I don’t care for contemporary collectibles, but my job often requires I report on that segment of the market. In reviewing The Unofficial Guide to Harry Potter Collectibles (Schiffer Publishing, 2011), I came across this line from author Kathy J. Wells: “The majority of collectors, myself included, are not as concerned about above mint condition. They want to have a complete series and a hobby grade is sufficient.”

Maybe it’s a novice-collector thing. Most of us have been there in our early years — buying cheaper items because they fit the budget at the time. With experience generally come higher standards. It’s a decision we make, foregoing the junk as we strive to fill our lives with better things.

In the market for Americana and other antiques, those standards create consequences. Items are more difficult to find, and there’s a commensurate increase in price. Yet more times than not, a higher grade of ____ (fill in the blank with your favorite category of antique) offers a better chance of a good financial return in the future than do the cheaper, lower-quality items.

Maybe it doesn’t matter for Harry Potter collectors. For them, a Hermione figurine is a Hermione figurine. For the things I live with, however, I want the best I can find and afford. That’s not being a snob. Instead, that’s simply being smart in how I spend my money.