also, items must be in top condition -
or very close to it - to retain collectible prices. If you know that, but
chances are your gift recipient wont, doesnt it make sense to alert them?
If the giftee is not a collector, instructions for cleaning, polishing, storing, even
displaying the article should be included. If the item should NOT be dusted, or washed, or
repaired, make that clear. If identification of the object is missing, or it may not be
obvious to the recipient, you should spell out all details on an enclosure. Uncle Harold
may otherwise be highly insulted by your "old broken toy."
Should the wrapping give clues to the contents? That is for you to decide. One nice
twist is to use collectible containers or packaging to present everyday gifts
(and vice versa, for those flea market finds). Or, make a statement by wrapping everything
in science fiction-themed wrapping paper. Just be forewarned: original Star Wars
wrapping paper is worth $204. So, dont wrap a $5.00 wool muffler for Aunt
Harriet in it. l
1,2,4 - prices courtesy of TODAY'S COLLECTOR,
3 - the author suggests a subscription to Strange New Worlds as a collateral
gift for a collector. See inside front cover for subscription information.
Where to shop online for Science Fiction TV and Movie collectibles:
Articles by Jane Frank written for Strange New Worlds:
Fantasy and Science Fiction Art Books by Jane Frank:
Frank Collection A legendary SF&F art collection,
containing the largest assortment of fantastic art in the world includes the most
celebrated names in the field: Earl Bergey, John Berkey, Chesley Bonestell, Margaret
Brundage, Frank Frazetta, H.R. Giger, Frank R. Paul, J.K. Potter, Boris Vallejo, and many
others. 112 pages (all in color). Hardcover.|
Art of Richard Powers "I think
Richard Powers was one of the most original artists to enter the science fiction field,
which he shook up considerably ... I am happy to see this collection of Richard Powers's
outstanding work." Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Hardcover, 128 pages (all in
Fantasy Art Themes from the Frank Collect 128 pages (all in color),
hardcover. Available in May, 2003. Order now and save.|