PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- You can't overestimate or overvalue the U.S. buying public's love of collectibles.
Roughly four years ago, we ran a seemingly innocuous story about a handful of completely worthless collectibles that took on a life of its own. Millions of you read it, websites including Yahoo and MSN picked it up, collector sites argued with it and the story itself required a bit of updating when artist Thomas Kincaid died. Still, it struck a nerve by pointing out the negligible worth of items including Hess trucks, Hummel figurines, Precious Moments items and, yes, Kincaid's prints and paintings.
It even had enough legs to inspire an NPR outpost in New Hampshire to interview us about it last year, nearly three years after its original run.
The problem is that it did only half the job. It warned buyers away from buying dud collectibles unless they really enjoyed the items, but failed to mention where collectors could redirect their investment if they were still trying to turn a profit.Our experience with the last piece tells us there is no sure thing, especially if you're motivated solely by the prospect of making a quick buck. There are some niches that make it easier for collector investors to sort the gems from the junk, though. The Certified Guaranty Co., for example, helps collectors by grading comic book quality and grading criteria. Wine aficionados, meanwhile, can consult Wine Advocate and Bordeaux market forecasts to see if they should keep cellaring their vintages or just drink them. Art collectors are all too capable of tracking trends through Sotheby's, Christie's and Freeman's auctions. "Collectibles" investors, however, have to contend with a fickle auction market led by eBay, which handles roughly $3 billion a year in collectibles sales on its own. While sites such as Kovels.com offer guidance, "collectibles" and the companies that make them are pawns of supply and demand. It's how you lose $100,000 investing in Beanie Babies, but it's also the big reason why many of the most lucrative collectibles weren't produced as "collectibles" at all. We consulted with the folks at auction tracking site What Sells Best and found 10 examples of collectibles that made a killing for their sellers. If you have similar tastes or interests, there may be some riches tucked away in your collection as well: