In a book of his newspaper columns, Figler (Collecting for Beginners, 2011, etc.) offers practical help to amateurs and explores the wide and peculiar world of collectibles.
The author is a longtime collector of pop-culture artifacts whose finds now fill his Figler Museum in San Diego. Proceeds from the museum benefit the Figler Foundation, which raises money for medical research into cancer, heart disease and other conditions. Among his treasures are the original Casablanca film script, a copy of the first issue of Action Comics (in which Superman first appeared in 1938), a rare Honus Wagner baseball card, and, his pièce de résistance, a handwritten letter by every American president. His latest book is full of useful advice for beginners, and its conversational tone and bite-size articles make it an easy, pleasant read. Figler considers many different genres of collectibles, focusing especially on comic books, sports and other pop-culture memorabilia, but also highlighting more unusual items such as weathervanes, lunchboxes and bobblehead dolls. He notes that “Baby Boomers have been famous for being avid collectors” due to their nostalgia and keen curiosity, and in that vein, Figler celebrates collectibles as “talismans of time.” He discusses in-person and online auctions and how to evaluate items according to provenance, quality and rarity. An item’s condition, he writes, can make all the difference when pricing, so he urges serious collectors to acquire insurance and letters of authenticity for their items. Fascinating trivia abounds, such as the origin of the phrase “two cents worth” and the fact that golfer Tiger Woods’ memorabilia plummeted in value following revelations about his infidelity. Only very occasionally is the author’s approach too simplistic; most readers will already know about reserve prices, for example. The book’s format as a collection of columns means that information is often repeated, and many lists of rare items and their selling prices seem like filler. If the material had been arranged into longer, thematic chapters, it might have reduced such duplicate material and rendered it more readable to moderately interested nonprofessionals. Nevertheless, Figler’s enthusiasm is infectious, and anyone with a postage-stamp album in the attic will likely find some appealing passages here.
A lively, if occasionally repetitious, survey of the collecting hobby.