WEST HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. ( TheStreet) -- If you stare at the Thomas Kinkade painting on your wall each day thinking "There's my retirement fund," prepare to pour skim lattes until you're 90.
Collecting as a hobby can be a fun, worthwhile and potentially lucrative way to pass time. Amassing collectibles as investments, however, can be a disappointing endeavor yielding nothing but piles of devalued tchotchkes for the next of kin to sort through.
The founder of comic book industry bible Wizard, Gareb Shamus, said a year ago that the best advice a collector could heed was to buy what they liked and do their homework. Then again, he's also a Spider-Man collector who paid $1,700 for an issue with a cover drawn by artist Todd MacFarlane featuring the villain Sandman. The book's value jumped to between $30,000 and $40,000 when the Sandman appeared in the latest Spider-Man film.
Collectors such as Shamus have entire industries helping them along, with the Certified Guaranty Co. determining comic book quality and grading criteria. Wine aficionados have such resources as Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Bordeaux market forecasts. Art collectors have the big houses such as Sotheby's (BID), Christie's and Freeman's and their sales trends."Collectibles" investors, however, are beholden to a very subjective, eBay (EBAY)-driven market in which their precious knick-knack can be worth $800 or less than $50. While sites such as Kovels.com offer some guidance, "collectibles" and the companies that make them are slaves to demand and market forces -- and the realization that their mass-produced product is only worth as much as a buyer will pay for it. "I tell people that keeping collectibles is like storing money under your mattress," says Lou Kahn, head of the Bakerstowne Collectibles appraisal and consignment service in West Hempstead, N.Y. "You're going to have the same amount of money next year, but it's going to be worth a lot less." We took a look at several collector niches and came across five where the products rarely appreciate in value and have questionable worth even when new: