Stash `2000' items until value rises

January 12, 2000|By Nathan Cobb | Nathan Cobb,BOSTON GLOBE

Kristen Petersen's question: What on earth to do with two tiaras, atop which "2000" appears in glittering rhinestones?

Gary Sohmers' answer: Put them in a closet until 2020, and then take them out and sell them.

Petersen manages Crossing Main, a women's clothing boutique in Marblehead, Mass. The tiaras are the last of several such $56 headpieces, the rest of which were sold before New Year's Eve. "Maybe someone from the class of 2000 will want them," she muses.

Sohmers owns Wex Rex Collectibles in Framingham, Mass. He suggests that folks such as Petersen stash their tiaras -- and their millennium T-shirts, mugs, plates, pins, books, watches, key chains, glassware, vases, Christmas ornaments, casino chips, snow globes, bean bags, party hats, plush toys, clocks, coins, cuff links, tie tacks, ice buckets, dolls, horns, screen savers, license plates, napkins, caps, serving trays, sunglasses, and Official Times Square Confetti -- for two decades. "After 20 years, the young people who are most affected by an event are old enough to have disposable income and to buy back their memories," he explains. "I guarantee that this stuff will surface."

Ted Hake isn't so sure. Hake, who has been running collectibles auctions out of York, Pa., for more than 30 years, sees the weekend before last as akin to the Bicentennial celebrations of 1976: too diffuse and lacking in potential nostalgia.

"A tremendous amount of the same type of stuff was produced for the Bicentennial, and it's virtually worthless today," he says. "I have the feeling the millennial stuff is headed down the same road."

So maybe short-term profit is the way to think. Searches of more than 60 Internet auction sites this week found that more than 9,000 millennium-related items, many of them originally produced as instant collectibles and not as souvenirs, are at any given moment being peddled by individuals.

Some items are clearly more desirable than others, however. Noticeably hot: the last in a series of 101 pins originally available at the Disney Store, a $4 item that immediately sold out when released on Dec. 31 and earlier this week was fetching $100 and up on the Net. (This was before word leaked out that the pins will again be sold by Disney in April, thereby dropping prices to between $20 and $25.) Noticeably not hot: Millennium the bear Beanie Babies, many of which are going bidless.

Alongside the upbeat millennial knickknacks, of course, lurk the commercial memorabilia of the apparently defused Y2K bug. T-shirts, "bug" spray, and plush-toy bugs dominate.

But according to Sohmers, who's bullish on other millennium stuff long term, bug items will always represent a down market simply because no havoc was wreaked on Jan. 1. "Disasters are very collectible," he points out. "People collect stuff relating to the Johnstown flood. To the Hindenburg. To the Titanic. Why? Because people died."

But nobody has died from the Y2K bug, although Charlie Nugent isn't feeling too great as a result of it. Nugent, who owns a financial software consulting company in Boston, decided last year to create and sell "I'm a Y2K Survivor" T-shirts. He started with a batch of 100, just to see how they'd do. He sold a grand total of 30, which ended production.

"Maybe I'll put them on the Internet and see what happens," Nugent says sheepishly of his remaining shirts. Perhaps he should put them in a closet for 20 years first.

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