“More times than I can remember, a spouse or child has said to me, ‘If he wasn’t dead, I’d kill him all over again for leaving me with this mess,’” said Greg Rohan, the president of Heritage Auctions.
Most people tend to know what to do with traditional investments after someone dies, he said, but when it comes to baseball cards, first-edition books, coins and other collectibles, the loved ones dealing with the estate can be stumped (and annoyed).
If some collectors of, say, vinyl figurines, seem to have a gene that spurs them to dedicate entire rooms of their home to inanimate rubbery friends, they are also, in many ways, just like everyone else. “People don’t want to think about dying,” said Maggie Thompson, 80, a former senior editor of Comic Buyer’s Guide, which was a newsmagazine that covered the comic book industry. “I realize as I look around my rooms, my family is not going to know what things are.”
Ms. Thompson, whose eclectic collection includes Polaroid photos, film posters and comic book art, knows firsthand that not having a plan can mean a lot of responsibility for survivors. Her brother, Paul Edgar Curtis, died last year, and her family spent months dealing with his comic books and other mementos.
The market for many collectibles has been heated of late. In April, a rare Pokémon card sold for $300,000 at Heritage Auctions. Last year, the original art for a comic book page featuring Spider-Man in his black costume sold for $3.36 million at Heritage, and a copy of Superman No. 1 went for $5.3 million in a private sale. In 2021, a Nintendo Mario 64 game in its original packaging sold for $1.5 million.