Collectibles for the gullible

Figurines

It used to be that every average American household had at least one Hummel figurine on a shelf somewhere. But as Kovels, the antique and collectibles powerhouse guide, says, "The generation that appreciated these little porcelain statues is now downsizing or dying off, dumping Hummels back into the market by the thousands."

So, where once their resale value was in the hundreds, you can now scoop most antique Hummels off eBay for anywhere from $20 to $80 (the exceptions are Hummels taller than 12 inches or made before 1949, according to Kovels).

The declining value of Hummels points to a problem with collecting now in the hopes of a big payout in the future: You have no idea what will be popular 30, 40, 50 years from now.

"I remind folks that it takes two people to guarantee value — the seller and the buyer," professional organizer Andrew Mellen says.

Without a buyer? Collectibles as retirement plan just falls apart.