Taking My Hacks

The Watercooler Effect

Joe Orlando

As the hobby evolves and the market changes, particularly for high-end collectibles, it is interesting to compare the potential or futures of different collectible fields. There is so much to choose from when it comes to the world of collectibles. There are coins and stamps, comics and classic cars, currency and various kinds of art to name a few. Usually, tangibles seem to become more attractive at similar times, when the options for parking your money is limited or less appealing elsewhere.

So, how does our hobby stack up against the rest?

Personally, I think it stacks up favorably to many other collectible fields and for a number of reasons. Remember, our hobby is still wet behind the ears compared to most other fields. Some of the aforementioned hobbies are decades ahead of ours in terms of maturity, so we still have a long way to go. That said, the tide may be turning. Here's why.

When I was growing up, I can remember adults laughing at the sports, entertainment and historical fields and referring to them as less legitimate compared to those that had been around so much longer. It's almost as if they looked down on our side of the hobby as mere child's play, while they held their own hobbies in such high esteem ... worthy of serious consideration by serious buyers.

Things have changed.

Taking our personal interests out of the equation, let's place collectibles into perspective. A 1913 Liberty Head nickel is only a piece of metal, a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle is a piece of cardboard, an Abraham Lincoln autograph is just a smattering of ink, an Action Comics No. 1 is a bunch of bound paper and a Babe Ruth professional model bat is a piece of wood. All collectibles are just objects with little raw, material value, but that's not where the value comes from. It's the story, the meaning, the memories and the impact on our culture that can all help transform an ordinary object into a desirable collectible.

The paint and canvas used for a classic work of art aren't worth much until a genius bestows his touch. It may start out as a mere $5 worth of material, but after the artist creates a masterpiece, it may be worth $100 million or more. As hobbyists and buyers, we decide how desirable an item is over time with our wallets based on how interesting that item is to us, whether it's a Picasso or a contract signed by The Beatles.

Going back to our specific hobby ... here's what I love about the future of our chosen endeavor: the advantage of the watercooler effect. Now most people don't gather at the watercooler at work the way they used to. I am just using that term to make a point. Whether you are at the watercooler, a bar, hanging out with friends at the beach or with family at a barbeque, what do people love talking about? They talk about the game last night, comparisons between athletes from different eras, the movie they saw last weekend, the song they just heard on the radio, the last episode of their favorite show and so on.

Our entire culture, not just our hobby, centers around that kind of talk.

Other collectible fields do not have that advantage or appeal to the average person. Our hobby does and, in my opinion, it bodes well for our future. There is no reason that our hobby should take a backseat to any other field. After all, collectibles are just "stuff," but our stuff is pretty darn interesting to a lot of people.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
PSA President