According to Leila Dunbar, it's not only the new collector who mistreats the word "memorabilia." States Leila: "Our whole department misuses it. Everything we handle is really memorabilia and not a collectible. People interchange the two words, but I don't think they should."
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary suggests the difference between the two, defining memorabilia as "things that are remarkable and worthy of remembrance" or "things that stir recollection." The same dictionary defines a "collectible" as "suitable for being collected." Memorabilia's meaning suggests objects that had a real life before fanciers ever bought them. Collectibles, on the other hand, were never utilitarian.
"Collectibles are things that were made just to be collected," Leila explains, making her argument with Hummels, Harley-Davidson Christmas tree ornaments and Hallmark Collector's Edition plates, the latter manufactured for display rather than home-cooked meals.
"Memorabilia was originally manufactured for a purpose," Leila continues. "Movie posters advertise movies. Sports programs help fans tell one player from another. Animation cels were made as part of a cartoon." Auction houses such as Sotheby's gravitate toward memorabilia and rarely handle less valuable collectibles, yet Leila acknowledges the name isn't likely to change soon. "If I had the clout to change the name of this department, I would," she says, bemused. "But there are other battles to fight."