Human Realities of Climate Change

An excess of water – floods, rising tides – causes panic in some communities, while the lack of water – extreme drought, depleted wells – threatens others. This is not a biblical tale, but reality for people around the world facing the results of climate change.

In a new editorial series called Exodus, published on, the people behind the meteorologists’ data show the sometimes heart-wrenching effects of a global phenomenon. According to the World Bank, more than 143 million people in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia alone. could be forced to relocate within their own countries by 2050 in response to the impacts of climate change.

The effects of climate change reach every corner of the globe, including North America.

“Much as we would cover the immediate impact of a storm, we’re commuting the long term effects, which in many cases are really devastating, of climate change, in what we hope are really human terms,” says Greg Gilderman, global head of news and editor-in-chief of The Weather Channel. The Weather Company, an IBM Business since 2015, publishes the channel of the same name.

So far, Exodus has featured the community of Scituate, Mass., where homes were slammed by four nor’easters last winter. Two of the storms caused more than $1 billion in damage and killed 31 people.

In Ellicott City, Md., devastating floods hit every few years as a warming climate increases the likelihood of heavier rains in the northeast U.S., while across the world, in Jordan, droughts are turning refugees of war into refugees of their environment. Farmers have been forced to move to the city to find work, unable to grow crops in the extreme heat.

Future features will tell the stories of Kurdistan, Sicily, Nigeria, the Bay of Bengal. Kevin Hayes, an executive editor at, says they expect to have half domestic and half international stories by the end of the series.

“We’re trying to tell stories that are broader and more diverse and more global, because the problem is worldwide, global, and diverse,” Hayes says.

While the Weather Company addresses climate change as scientific fact, it’s aware that not all readers will acknowledge the truth. In its introduction of Exodus, the Weather Company wrote, “Look, if you’re reading this and you reject the fact that climate change is happening, these pieces probably aren’t going to convince you, because you haven’t been convinced by anything else. But climate disruptions cause human disruptions.”

With just three stories published, Exodus already has reached several millions viewers across all the company’s platforms: web, mobile, social and video.

“I do think there was a demand…for news organizations to not equivocate on many issues, but particular on this issue,” says Gilderman, adding that the series does not put statements by credible scientists against those of a climate change denier. Backed by climate science, Exodus aims to address the “subtle and direct” ways in which climate change is forcing people to migrate.

“For me it feels like a privilege to be able to tell stories to those people,” says Hayes, “and get them to interact with the reality of climate change.”


A European Fad We Can Live Without

Paris, the “City of Lights,” has fallen victim to a foul-smelling, unenlightened practice that also has befallen other great European cities.

Not since the days of the not-so-beloved outhouse has anything stunk up the city and its environs so badly.

It seems that a lot of European men don’t mind pulling out their “Oscar” and peeing on buildings, streets and in public parks without benefit of a rest room, leaving behind the foul stench of urine.

Paris has tried to cope with the problem by making it possible for men to take in a scene of the River Seine or the historic Notre Dame Cathedral while emptying one’s bladder in a legal, environmentally friendly way. But the installation of unscreened, bright red, straw-filled dry urinals hasn’t won over the populace. The uritrottoirs use nitrogen and other compounds to produce an organic, allegedly odorless organic compost. But the devices don’t shield the “Oscars” from view when some dude pees off a scenic tourist barge, from a bridge or on a cobblestone street.

Residents of the historic and upscale neighborhoods dotted with the red urine bins say there must be a better, less unseemly way. As one said, “It is definitely a desirable and historic neighborhood, but seeing people urinating right in front of your door is not the nicest thing.”

In Germany, folks have a whimsical-sounding word fo the act, wildpinkeln, or “wild peeing.”

Somewhat diabolical residents of Hamburg’s St. Paul quarter have begun coating walls in a “splash creating, urine retardant paint” commonly used on ships hulls that coats the wildpinkeler in his own urine. The Germans even have a word for that – Schadenfreude. Schadenfreude is defined as taking pleasure in someone else’s humiliation.

Here’s to keeping our North American cities free of wildpinkelers!

Count Collectibles as Counting Blessings

As a youngster, you may have taken up the call of H.E. Harris and company, found as an ad in many of your favorite comic books, and started a stamp collection. You spent many an hour soaking stamps off envelopes, drying them and putting them in your album with tiny stamp hinges. You likely have that treasure book.

When you hit your teens, music became your passion. You began snapping up copies of your favorite vinyl singles and albums. You might still have them hanging around, though you may no longer have a phonograph to play them on. They are your treasures.

At some stage you may have gone from dumping your pocket change into a box or jar to actually examining the coins and holding on to some. The keepers likely included some U.S. “wheat” pennies. Billions – yes, Billions – of them were minted starting in 1909 and ending in 1958. Slim chance that any you have are worth more than a few cents.

Are you getting the picture? Sparsely filled stamp albums for children or beginners and any U.S. postal stamps from the past 70 years, which is what most people have, are of little value. As for those vinyl records, the most valuable albums are rare and ideally kept in climate-controlled, dust-free storage. Otherwise, expect pennies on the dollar. And those billions of wheat pennies hanging around in jars or boxes are, as you have heard, likely worth more than face value – usually from 3 to 4 cents, at best a few dollars.

Face it, you aren’t going to pay for your kids’ college educations or make a fortune on your treasured collections. Sure, you might make a few bucks, but unless you have something exceedingly rare and in perfect condition, it’s not going to be much.

A lot of other collectibles have similar track records to the stamps vinyl and wheat pennies. Take “brown furniture,” for example. Brown furniture is a is a catchall term in the antiques trade for sturdy, dark-wood warhorses such as cabinets and sideboards, dining tables and bedroom sets. Museum-quality work by noted crafters and designers of historic importance command the prices one might hope, but everyday home furnishings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries have taken a hit on aesthetic and monetary fronts. Today art deco and midcentury modern pieces are in demand. A walk through many an antique or consignment shop will find the old brown pieces relegated to the back or basement, with price tags to match.

The costume jewelry market is another one where myth doesn’t match reality. Driven by trends and pop culture, one season, long necklaces for layering are in, next it’s disco-era chokers. Some collectors bypass anything that isn’t signed (designers stamp their name or logo on the reverse), so iconic pieces from noted designers and manufacturers (vintage Miriam Haskell, Kenneth Jay Lane, Weiss, Eisenberg, and others) command top dollar. But the bulk of costume jewelry is mass-produced, designed to bring a bit of glamour within the reach of everyone. That means there’s an overabundance of pieces that, while pretty and intricate, fill the $5 or $10 tables at flea markets. Here, again, condition plays a part. It’s hard to unload pieces with missing rhinestones or faulty clasps.

That china serving platter given at your grandparents’ wedding and used by generations has finally been passed down to you. It was never nicked or chipped — a miracle — and it has to be worth something. But with so many reproductions or revivals of vintage patterns, it can be difficult for an amateur to authenticate a piece and accurately gauge collectible-quality condition and rarity. If the platter is pristine, and from a noted line such as Royal Albert Old Country Roses, you may be in luck. More often, though, passed-down pieces are valuable only for their family history.

Precious Moments bride-and-groom sets made good wedding gifts or keepsake cake toppers, going on to take pride of place in the new couple’s first home. A recent scroll through eBay found many have provoked nostalgia, but not envy, as, for example, 1979’s “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” — billed as “rare!” — was listed at just $8.50.

Many people focus on themes or manufacturers when collecting commemorative plates from the ubiquitous American artist Norman Rockwell. But owners should have thought twice before coddling these items, as an array of original retired/mint condition plates complete with box, Styrofoam and certificates of authenticity sell for less than $50 on

Rah, rah … rah? Those vintage felt college pennants hung by generations of students carry plenty of tradition — but their value is, again, subjective. While alumni might feel they’ve held onto gold, they likely won’t be able to pay off that college loan. An undated Boston College pennant “complete with tack hole” can go for only $15 on eBay.

Hummel figurines were based on the drawings of a nun with the surname Hummel — a fact that may be worth more than any of the zillions of collectibles her work sparked. The Hummel figurines from the Goebel company, first made in the 1930s, have graced many a mantel. But their charm has fallen largely out of favor. Many of the most ardent collectors have died, and recently, the classic “Village Boy” holding a basket was listed for $1 on eBay.

Autographed sports memorabilia is a tricky category. There are some authenticated signatures that will trade for the price of a new car or house — but the prevalence of forgeries, mass-produced products and the like mean there’s a greater chance that the jersey you bought at the local convention center isn’t worth much. If you witnessed the autograph, that’s another story, and lucky you.

Reporting on baseball cards from the 1980s and 1990s, the Cardboard Connection is blunt — “Sports card values from the late 1980s and early 1990s are pretty much worthless.” While they traded well during their time, now there is a glut, and that means you’re not the only one holding a dozen Jose Cansecos. Looks like you’ve struck out on this form of sports memorabilia too.

Andy Warhol was perhaps the world’s most famous cookie-jar collector, and his trove famously sold for around a quarter-million at Sotheby’s in the late 1980s. But for the general collector, these relics of the past can be scored for a few bucks at the local flea market or well under $50 on eBay.

Everyone knew you collected porcelain or metal bells commemorating locations, destinations and special events. Folks brought them back from Las Vegas and London for you, joining those you collected on your own travels or at special events, such as a town’s celebration of the Bicentennial. Today, you can travel the world through eBay, picking up bells from Mount Vernon ($4) to Hawaii ($6), Singapore ($5) or splurge on Liberace ($18). Not exactly world-class valuations.

If bells weren’t your thing, maybe people loved to bring you salt-and-pepper shakers. Today, most sell on eBay for well under $10 — not much more than the original prices. A recent lot featured cowboy hats, King Kong and the Empire State Building, pagodas, spice canisters, seagulls, horse heads and quite a few more, all for $40. Those pairs crowding your shelves are destined to collect more dust.

Broadway shows always seem like a luxury, especially with today’s ticket pricing, and vintage Playbills, especially from opening nights, might seem like theatrical gold. Unfortunately, prices have really dropped since the advent of the Internet, Broadway World readers say. A 1964 Playbill for “Funny Girl” featuring Barbra Streisand, once going for upward of $350, can now be had for around $10. There are exceptions, as always, but these collectibles may be best valued for the memories.

A decorating craze for vintage farm tools had collectors buying items for their looks, often not even knowing the original use. But reproductions glutted the market, and today, with tastes often skewing toward the modern, tools from pitchforks to sheep shears, and sickles to pulleys, can easily be scored on for well under $50.

You’re cleaning out grandma’s closet and come across dozens of dresses. Unless they have designer labels, back-in-trend silhouettes or standout details in pristine condition, you’re basically looking at a pile of old clothes. Vintage collectors are ruthless when it comes to provenance and condition, so know that before listing a 1950s prom dress for much more than $75, the going rate on eBay.

Kitschy carnival souvenirs were the darlings of antique shops for ages — “chalkware” dogs and Kewpies of particular interest. But these easily dented and damaged onetime prizes are no longer held in such esteem. It’s a rare example that fetches more than $25.

When an artist dies, they say, their work’s value goes through the roof. Well, with Thomas Kinkade, the “Painter of Light,” the sheer quantity of work has left some collectors chagrined. After his 2012 death, The Guardian reported that his work was featured in one of 20 U.S. homes, and now an Old World Santa ornament can be found for $3 online, and a framed “Spring Gate” painting for $15.

Childhood Treasures Gain Little Value

Seems like everyone had them, or at least wanted them – Beanie Babies, Happy Meal toys, Hess trucks, comic books, model train sets, children’s books, Cabbage Patch Kids, Hot Wheels and Barbie dolls.When first acquired they likely became favorite playthings. But as the years past folks began to think they had ever-growing cash value.

But if they are in less than pristine – never or barely used – condition, odds are that with few exceptions they are worth little more than what was paid for them. So much for the attic or basement storage over all the years.

The treasure of these items will be found in your heart and memory, not in your pocket.

Beanie Babies became a mania in the 1990s. Introduced by Ty in 1993, the plush toys – nine in the original collection – were suddenly must-haves. If they weren’t played with and had their paper tags still attached, some could indeed command tidy sums. But last year on eBay, a collection of 2001 Happy Birthday Bears – the complete set of 12 – sought a starting bid of just $15 and had no takers. The website Ty Collector laments, “The buying frenzy decreased significantly after 1998 when Ty produced so many Beanie Babies for the worldwide market that retailers had difficulty selling them all.”

Happy Meal toys have been available with Happyt Meals at McDonald’s since the late 1970s, and many of the tiny toys included with the food have indeed become collectibles worth several hundred dollars for a complete set. But most people probably haven’t collected all 101 of those “101 Dalmatians.” And like many other youth collectibles, Happy Meal toys are worth big bucks only in mint condition with their original packaging – which includes the Happy Meal box. Alas, these giveaways are most often ripped open and played with moments after purchase.

Comic books – Unless you’ve dug into a stash of comics and uncovered ultra-rare issues from the earliest days of Superman, Batman or the classic Marvel heroes, you’re likely holding onto a pile of childhood memories, and nothing more. As baby boomers age, they are paring down and trying to cash in, and the market for comics is glutted. Condition, as with so many collectibles, is key too. A random check of price guides and online marketplaces might prove eye-opening, to say the least.

Model train sets may not have seen the underside of a Christmas tree in years, but many were made by Lionel, which has been producing model trains for more than a century, so it’s tempting to think it’s valuable. “Many of the trains made in the early years right up through the present have kept their value, and some are highly valued by collectors,” the Lionel Collectors Club of America says. But also: “More common ones, while worthy of running, may not have a high collector value.” As usual, condition, rarity and an original box are key. If the train is in beaten-up boxes jammed with twisted wires, bent tracks and a bit of rust, forget it.

Children’s books – Some parents will pay anything to share a favorite childhood book with their own children. There are also collectors who collect books for their covers or to frame pages for decorative purposes. Last year, two first-edition copies of the Dr. Seuss classic “Green Eggs and Ham” from 1960 were selling for $4,750 and $3,500 on – but those featured quite specific qualities that most likely matter to just the rarest collectors. After all, the charm of most children’s books is they’ve been loved: They often carry children’s names (printed perhaps for the first time by them), bent pages, random crayon marks or even little stains — and those are not exactly selling points, especially when so many classics get frequent printings.

Cabbage Patch Kids – Remember when parents would literally rip Cabbage Patch Kids from each other’s hands in stores? When the soft-sculpture dolls went national in the early ’80s, people couldn’t “adopt” enough of these for around $30. As with many youth-oriented collectibles, condition is everything, so unless your “kid” hasn’t been out of its box, expect to perhaps break even.

Hot Wheels, the miniature die-cast cars from Mattel introduced in the late ’60s kept children excited for playtime for years, and collectors happy. Unfortunately, the sheer quantity of the models produced and the fact that most were played with roughly make for poor prices. There have been record sales, but more than a few 1960s models can be scored for a couple of bucks.

Barbie dolls – There are always going to be Barbie dolls that command top dollar, because there are always going to be deep-pocketed collectors who will pay anything. But the Barbies most people own, especially those “previously loved,” won’t make anyone rich. Even a Donna Karan Bloomingdale’s Limited Edition doll recently could be had for $22 online.

Hess Trucks – As with so many toys, kids loved and played with their annual Hess Truck gift, rarely leaving them untouched in the box. If you have the first one from 1964, when it sold for $1.39, and it’s in pristine condition, the Antiques Almanac says you may be sitting on nearly $2,500. A quick check on prices in mid-July, though, shows that since dozens of models, especially those from the 1970s, sell for well under $40. There are plenty of Hess collectors, but skyrocketing prices are not the norm.