If you're looking for new things to collect as a hobby, there's something for everyone. Even if idea of creating a cool collection appeals, you may not know exactly what to collect. From antique buttons to vintage toys, these are more than 100 collection ideas you can start today.
Unique Things to Collect
When it comes to things people collect, these are some unique collection ideas to consider. From inexpensive belt buckles to interesting artwork, these are all cool collections to have.
Antique Fashion Engravings
Before photographs became easy to reproduce, magazines would show the latest fashions in engravings. These come in black and white or are hand-colored, and there are thousands to choose from. They start at about $10 each. Specialize in an era, a color, a size, a particular style, or something else.
Samplers are embroidered panels intended to show off a specific design or to practice embroidery skills. Girls made them during the 18th and 19th century as they learned new stitches. You'll find these with specific motifs like the US map, birds, the alphabet, and more. Simple examples start at about $10.
Whether you go for vintage candy-colored models or the antiques of the Art Deco era, there are plenty of gorgeous old typewriters out there to collect. These beautiful machines start at around $25.
Antique and vintage silhouettes are fairly cheap things to collect. These cut-out portraits come in all sizes, and they look amazing displayed together on a feature wall. You can find them from any period, and they start at about $10.
Collecting any framed art is great, but specializing in horse paintings is even better. These have lasting appeal and look beautiful in today's homes. Small vintage pieces are easy to find for under $50.
From sterling silver examples to novelty items, belt buckles make a great collectible that doesn't take up a lot of space. These can be very affordable, and you can start collecting novelty ones for under $10.
As long as there have been dollhouses, there has been furniture to go in them. Collect a specific type of item, like dollhouse chairs, or collect furniture for all rooms. Individual pieces start at around five dollars, with special items going for more.
Cast iron doorstops are especially valuable, with Hubley taking the top of the list. However, even lesser known brands can be adorable and fun to collect. Hubley doorstops can sell for hundreds, but other brands start at around $25.
Many companies gave away free calendars as promotions, and collecting vintage and antique calendars is a fun and affordable hobby. These start at under $10.
Like a wearable toolbox for the housewife or lady's maid, a chatelaine allowed a woman to carry everything from little scissors to smelling salts attached to her belt or to a necklace. These tiny tools are beautiful, and some sell for around $100.
Antique and vintage compasses are gorgeous, even if you aren't trying to find your way anywhere. Vintage plastic models are only worth a few dollars, but sterling silver and antique examples can be much more.
Handwritten letters offer a glimpse at a life of the past, and they are also a charming collectible. You can find these at flea markets for under five dollars.
Often, ticket stubs include information about the event for which they gave admission, so you can specialize in movies, concerts, or theater events. Like letters, these sell for only a few dollars.
Harmonicas have their place in musical history, and they make a great collectible too. Examples from a few decades ago sell for under $20.
Perfume bottles came in all shapes and sizes, and many are downright gorgeous. You can start a collection with just a few and add to it over time. Some perfume bottles are very expensive, but many are under $25.
Vintage and antique alarm clocks offer an example of the decor of the era without being large and unwieldy. You can collect Art Deco ones, mid-century modern examples, or others.
With individual spaces for each oyster, these plates have a unique look and make a great collectible. Fine china ones can sell for $50 or more, but you can find simpler examples for under $20.
Old tennis rackets look great displayed on a wall together, and you can specialize in a certain brand or time period. Some vintage rackets sell for under $25.
From rhinestone models to those made of sterling silver and precious gems, hatpins are beautiful. Simple vintage examples sell for only a few dollars, while ones made with precious materials can be worth much more.
Toy soldiers are fun things to collect for toy lovers, and they make especially cool collections for guys who played with them when they were young. Focus on a specific war or army or collect toy soldiers from all eras. Plastic toy soldiers can sell for under a dollar, although metal ones can be valuable.
Brass Animal Figurines
You can unify an animal collection by focusing on one material, such as brass. Then you can collect all different animals. Vintage figurines cost only a few dollars, so it's easy to create an entire menagerie.
These cups hold an egg upright at the table, and they come in all different styles and motifs. Mid-century examples can be only a few dollars.
Carved shell cameos can be gorgeous collectibles, whether you choose to wear them or not. Finely made cameos are valuable, especially if they are set in precious metal. Vintage costume jewelry examples can be under $20.
Barrettes and Hair Combs
In Victorian times, ladies often wore hair ornaments, and many of these survive. They make a unique collection with individual examples starting at about $25.
Useful Things to Collect
Some cool collection ideas are also useful, so your items won't sit around gathering dust. You can put your collection to good use if you collect one of these things.
This colorful china brand has been around for decades, so you can find all its gorgeous colors and unique serving pieces on the vintage market as well as brand new. Choose a certain color, a specific type of piece, or any other specialization. This is a collection you can use every day. Small pieces are worth under $20 if the color isn't rare.
Vintage Kitchen Tins
It's always fun to collect something that's pretty and also practical. Tins come in all different colors, shapes, and sizes, and you can use them to store items in your kitchen and throughout your home. You can find individual tins for under $10.
Just as sturdy today as it was in past centuries, ironstone pottery makes a useful and neutral collectible. Look for a specific kind of items like pitchers or platters, or choose a variety of useful pieces to supplement your regular dinnerware. Ironstone can be quite valuable, but small pitchers and little bowls can sell for $30 or less.
Whether you choose designers scarves or simply ones you think are pretty, this is a cute thing to collect that you can wear. Vintage pieces that aren't a special brand name start at around $10.
Another wearable collection, bakelite jewelry pieces are good vintage things to collect. The items are fun to find in antique shops and vintage stores. Bakelite is valuable, but you can start with small and simple pieces for around $25.
Corkscrews and Can Openers
Can openers and corkscrews are super useful, and they are good collections to start. Whether you focus on openers with advertising on them or choose a certain motif or style, there are lots of interesting ones. You can use them at your next party. Many vintage examples sell for under $10.
Old hand tools are beautiful and still very useful. They make a great collection. You can choose one particular type of tool, a brand, or any other speciality. These can be very valuable, but you can begin collecting smaller vintage tools for around $25.
Pocket knives have been around for a long time, and they come in many styles. Simple vintage examples start at under $15.
Kitchen tools are popular things to collect, and many of them are also practical! Collect a specific tool, such as wooden spoons, or a variety. Either way, this is a collectible you can use. For just a few dollars, you can find a new piece for your collection.
Antique and Vintage Purses
Amp up your personal style with purses of the past. You can wear this collection, whether you pick a specific era or collect from a variety of time periods. Special purses can be worth a lot, but you can start your collection with a simple example for around $50.
Antique and vintage quilts are beautiful and warm at the same time. Even if you don't want to use a quilt as bedding, you can use them for display. In good shape, they can be very valuable. Newer vintage quilts or those in less-than-perfect condition may sell for around $50.
Watering cans are useful, and they come in such unique and lovely styles. Simple vintage cans start at under $10.
Wooden crates are fascinating, especially if they have advertising or vintage labels. You can also use them for storage. Because of their practicality, these can be worth more than you'd expect. A simple wooden crate may sell for about $20 and up.
Collect antique and vintage vases in all different styles, sizes, and colors. Vintage colored glass vases can sell for only a few dollars, but special examples may be worth much more.
Cameras make interesting collectibles. You can still shoot most vintage cameras, especially if they take modern film. You can buy a working 35mm film camera for under $100, though some models are worth much more.
Scissors are a practical collectible, and many vintage pairs work just as well as modern options. Antique scissors start at about $20.
Display baskets on the wall or use them to collect and store items in your home. Vintage baskets can be great thrift store finds, often selling for around $10.
Collect earrings from your favorite eras or in materials you like. It's a collection you can wear. Costume jewelry can be very inexpensive, especially if it's not made by a popular brand. Expect to spend about $15 and up for vintage and antique earrings.
You can stylishly display vintage copper pots in your kitchen, and you can also use them for cooking. These can be valuable, but smaller pots that are only a few decades old sell for around $25 to start.
Inexpensive Things to Collect
There are many affordable things to collect, some for five dollars or less. Start with one of these ideas.
Costume Jewelry Brooches
Affordable and full of infinite variety, you can collect costume jewelry brooches for only a few dollars each. You can also find unique ways to display brooches so they don't take up a lot of horizontal surface area.
Vintage Cookie Cutters
Choose a specific shape or theme or collect cookie cutters in general. You'll find them in thrift stores for only a couple of dollars.
Vintage mirrored compacts can be inexpensive and very lovely, and they make a great collection. Vintage examples start at under five dollars.
Campaign buttons from current and past elections are fun and affordable. Some can be extremely valuable, but most buttons are worth only a few dollars.
Often available for only a few dollars each, citrus reamers come in many styles and materials, which makes them great collectable items.
Vintage playing cards are a fun collectible, and you can often find them for very little money. You'll also find them in an array of designs.
Salt and Pepper Shakers
Vintage salt and pepper shakers are great because they come in many different styles and don't take up much space. They are also very affordable at a few dollars for a set.
Sewing notions, such as trims, zippers, and other little items, are inexpensive and full of vintage charm. Small items may be worth only a dollar or two.
Spools of Thread
Old wooden spools of thread offer a fun and affordable collection opportunity. You can find them in antique stores and thrift shops for a couple of dollars.
Old Family Photos
Even if they don't show people in your own family, old family photos offer a fun and inexpensive item to collect. Many are only a dollar or two.
Handkerchiefs used to be an essential part of daily life, so there are lots of fun options out there for very little. You'll see them for under five dollars in many antique shops.
Fabric tape measures used to be given away as advertising, and you can still find them for next to nothing.
Sewing thimbles are a fun and inexpensive collectible. Choose a theme or collect anything you like. Sterling silver thimbles are valuable, but many other metal or plastic thimbles are worth one a few dollars.
Vintage Christmas ornaments are beautiful, and you can often find them very affordably at antique shops and flea markets. Most are under five dollars.
Once given away by hardware stores and other businesses, yardsticks are still affordable. They often sell for a few dollars.
Although some antique post cards are very valuable, this is a collection you can start on a budget. Simple examples may sell for less than a dollar.
Vintage Merit Badges
Merit badges from Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts offer a unique and inexpensive opportunity to make a great collection. Many are under five dollars.
Another item once given away for free, vintage matchbooks are charming, fun, and still cheap to collect. You can easily find them for only a dollar or two.
From cardboard and paper options to metal bookmarks, there are lots of affordable vintage and antique options. Some are worth a lot, but most are worth less than five dollars.
Skeleton keys make unique collection ideas because they're small but come in interesting styles. Most skeleton keys sell for under five dollars.
Once a treasured childhood toy, some antique marbles are still affordable and easy to collect. You'll see them in jars for more money, but individual marbles are usually worth a few dollars.
Vintage Wallpaper Samples
Wallpaper companies give out samples, and they always have. Vintage wallpaper is a great and affordable collectible, often selling for a dollar or two.
Vintage and antique pin cushions can be inexpensive and fun to collect. Some are worth a lot of money, but most are only a few dollars.
Other Cool Things to Collect
From cool antique stuff to colorful vintage items, the following make good collection ideas that offer lots of possibility for fun.
Vintage License Plates
Collect license plates from vintage cars and trucks from around the country. You can group them in a display on the wall for a fun and colorful decoration. Specialize in an era, a state, or a color, or simply collect license plates you like. You can find these starting at under $15.
Depression glass comes in lots of beautiful colors and patterns, making it a fun and pretty collectible. Sets and rare pieces can be very valuable, but individual items can be had for as little as $10.
Antique Milk Glass
Like Depression glass, milk glass comes in lots of different patterns and colors. There's plenty of variety for collecting. Start a collection for about $10 a piece.
Available in many different materials including silver, wood, and early plastics, hand mirrors are fun to collect. There's a wide range of value for these, but they start at around $15.
Antique sewing machines offer a beautiful glimpse at sewing history. Highly collectible sewing machines can sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, but you can find less popular vintage models for as little as $50.
Back when people buttoned their shoes instead of tying them, they used button hooks to put them on. You can still find button hooks in antique stores for as little as $20.
Duck decoys offer a fun hunting collectible that can sometimes be very valuable. Handmade and very old examples or those from known artists can sell for hundreds, but you can also find decoys for under $50.
A popular pastime during the 1960s and 1970s, crewelwork uses bright colors and bold designs to create pillows, samplers, and more. Frame these fun pieces for a lovely vintage display, or toss a few pillows on your sofa for some extra cheer. You can find vintage crewelwork for under $20.
Stamp collecting is a fun hobby, and it's easy to get started. You can specialize in a specific type of stamp, or you can simply choose stamps you like. Either way, this is a great collection that doesn't take up much space. Many stamps are available for under a dollar, although some examples can be worth thousands.
Antique buttons are fun to collect, and you can find them in every material from bone to precious metals. You can pick up a jar of old buttons for $20 or less.
You can collect painted trays, many of which are tole-painted or done by hand. Small trays sell for around $20 to start.
This famous pottery brand is highly collectable, but pieces start at around $25. You'll find an array of designs that are as useful as they are beautiful.
Tiny jewelry boxes and trinket boxes make a great collection. You can find some vintage examples for under $10.
You can start a beer can collection with vintage and antique examples. Special cans can be very valuable, but many less popular examples sell for only a few dollars.
Many collector plates have lost their value over time, but some are still quite valuable. Choose a style you like. Many plates sell in the $25 range.
Brand-name fishing lures and other fishing tools make great collectibles, especially if you display them together in a shadow box. You can purchase a simple lure for under $15.
Letter openers come in all different styles and shapes, as well as a variety of materials. Letter openers sell for a range of prices, depending on their materials. You can find a vintage one for under $20.
Road maps and atlases from years gone by are a great way to celebrate the American tradition of the road trip. Start collecting at just a few dollars a map.
Collect antique mirrors in all shapes and sizes and display them throughout your home or in a grouping. You can find these at thrift stores for under $50 at times.
Paper weights, which can be made of glass, metal, and other materials, make a fun collection. There's a lot of variation in value, but many start at only $10.
Whether you want to collect holiday decorations or simply enjoy the magic of these globes, they are beautiful in a grouping. Vintage snow globes can sell for as little as $15.
This is a practical collectible, since you can group candle holders together and use them for decoration in your home. Depending on their material and age, candle holders can vary in value. They start at about $25 for a pair.
Vintage suitcases are charming, and they come in many styles. Condition plays a big role in value with these, but you can find suitcases in fair condition starting at around $30.
This metal kitchenware is popular with campers and makes a fun, rustic collectible. Individual enamelware pieces are affordable too, often selling for under $20.
Best Things to Collect as an Investment
There are certain valuable antiques and collectibles that are worth a lot of money. If you want your collection to be an investment, one of these ideas may be good.
Certain rare baseball cards are worth a lot of money, and they are fun to collect too. Like comic books, baseball cards can be worth many thousands of dollars. However, most are worth less than $20.
First Edition Books
Any first edition book has the potential to increase in value, and rare books can be worth a lot. Special examples can be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars, but you can also find first editions for much less. Newer books, which may increase in value, sometimes sell for $50 or less.
Not all vintage toys are valuable, but some are. Collect toys you like, and you may find you've made a good investment. Some toys can be worth hundreds of dollars, but you can choose toys that start at under $50 and may increase in value.
Because the materials used in fine jewelry are inherently valuable, collecting jewelry is a good investment. While there are examples worth millions, you can find some pieces for under $100.
You can collect antique and vintage watches, which often gain value over time. Fine watches made of precious materials can be worth thousands, but many vintage and antique timepieces sell for under $200.
Sterling silver flatware has value for the metal content, as well as for its antique nature. Rare pieces can sell for thousands, but you can often find individual spoons and forks for around $50.
Many people collect fountain pens, and great examples only go up in value. Some can be worth hundreds or thousands, but you can also find pens for under $100.
What Do You Collect?
With so much stuff to collect, it can be hard to choose! But whether something from this list of collectable items catches your eye or you come up with your own collection hobby ideas, once you've started, you'll want show it off. Learn how to use collectibles in your decor to add personality to your home and allow others to see what you are collecting. You may just inspire someone who sees it to start their own collection.