The Next “Big Thing” In Collecting? Historical Markers

The Next “Big Thing” In Collecting? Historical Markers

Looking to catch the wave of the next “big thing” in collecting?  That is, the “it” collectible?  Consider collecting historical markers.

To Die For Collectibles has coined the term “historical markers” to describe a coming surge, or wave, in collecting.  What, you are probably asking, is a historical marker?

The concept is actually quite simple.  A historical marker is a collectible that marks a date, event, or historic occurrence in history.  That is, the collectible acts as a historical marker that is forever linked to a specific date, event, or historic outcome.  

Historical markers are valued not just because of the event or date contained on the marker, but also because we connect with them emotionally, must like a hit song from our youth.  One look at a historical marker can trigger emotional connections to a first girlfriend, favorite band, or championship team/event.  (In my case, those connections would be to Taylor Marie during 6th grade, my favorite group The Beatles, or the Super Bowl XXXII Champion Denver Broncos led by John Elway.)

Check out these examples of historical markers (some briefly discussed in previous blogs):

  • Unused tickets or ticket stubs.  The historical marker is literally what is printed on the ticket.  Imagine how cool it is to look back at a ticket and recall your first concert or your favorite team’s first championship.
  • Programs for sports events, concerts/tours and Broadway playbills.  Beyond commemorating a specific date/event, programs often contain a time capsule of advertising (from the time when the event occurred) as well as line-ups containing the names of star players, musicians or actors.
  • Buttons & Bumper Stickers.  What better way to commemorate a favorite team, event (like a Super Bowl), concert act, or politician, than a bumper sticker or button?  They’re easy to display and aesthetically pleasing.
  • Framed Concert or Event Posters.  Consider the value and emotional wallop contained in a John F. Kennedy 1960 campaign poster, the poster for Led Zeppelin’s final concert at Eissportehalle in Berlin, Germany, or a Muhammad Ali heavyweight championship fight poster.  These items are not only valued, but they are super valued when preserved and presented in a museum-quality frame.  Plus, they are just plain cool to display on the wall – i.e., they are aesthetically pleasing and complement household décor stylishly.
  • Collectible Pins.  They may not seem sexy, but collectible lapel pins are valuable because they are easily lost or discarded over time.  That makes the remaining supply ever more valuable.  Plus, pins can be grouped together into a “concept” or thematic frame.  Imagine framing pins from every Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl.  It will be more valuable than the individual frames and aesthetically pleasing.  Pins can also be unique and graphically appealing.
  • Coins & Currency.  Beyond their precious metal content, how cool is it to hold a coin from the time when Abe Lincoln was President?  Or a Confederate States of America bank note?  Or a coin minted in the Soviet Union or feudal China? 

Why are historical markers the next “big thing” in collecting?  It’s quite simply a case of supply and demand.

With the passage of time, the demand for most historical markers increases dramatically.  Consider Mick Jagger’s Rolling Stones.  Sure, a printed ticket from their 2022 world tour is likely to carry some value.  But imagine how valuable a ticket from their 1981 world tour, sponsored by Jovan, is, in comparison.  Two members of that 1981 tour have left the band (one retired and one is deceased).  The 2022 ticket is current, while the other is more than 40 years old.  Which do you think is in greater demand among collectors?  In general, the more historic (older) the event – in terms of both the date and the magnitude of the event – the greater the demand.  

The other side of the supply/demand equation is, quite obviously, supply.  Over time, the supply of historical markers inevitably declines, for the following reasons:

  1. Historical markers are often lost or destroyed over time, reducing the supply by the day.  Who kept a pristine ticket from a 1970’s rock concert, when most patrons were stoned?  Who thought that a John F. Kennedy campaign poster would be so valued 60 years later, with Kennedy rated the most popular President in history? Amid sloshing soda and beer cups, and people traipsing down your row at a sports event, how many 40- and 50-year-old programs are still pristine?  How many programs from the 1967 Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys “Ice Bowl” NFL Championship Game survived the icy, frigid, sub-zero conditions of that day?  (How many were just plain thrown out at a later date?)  How many millions of lapel pins, relatively small and easy to misplace, have been chucked, intentionally or by mistake?
  1. Some historical markers are no longer produced.  Coupled with the aforementioned propensity to discard items, that severely or artificially limits supply.  Personally, I’d love to have a ticket from the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Final, an epic match-up between the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning and the Colorado Avalanche.  Guess what?  There are no tickets from this classic championship?  Now, tickets to many or most events are digital, and programs are not even printed.  Fans are expected to carry their ticket and player profiles, statistics and news on their smartphones.  These can’t be preserved, as they are not tangible.  Demand is holding steady or increasing for many events or types of historical markers over time, while the supply is continually shrinking.  Consider that many events will never again produce a paper ticket or program.  You do the math.
  1. As the size of the collecting universe increases over time, demand for some events is increasing dramatically.  The Super Bowl is practically a national holiday that comes once per year.  That wasn’t always the case.  There have been only 56 Super Bowl games since the game launched in 1967.  Consider that the population of the U.S. was just under 199 million in 1967.  Now, there are more than 330 U.S. citizens.  Approximately 39 million Americans viewed the first game.  Last year, more than 112 million viewed the game, or 1 out of every 3 Americans.  And that was just the domestic U.S. audience.  Demand for Super Bowl historical markers, especially the first two decades of games, has never been stronger. 

Beyond the supply/demand metrics, many historical markers are still relatively affordable.   However, for all the reasons discussed in this blog, that will change over time.  In other words, now is a good time to buy, as price/value has nowhere to go but straight up. 

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking to add valued items to your collection, and maybe invest before that value (and cost to acquire) soars, historical markers are a good, solid choice.  At To Die For Collectibles, we believe that this is the case, based upon all of the market dynamics discussed here. We’ve steadily added to our curated collection of historical markers over time, and will continue to do so.  Perhaps you now feel the same.

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