How to Make Money on Money: 5 Hot Collectibles to Buy Now

Collect antique and vintage "currencies" - to sell or to hold as investments as the turbulent economy continues to Here are 5 antique "currency" collectibles that are likely to make money for you - now and in the future. Our economy continues to rock 'n roll, but these 5 categories are likely to increase in real value over time. It's Money, Honey!
If you're a veteran collector like I am, you know that the greatest collectibles are those that are hardest to find (following the supply/demand theory) and those that  are just about ready to pop! The very best way to invest or re-sell as a collector is to identify the right stuff before the rest of the world starts collecting or hoarding it. If you're ready to start collecting now, or even if you're already knee deep in Barbie dolls or fountain pens, get ready to jump on the Currency Band Wagon. There's money to be made in the near future in antique/vintage "Currencies". And the items I've listed are still generally reasonable in price.  Here are  my predictions for five cash-equivalent antique and vintage "currency" items once used for trade, payments and discounts, likely to grow in demand and value.  They are, in general, chronological order: 1. Trade Beads: The term "Trade Beads" typically applies to antique beads made largely in Venice, Bohemia and other European countries from the late 1400s  to the early 1900s and largely traded in Africa and the Americas.The heyday of this "trade" period went from the 1850s through the early 1900s, when millions of these beads were produced and traded in Africa (so many long gone). The Venetians produced the majority of the beads sold during this time (which is why they are often composed of glass). Remember the story about how Manhattan was sold for a handful of beads? (purely a myth, according to some). But you get the picture.  In many countries, beads are still used as a type of currency. They also became popular in the U.S. during the 1960s Hippie days, when they were known as "Love Beads" (not usually traded, but worn to show, peace, love & harmony). Today antique beads, including the authentic vintage hippie varieties,  are more popular and collectible than ever. The highly-prized antique Amber beads from the early 1900s sell for as much as $1000 on eBay. On that auction site, you'll find a wide array of less-expensive trade beads if you'd like to wear them or start a collection. If you're thinking about collecting, I'd recommend scouting for the oldest, more valuable, harder-to-find variety. These are most likely to increase in value.

2. Trade Tokens: Tokens often took the place of money - particularly in locations outside where there were no banks (like forts and new settlements in the 1700s and 1800s). Trade tokens have been used in the U.S. since the late 1800s (1885) when merchants  from all over the U.S started circulating  them as a form of advertising (known as chit, or as "good for's). Tokens also became a sort of buyer's promotional bonus. When a customer bought something, they were given a token that resembled a coin. On one side was the name of the business, address, location. On the reverse, phrases like "good for 5¢ in trade" or "good for 1 cigar" were often found. When the customers returned to the store, tokens in hand, they were given credit or their purchase was discounted by the amount stated on the token, once they turned it in.  The sizes, shapes and materials used to make trade tokens varied, ranging from smaller than a dime to larger than a silver dollar. Common shapes were round, square, scalloped, oval and rectangular. (The majority were round.) Although most tokens were made of bronze or aluminum, you could also find them in paper,zinc, copper and metal combos (bronze and aluminum). Tokens are rather difficult to find - especially in legible condition. But there are many different collectibles to dabble in  - including locations (Ohio or Michigan,say) merchandise varieties and composition  Do not confuse this variety of tokens with "love tokens" which are a completely separate category (often jewelry); the "currency" there is for affection, not money. Common currency merchandise tokens you might look for in a "good for" collectible token include cigars, a pint or a quart of milk, a shave, or a drink, etc. Many other tokens to be found  include those for a box of peaches or cranberries,a card game, a loaf of bread, and so on.  The more unusual the token's  merchandise, shape, and/or denomination, the more valuable. Tokens aren't easy to find, but if you run across a nice cache of them - snap them up! Their value will increase many times over what they once promised. I recently saw one drug store token that sold for $256  at auction (it offered a free glass of soda water) and other trade tokens for sale, going back as far as 1797. Check out your local antique mall or auction site, if you're interested. I am.

3. Vintage Poker chips: Vintage poker chips have been manufactured or hand-crafted  since the late 1800s. Before they were manufactured, poker players used whatever they had in their pockets to ante (sometimes even gold nuggets or coins). But in the late 1800s, clay chips, with many interesting designs, were introduced to gambling poker players. The chips came in a wide variety of colors - and, of course, the most valuable are the more intricate and unusual designs (such as inlaid hearts, art deco graphics, and so on). Also popular, and even more valuable are  ivory (or scrimshaw poker chips, pre-Ivory ban), and those made of bakelite (often in plain or swirled red, gold, green). The ivory and bakelite chips are the most valuable today - but you can still find them priced fairly reasonable on eBay or antique stores. Collectors also search for unusual graphics found on the clay chips - including bulldogs, scotties,owls, bowling pins and ball, golf clubs, race horses, Asia lettering and so on.  Plastic poker chips generally have little value, although poker chip containers (especially the round, revolving Mid-Century kind, have modest value). More recent chips (from the 1950s-90s) from Casinos that no longer exist in Las Vegas (The Dunes, The Stardust, The Last Frontier, etc) have growing investment value, not only for poker chip collectors but Las Vegas collectors,also. Once again, the older vintage chips, the better. If you can find antique or vintage poker chips from casinos elsewhere that no longer exist, you may reap an investment reward - but for now, Vegas seems to hold the most allure. 4. Depression-era scrip: During the first, 1930s Depression, the government, businesses and people issued a currency, known as "scrip" to keep businesses going when bank closings led to cash shortages. The law allowed businesses to issue scrip so long as the scrip did not resemble U.S. currency bills or were used as a replacement for U.S. money. Since the  most recent economic downturn, scrip has re-appeared.  Many communities (by one count, at least 75) have revived scrip to encourage shopping at local businesses. Scrip is sold at a discount (say $10 in scrip for $9) but can be spent for full value. Today, cities in Michigan, New York, North Carolina, and Massachusetts reportedly are trying this "currency" again.  Just like 70 year ago, the scrip bills cannot look like federal money or claim to be "legal tender,"  While currently-used scrip may have more value one day, it's the Great Depression, 1930s scrip you want to collect or sell. One Depression-era scrip  I found for sale was Poll Parrot shoe scrip; another was, believe it or not, for Limoges, Haviland China.  Scrip, like the other forms of "currency" mentioned  above interests collectors who specialize in collecting alternative types of money, but also those who collect  the merchandisse promoted - i.e., shoes or china, etc.  Other related "currency"  items to be on the lookout for now, include  unused, vintage food stamp coupons (even those from as late as the 1990s) and Depression-era, unemployed service books, where the jobless sold coupon books for a 50% commission. I've seen pretty good prices for vintage green and blue chip stamp books, as well. Once again, if you're collecting, the older scrip/coupons/trade stamps, the better. Also keep in mind, condition is very important in each of the categories mentioned. The less-used, more pristine items will always bring the premium values. 5. Obsolete currency (paper money): One of the most consistently good selling items on eBay appears to be obsolete currency - largely from the late 1700-1800s. Beautiful to look at;  finely and artistically engraved, these can be framed as art. But if you're collecting for value, you have to know your stuff (currency, that is) and know how to tell the authentic currency from the fakes.  If you have an interest in money/bills collecting, you can read all about obsolete currency on the internet, and even on eBay, where many of the bills are often offered and quickly sold. I'd get myself a collector's guide, if I wanted to go in this direction. Currently, there seems to be a great collector interest in failed banks and the Civil War obsolete currency, so there is more than one niche interested in this category. Collecting Trend: We are witnessing a radical sea-change in the value of money. I believe we are likely to see even more changes within the next year or so, as the economy continues to rock 'n roll.  As we absorb these changes, (money harder to find for loans; money harder to come by for jobs; money perhaps devalued as more is poured into the economy), some investors are likely to begin collecting antique and vintage "currency" where value fluctuates in only one direction - up.  The usual thought, during tough times, is to collect gold, silver, diamonds, art work, rare books - but these populist currency categories offer a "cheaper" way to get into an investor's market and watch it climb. With thanks to Kovel's newsletter, eBay and other internet auction sites, my own vintage poker chip collection, and various and sundry internet source references. 4.24.09


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Posted on Apr 24, 2009