Predict the next high-value collectible!

Eighty-five years ago, nobody had any clue Babe Ruth’s rookie card would be worth a fortune.

Ditto for sixty years ago, and the first issue of “Superman.”

Ditto forty years ago, and the first Beatles album.

Ditto twenty-five years ago, and an R2-D2 Star Wars figure, still in the package.

Now, of course, speculators sock away every comic book they can get their hands on, and every plastic action-figure, no matter how idiotic. And of course we have the “Beanie Baby” craze, among others. Seems to me the very value of the first-mentioned items is due to their rarity, because they were ubiquitous and taken for granted at the time, and nobody predicted anybody would be collecting them later. Now, of course, everybody and his brother, having “learned” from the Babe Ruth experience, is saving every single baseball card (and football, and basketball, etc.). But to my mind, they’re wasting their time. Lightning won’t strike twice; there will never be a market for those items, because awareness and wide collection of “known” items means there’ll just be too many of them. I have similar skepticism for people who are setting aside the new state quarters, for obvious reasons.

So here’s the fun part for Dopers: What unexpected trinket, or category of same, do you think will emerge as the next gold-mine collectible?

I’m not talking Antiques Roadshow here; somebody finds a Ming Dynasty dish in their attic, or an original sketch by Thomas Nast, it’ll be worth a lot whether ten years ago, now, or a hundred years in the future. I’m also not referring to items of obvious historical value, like presidential-campaign buttons or license plates, for which a limited market already exists. I’m talking those wacky things people formerly took for granted, but later come out of nowhere to emerge as serious collector’s items. I’m especially interested in the kinds of stuff that gets thrown away during moves, or dumped at garage sales, like a Franklin Mint “Star Trek” commemorative plate. The sillier the nomination, the better.

A few to get started:

Videotapes. How 'bout a Betamax tape of Tron? Think that’ll be worth something in twenty years?

Software. As far as I know, everybody who originally bought Infocom’s “Zork” immediately opened up the box and played it. Can you imagine someone with the foresight to have picked up a copy of “that stupid computer game” and stuck it in a safe for fifty years? Or someone who still has the pocket lint that came with their “Hitchhiker’s Guide” game?

Shoes. Think someone was smart enough to put a pair of the very first Nike athletic shoes, unopened and unworn, in their attic?

You can nominate something from a few years ago that might emerge as a collectible shortly, like “Zork,” or something that’s around us right this minute, that won’t be valuable for fifty or sixty years, like an unopened package of Post-It Notes.

Come on, let’s hear those ideas…

Pope action figures!

Straight Dope Coffee Mugs

Seat tickets to the John Aschcroft Attorney General confirmation hearings in the Senate. Man, that’s going to be a show…

For those wondering what the hell I’m talking about, Ashcroft, who has the second worst human rights record in the Senate (behind Jesse Helms), is not especially well-liked by his former Senate colleagues (he was beaten in the election by the deceased governor of Missouri, whose wife will serve his term). Not to put the point too broadly, we have a Christian Coalition member who is about as well liked by his as former colleagues as Phil Gramm. Much as the committee will probably still be mostly Republican, this is till going to be a fun hearing.

In fifty years, you can wave the ticket at former political junkies and yell “Hell, yeah, I was there!”

–Joseph Finn, who had a front-row seat, breast-feeding, in front of the TV while his mother watched the Watergate hearings. This explains a lot.

Erm…that should read “other political junkies.”

Sorry about that.

I work with a guy who collects and sells fountain pens. He went to a drugstore’s auction last year, and he bought all the pens, mechanical pencils, and bottled ink for about $300. In all it was worth about $4000.

Priced any sliderules lately?