Whether it's children who buy and trade Pokemon cards, or teens and adults who stand in line waiting for the latest limited edition Nike sneakers endorsed by Michael Jordan, America is, in many ways, a society of collectors.
To inform that consumer base, there are a number of enthusiast magazines and Web sites that cover collectibles, even while the mainstream press is cutting back on reporters dedicated to sports cards, coins, stamps, and collectible rarities.
"The easy avenue of the syndicated columns is largely gone," says Donn Pearlman, whose Donn Pearlman PR handles collectible communications for coins, paper money, and rare comic books, as well as Hollywood memorabilia.
Pearlman, who recently arranged placement in an AP story for the auction of some of hijacker DB Cooper's recovered ransom money, adds, "Most general interest editors will still do a collectibles story if there's a good back story on who bought it... sold it, or where it was found."
Yet, as anyone with trove of near-worthless Beanie Babies or OJ Simpson memorabilia can attest, collecting can be a mercurial hobby, and one filled with media misinformation. Therefore, serious collector publications need solid evidence to back up claims, says Beth Deisher, editor of Coin World.
"We need a little deeper knowledge than just saying, 'Hey, somebody found an old penny,'" she says. "We usually try to get original sources and original research, because we don't want to repeat myths."
Many collectors are migrating online, not only just to buy and sell precious items, but also to talk about their hobby with fellow enthusiasts, Deisher says, noting that consumer-generated content is emerging as a helpful resource.
"Often... we see them commenting on our stories, or we'll hear about a coin someone has found that we can develop into a story, so our writers do monitor those forums on a regular basis," she adds.
The coverage of collectibles can often be event driven, says T.S. O'Connell, editor of Sports Collectors Digest, who adds that mainstream interest in news events is usually good for the collectibles industry and enthusiast outlets that cover it.
"Sometimes these stories portray collectors in an unflattering light, but they all probably help because they bring new people into the hobby," he adds.
Michael Sedgwick, executive at Orchard Communications, says coverage of collectors' items extends outside specific media categories. For example, a story on nature-themed coins is also a candidate for an outdoor magazine, he says.
Journalists are also interested in leveraging celebrity components of collectible stories, Sedgwick says.
"When the Princess Diana memorial coins were released, there was a huge flood of interest... because [she] attracted people," he says.
A collectible, or its price, often isn't enough to generate media interest, so make sure to pitch any back-story, such as the buyer, seller, or treasure hunter that found it
Collectors are quickly gathering online in large numbers, so look to feed news items to forums and blogs to generate early word of mouth about a trend or upcoming auction
Look to leverage the public's substantial interest in events, such as the release of state quarters, to stress that both collecting and collectibles are great topics for the mass-market audience