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Gerald Tebben

Five Facts

Gerald Tebben

Gerald Tebben, a Coin World columnist for more than 30 years, also contributes to Coin World’s Coin Values and edits the Central States Numismatic Society’s journal, The Centinel. He collects coins that tell stories.

Coin World’s bloggers are not edited by Coin World’s editorial staff and blog posts reflect the views of the individual author.

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Archive for 'August 2015'

    The collectible that smells

    August 28, 2015 12:31 PM by
    In the early 1970s, when my wife and I were young and poor, Olga sold Avon products door-to-door in our Ohio State University campus-area neighborhood.

    “Avon calling” was the company’s advertising catchphrase, and women brought the firm’s lotions, perfumes and beauty products in their homes, much to our good fortune.

    In the 1960s, the company’s marketing focus shifted from products to packaging. Aftershave might be sold in a bottle made to look like a car one month and a fish the next.  

    Customers began buying the products for the bottles. The bottles themselves moved out of the bathroom and onto display shelves in the living room. Collectors followed. Production increased to meet expanding demand. Collectors started chasing vintage bottles from the 1950s – produced before the collecting frenzy began. Prices rose.

    Price guides, with often wishful-thinking values, were produced by several publishers. Sellers moved the bottles to the front of their displays. Avon was hot – until it wasn’t.

    In the 1980s, the market dissipated. Today more than 7,000 Avon bottles are listed on eBay. Most have no bids. The few that do sell go for a few cents to a few dollars each. 

    This summer the Central Ohio Numismatic Association’s club auction featured a 1970s Avon aftershave in a bottle shaped like an 1877 Indian head cent. It sold for a buck amid much joking about what it must smell like.

    An article in the Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call a few years ago noted, “Smell aside, what should you do with your bottles? Junking them is a very viable approach. If you have a garage sale scheduled in the months ahead, put them in a box with a sign reading ‘Your Choice: 50 cents.’ Have two other signs in reserve, one reading ‘Your Choice: 25 cents’ and the other reading ‘Free For The Taking.’ "
    Next: I’ll drink to that

    It’s all beans

    August 21, 2015 2:35 PM by
    In 1999, theater students at Fort Hayes High School in Columbus, Ohio, were raising money for a summer trip to Scotland by holding benefit performances, bake sales, a grand yard sale and even an auction of donated items.

    As I recall, I donated some old coins. A lawyer put up a will. Several artists offered their work. What I remember most, though, was a dear girl who placed her Beanie Baby collection in the auction.

    Beanie Babies were “the thing” in the 1990s. They were (and still are) hand-size toy animals stuffed with plastic pellets – their namesake beans. Each came with a heart-shaped hangtag. Experts could discern which factory produced the toy and when by deciphering such things as the spacing of the wording on the tag. 

    Prices skyrocketed as more as more people chased sometimes-elusive versions of the animals. Some were produced for just a few months before being “retired,” in the language of the day. A 1997 “commemorative” bear honoring Diana, princess of Wales, after her death was especially sought after, jumping from an issue price of $5 to several hundred dollars. When McDonald’s offered 100 million tiny versions of Beanie Babies as a promotion for its children’s Happy Meals, adults stormed the stores.

    In 1998, the fad’s peak year, Ty Inc. sold $1.3 billion of the toys to retailers.

    Les and Sue Fox, known to coin collectors for their “Fortune Telling” silver dollar books of the 1970s, even produced The Beanie Baby Handbook, a catalog that showed number made, issue price, 1998 price and estimated 2008 price.

    The Foxes advised, “Basically, if you can afford to do this, simply putting away five or ten of each and every new Beanie Baby in super mint condition isn’t a bad idea.”

    The book reported that a 1995 Stripes (The Dark Tiger) toy, issued for $5, was worth $250 in 1998 and would be worth $1,000 in 2008.  

    In 1999 the Beanie Baby craze went bust. The valuable toys the high school student donated were worth next to nothing by the time of the auction. 

    Today the toys turn up on eBay with great frequency. Princess Diana bears are priced from 99 cents to $500,000. Of 361 Diana bears listed in early August, only nine had bids. Of the few bears that sell, most go for just a few dollars. 

    Next: The collectible that smells


    August 17, 2015 10:55 AM by

    Coins are often unfairly classified as collectibles.

    Collectibles are made specifically to be collected. They have little to no utility. You take them home and put them on the shelf where they gather dust for decades. Or maybe you carefully store them in a climate-controlled dry place in their original boxes along with their all-important certificates of authenticity for decades. You hope, vainly in almost every case, that they will appreciate in value. Because if you were foolish enough to buy them in the first place, there surely must be a greater fool somewhere willing to pay more than you did.
    Coins, on the other hand, are made to serve commerce. For most of the 2,500-plus years coins have been minted, they have had an intrinsic or metal value that approached or equaled their face value. While coins can be collected, to my mind they are not collectibles. 
    In the next few weeks I’m going to explore the world of collectibles, focusing on five heavily promoted products from the past 50 years, including one numismatic one. From an investment perspective, four of the five went bust. The fifth – the numismatic one – actually provided a fair return, but not for the reason promoters advanced all those years ago. If you’re middle-aged or better or have walked through a flea market or antique mall, you’ve probably seen them all and wondered why anyone ever thought those things would be worth anything at all.
    Feel free to comment in the comments section with your guesses and experiences.
    Next: It’s all beans