New and experienced hobbyists are always searching for new things to collect.. Browse the extensive list below for some great ideas so you can begin your collection.
1. Sports Cards
This is typically the first thing that comes to mind when people think of things to collect. Sports cards have been around for decades and offer choices for nearly any budget. Movies, television shows, and pop culture figures have routinely (especially in the 80s) had their fair share of trading cards manufactured. While these have maintained a nice niche in the hobby, sports cards remain a dominant force in the collectible market.
Collecting coins gained a lot of momentum when the US Mint began releasing the 50 States quarters. Numismatists can collect change but most serious about the hobby end up devoting a considerable amount of money to their collections. Because of the wide variety of coins it is easy for collectors to identify a niche (specific coins, years, mints, countries, etc.) and begin collecting. Like trading cards, this is one of the most popular things to collect.
The great thing about collecting matchbooks is that they are typically given away and often serve as a journal or diary of your travels and habits. Restaurants, hotels, and lounges most commonly give away matchbooks. Recent smoking bans have cut into the number of places giving matchbooks out but you can still readily find them. Most collectors prefer to display their matchbooks in a clear vase for all to view. A great choice of something free to collect.
Stamps are another fun example of something free to collect. Even some junk mail has real stamps and while most are the typical American flag, some are variations. The USPS sells a surprising variety of stamps and the artwork is often impressive. There are also very fun topics set on stamps such as sports, public figures, animals, state specific stamps, and musicians. If you think you may be interested in stamps as something to collect, check out the USPS website for some information on their collecting clubs.
Spoons are an antiquated thing to collect, not many young people do it. In spite of their waning popularity, commemorative spoons are still a sought after collectible. Collectible spoons have been displayed in wooden cabinets for decades and often commemorate important events or states. Likely the most popular form of collecting spoons in to find one for each state you visit. As with anything, they can be found on the Internet. Or you can visit gift shops and even gas stations for collectible spoons.
6. Zippo Lighters
There are an endless variety of Zippo lighters. Some custom made and some served as promotional material for old businesses. From military themes to real silver cases, collectors can find one-of-a-kind Zippo lighters to fill their collection. While collecting these lighters won’t break the bank, they do require some initial investment and aren't given away. Not just smokers collect Zippos and they are a surprisingly popular thing to collect.
Most people who buy whiskey, drink it. Some choose to collect it, similar to the way wine collections have grown in popularity. Craft distilleries are more and more popular across the United States and consumers are being introduced to high-end, expensive varieties of whiskey. For the whiskey connoisseur there is an endless variety of new and old whiskey available. This is another thing to collect that will likely cost you a bit of money. Most collectible whiskey doesn't sell for less than $50 a bottle and it is common for serious collectors to drop hundreds on a highly regarded batch.
Wine is collected as a status symbol and a consumable. Like whiskey, collecting great wine is often expensive. Prudent collectors can find great deals since the number of stateside wineries has increased markedly in the past 30 years. One important consideration when thinking about collecting wine is storage space. Old wine needs to be stored at specific temperatures and humidity levels in order to maintain flavor and composition. Ensure that you have enough space for the collection you want before buying. And always keep in mind, the best things to collect can be drank.
Some collect art as an investment and some collect because it looks good. Investing in art is quite expensive but great works can be had for reasonable sums. Check out local or regional artists in your area to find better deals. Find art that is important to you for whatever reason and will be a welcome addition to your decor.
10. Action Figures
Over the years action figures have gone from toys to well-crafted works of art. Some newer action figures are made by hand and limited to production runs of 25 to 100. Comic book heros and villans account for most of the subject matter in action figure. There are also collectible action figures made of characters with no pop culture reference. This is one of those things to collect that can be cheap or expensive. Older and newer models can be found (in varying conditions) for a wide variety of prices.
11. Smurf Figurines
I think these were once so popular as to be given away in McDonalds Happy Meals. A little research will show that there are hundreds and hundreds of different Smurf collectibles manufactured through multiple decades and from various countries. The list of different Smurf collectible characters is surprisingly large would accommodate a wealth of different collecting preferences. This is again another thing to collect that offers individuals many different budget choices. Rare figures can demand hundreds of dollars but most can be had for less than $20 and often around $5.
12. Happy Meal Toys
There is a small group of collectors who focus on Happy Meal toys. The genre is somewhat small but there is a devoted group of hobbyists. This is one of the easier things to collect because you can find them quite cheaply online. There are many large lots on eBay and collectors can find samples at garage sales and flea markets. In the realm of things to collect this may not be the most popular but it is certainly worth checking out.
A little unknown thing to collect, postcards are very fun to gather. They are affordable and the older variations are quite unique. Newer postcards are actually quite bland compared to the more antiquated versions. Like some of the other things to collect on this list, postcards can be purchased in large lots online for not too much money. There are thousands of different subjects found on postcards which gives collectors many options for niches to explore within the hobby.
Old magazines are a favorite of many collectors. Many people like to find magazines from the day of their birth or from a day of an important anniversary. Given the fact that this is not one of the more common things to collect, you will have to look online for most samples. What collectors love most about this hobby is that the magazines are a glimpse into the past. Even the advertisements are period specific and appeal to hobbyists. Some people even sell old magazines online to make money.
15. Comic Books
Comics are one of the most popular things to collect. Some collectors buy for the enjoyment of reading and others collect for investment. Identify which genre of comics you like most and explore some options. Most towns and cities have a comic book stores. Some general book stores and grocers even carry comic books. Vintage comics will demand a premium investment while more current and less popular titles will be quite affordable.
At first, pens seem like one of the sillier things to collect. Some light research will show that there is a large group of people who enjoy collecting pens. Some collectors focus on fancy, fountain pens and others focus on promotional pens. Promotional pens are those found given away at banks and other businesses. The appeal there is to find old pens with logos and images from now defunct organizations. A quick eBay search will present numerous results of both expensive and affordable collectible pens.
17. Beer Steins
For the beer lover, collecting beer steins is a fantastic hobby. This is one of those things to collect that (like wine) requires a lot of space, especially if you wish to present them. Collectible beer steins are very large but practical. Most steins require special cleaning but nearly all steins are usable. If you are a fan of practical things to collect, consider beer steins.
18. Salt & Pepper Shakers
I have seen some very large salt and pepper shaker collections. They have been manufactured for decades and newer styles are still being made. There are rare styles and affordable shakers as well. Collectors can even find large lots on resale websites to get them started quickly. Like beer steins, salt and pepper shakers are one of the things to collect that can be used.
19. Still Banks
The term still bank is used to describe a non moving bank, one with no moving parts. There is a small but dedicated group of collectors throughout the country. Still banks are typically cast iron so there aren’t many cheap options. Most still banks on the low end start at about $25. Prices can reach into the hundreds. Still banks are quite heavy and require substantial presentation space. For collectors looking for a practical hobby, consider collecting still banks.
20. Mechanical Banks
Mechanical banks are simply those that move. Sometimes movement is arbitrary and other times the coin is moved into a storage area by the bank. Like still banks, mechanical banks are often made of cast iron and are heavy. Mechanical banks can be found for sometimes as little as $25-$40. Older vintage versions are quite expensive. If you are looking for bargains, try finding some broken mechanical banks.
21. Vintage Lighters
Watch any older film and you’ll see some very unusual looking lighters. Creative cigarette lighters are not manufactured much anymore so this hobby is relegated to those who appreciate antiques. The older and more niche, the more expensive the lighter will be. You don’t have to be a smoker to enjoy this hobby.
22. Cigarette Cases
Like lighters, cigarette cases aren’t manufactured much anymore. You can still find a great deal of older version for not too much money. Hobbyists appreciate collecting cigarette cases because they are practical and keep their value. As long as there are smokers there will be a market for cigarette cases. There are also very rare versions available for the serious collectors.
Like most smoking memorabilia, ashtrays are not as common as they used to be. There are still a large number of affordable trays for collectors. This is another one of those practical things to collect since you can use it. If you choose to begin collecting ashtrays, be sure not to overlook the vintage standing ashtrays of the 1930’s. Even if you don’t smoke, these are a great conversation piece in any home.
24. Cigar Boxes
Collectible cigar boxes range from typical one dollar types to sterling silver models in the thousands. Collectors love cigar boxes because of the smell, practicality (they can be filled with stuff), and their re-gifting purposes. Gifts of cigars are often given in vintage cigar boxes. Older versions are delicate and prone to tearing so they require specific handling and storage.
25. Video Games
Older video games and gaming systems have gone from antiquated toy to collectible. Serious gamers have begun collecting foreign versions of games and those that experienced short production runs and are therefore rare. If you are looking for great things to collect in the gamer sector, check out some rare versions of games you love.
26. PEZ Dispensers
The candy isn’t very good. I bet if they made some good tasting candy to go in those plastic dispensers the hobby would blow up. As it stands, collecting PEZ dispensers is still a niche hobby. Not many people build large collections and if they do it doesn’t end up being used practically. Most PEZ dispensers are pretty affordable but some of the much older samples can run into the hundreds of dollars. Like most of the items on this list of things to collect, I suggest purchasing a large, affordable lot to get started.
Collecting guns is mostly for those interested in shooting. Different states have varying requirements regarding collecting guns but it can be very addictive. Once hobbyists begin shooting, there is a natural curiosity toward how other guns shoot. Most have a preference toward handguns or rifles so if you’re interested, one good starting point would be to identify a favorite type of gun. Fortunately, even some older guns are affordable, which offers gun collectors a great deal of leeway.
Most mug collectors target the obscure. Obscure mug collections often contain pieces with promotional images; those promoting local or regional businesses or organizations. Collecting mugs is a fairly cheap hobby. Some are expensive but the pricey ones are relegated to those that contain precious metal (typically silver) or extremely old ones. If you are interested in collecting mugs, think about something that interests you and there is probably a large collection of mugs related to that. This is one of my favorite cheap options on this list of things to collect.
29. Casino Chips
Most casino chip collectors are gamblers but not all. Like most of the items on this list of things to collect, very rare and antiquated casino chips are quite expensive. More modern samples are affordable. This is one hobby that collectors love because of the thrill of the hunt. Hobbyists can play some games at casinos across a number of different states on vacation and passively generate a sizeable collection. Be aware though that collecting casino chips can be a pretty in-depth hobby. Casinos issue and reissue styles of chips and savvy collectors can identify more expensive variations. If you choose to target this hobby from our list of things to collect, be sure you know what you’re buying before you commit.
30. Wine Corks
Wine corks are not bought and sold so much as they are a product of the experience of drinking wine. Many consider collecting wine corks to be a form of scrap booking. Don’t expect to find a great deal of corks for sale. Also, don’t expect your used corks to be worth anything. Still, wine corks are a great free thing to collect. There are also a great deal of crafts you can make with wine corks.
31. Snow Globes
Snow globes are another on the list of things to collect that can act as a record of your travels. They are also heavily collected and can often be found in limited runs and rare numbers. Simple searches online turn up very rare snow globes that demand thousands of dollars on the open market. Still, there are very affordable collections out there for the passive hobbyist. Some of the most expensive collections are focused around Disney films. Snow globes are a really fun thing to collect and if you can grab them along your travels, start a great snow globe collection.
32. Playing Cards
Playing cards, like mugs, typically draw considerable interest if they feature regional or local businesses or organizations. Some very old or otherwise rare decks demand hundreds among collectors. Since playing with cards marrs the corners, it isn’t common for expensive samples to be used in games. Many collectors do choose to play with their collectible playing cards. Since playing cards can be used consistently, they make this list of popular things to collect.
It may seem odd, but there are a great many people who collect pencils. Many hobbyists would be surprised to discover how many pencils command such high prices. Older mechanical pencils are often some of the most expensive pencils in the hobby. You can also find custom pencils that feature old football, baseball and basketball teams. Some older pencil boxes and sharpeners also appeal to collectors. If you do choose to collect pencils I recommend finding a great storage device for them and then going from there.
34. Business Cards
It isn’t easy to find real vintage business cards for sale. Business cards are mostly collected over time in a scrapbooking fashion. This is one of the great free things to collect and the collections can grow quickly. Many people don’t give out business cards anymore unless you ask. It isn’t very personal to simply purchase large lots of business cards online (though it is possible) but some collectors still rake in the numbers with large online lots. If you’re looking to get started collecting business cards you may want to target a large collection and go from there.
Clock collectors typically begin because they have the space to display them. Not many clock collectors begin without some display space. Most clock collectors either focus on hanging or tabletop clocks. There are also moving and non-moving clocks. Grandfather clocks are also a collectible but not as prominent since they take up so much space. Think about where you have the most space and move on from there if you are thinking of collecting clocks.
36. Key Chains
Some key chains are made of silver or gold and require a considerable investment. Aside from those made with precious metals and gems, those made by designers (Louis Vuitton, etc.) are quite expensive as well. Others can be purchased in large lots. Most collectors focus on a scrapbooking method and as such there isn’t much of market for collectible keychains. Still, it serves as an affordable and fun item on this list of things to collect. Like snow globes, you can purchase key chains to document your travels and as souvenirs for others.
Hat collections vary in size and type but are a hobby for many different kinds of people. Some sports fans like to collect obscure versions of logos and hats from teams that are now defunct. Other hat collections focus more on design and contain samples from popular hat manufacturers Goorin Brothers and Jaxon. Many women collect hats that are flamboyant and not worn outside of a few yearly events (the Kentucky Derby for instance). If you are going to begin collecting hats, first identify what your favorite type of hat is to wear.This way you can begin something that has practical value and can be used regularly.
38. Bottle Caps
Beer lovers tend to keep caps from some of their favorite brews. Young college students merely drop bottle caps in large clear containers to show how much they’ve drank. There is also a very small, niche market for those seeking bottle caps from old drinks that are no longer in production. While bottle caps aren’t necessarily free, it is something to collect that doesn’t really cost you any extra outside of your initial drink purchase. If you’re a fan of craft soda or beer, consider collecting bottle caps for fun.
With the advent of cheap, in-home pin making machines, there is an unlimited supply of one-of-a-kind pins to collect. The first pin collectors focused on political pins from campaigns of previous years. I have an old Nixon pin from years ago. As with many choices on this list of things to collect, pins are practical and can be used regularly. Many collectors prefer to display their pins periodically on their clothing instead of in a case or shelf. Remember that pins are also a great gift. They’re often small, unique, and affordable.
40. Lunch Boxes
Authentic antique lunch boxes in great condition are quite expensive. More modern versions are made of metal and meant to look like issues from decades ago. Collectible lunch boxes began as promotional items for popular children’s shows and characters. As their popularity grew, promotions focused on the young adult crowd as bands (such as the Beatles) began to be featured on collectible lunch boxes. These days you can find lunch boxes with images ranging from new sitcoms, cartoons and movies to popular bands and sports teams. When beginning a lunch box collection it is important to set a budget because of the significant price differences between antique and modern versions.
41. Old Pictures
This is one of the more weird things people collect. Some hobbyists choose to collect old pictures of other people. Old pictures can be found at antique stores, at estate sales and online. The appeal is varying. Some appreciate having photos that will never be made again given the unique photo paper. Others like collecting black and white images that seems silly or are from a given space (like old beach photos or old photos where cars are visible). Whatever your motivation, you will need to dig deep to find good samples of old pictures to collect.
Cuckoo clocks are a very popular clock to collect. Some hobbyists choose to collect any clock that strikes their eye when they are shopping. For those who have the display or storage space, grandfather clocks are also a popular collectible. One reason that this is a popular item on the list of things to collect is that clocks are practical and meant to be displayed. It is not uncommon to find clocks in every room of the house so wall space is often already accounted for.
43. Cassette Tapes
Cassette tapes are still manufactured but on a very small scale and only in niche markets. They aren’t too much cheaper than CDs but some bands still like to use them for their kitsch value. Cassette players are no longer installed in vehicles and often lower the value. Still, many hobbyists like to collect mix tapes and original cassette releases. Some music lovers who came of age in an era of cassettes appreciate the sound of tapes just as an older generation appreciates the sound of records. Collecting cassette tapes is not common but certainly has cemented it’s place on this list of things to collect.
44. VHS Tapes
Many VHS collectors are Disney lovers. As DVDs became popular, VHS versions of popular cartoon releases were modified and never released in their original format. Also, Disney movies are not released with regularity. The company chooses to ‘open the vaults’ at various times to generate a collectible market for the movies. You can still find new VHS players for sale but I recommend against the VHD/DVD combo players since they are notorious for malfunctioning. One appeal for VHS collecting is that they can be found for so cheap. It is even common to find people simply giving their collections away to make space in their homes. If you do choose to start collecting VHS tapes, check online sites like Freecycle and CraigsList for people giving away collections.
45. Shot Glasses
Shot glasses can be found in any tourist souvenir shop and are practical. Collectors can find display cases for their shot glasses or they can just stack them and stash them in the cabinet. Shot glasses can feature everything from sports teams, cartoons, TV shows, bands, and vacation destinations. If you choose to begin collecting shot glasses, know that those with embossed images or writing may be damaged in the dishwasher. Wash all of you collectible shot glasses in the sink just to be safe.
46. Hummel Figurines
Hummel figurines have waned in popularity in recent years but hobbyists are still drawn to the hobby. The more rare pieces are quite expensive but you can start a respectable Hummel collection for a reasonable amount of money. Hummel figurines most commonly feature children (very similar to the Precious Moments collectibles). Authentic Hummel figurines are manufactured in Germany and today can be found for under $50 (for most models).
47. Cheap Gemstones
There are more than just diamonds and rubies out there. Many jewelry collectors who don’t have tens of thousands to spend, focus on the more affordable gems. These loose gems can be found at jewelry wholesalers and online. As with any gem or jewelry hobby, be sure to purchase from reputable sellers and preferably in person. To understand rarity and value before beginning your gemstone collection, review a book on the subject (such as the Smithsonian Handbook of Gemstones).
48. Teacups and Saucers
Mostly reserved for tea lovers, the collecting of saucers and teacups is understandably more popular in Europe. Still, sizeable collections and a decent market for them can be found in the states. Given their limited popularity, older versions are often quite affordable. I highly recommend you explore this entry on our list of things to collect if you are a fan of tea or coffee.
49. Nerf Guns
It may surprise you to know that there are some very serious collectors of Nerf guns out there. Some serious Nerf collectors have found and bought every single gun manufactured under the Nerf logo. Because the company has so many different releases and because there are so many discontinued varieties, it is easy to build a sizeable collection of rare and semi-rare pieces. Keep in mind that these guns take up a considerable amount of space and will typically cost between $10 and $100.
Insects may seem like an odd addition to our list of things to collect but they are a nice aesthetic when mounted appropriately and hung as decoration. I highly recommend purchasing samples that are already framed since frames and framing services are so expensive. Also, be sure they are under glass to avoid any parts of them breaking off due to incidental contact.
Many collectors and hobbyists find collecting books to be satisfying. It is important to note that the majority of books do not hold collectible value at all. First editions and printings are one of the more popular things to collect but outside of those first printings, there isn't much of a market. Still, if you enjoy reading books you may want to co
This is a list of 50 things to collect and I will add more to this list as I think of them. If I forgot some things to collect, add them in the comments section.