Love is the key to collecting anything be it antiques or beanie babies. When you love the things you collect, you feel a passion that encourages you to spend your money, time and energy adding to and caring for your collection.
Begin your collection with pieces you love. The first step to collecting is to find something you love and want to surround yourself with. A healthy and inspiring collection is one you will want to live with for years to come. The exact nature of your collection is up to you. Choose art or furniture of a particular period or style or select an item that is representative of meaning in your life. Consider collecting teddy bears like the first one your mother gave you or elephant figurines after one sparked your interest at a flea market. You might have to take a look around your home and find that a collection has already started. Look for the things you love then build your collection around them.
Do your homework and research the collectible. Now that you have selected the pieces that will begin your collection it is time to start researching. Visit websites and gather reference books with the details and history of the items you want to collect. Remember that collections don't have to have value to anyone other than the collector. You might choose to collect inexpensive items that speak to you or items of higher value. Talk to the experts. When and if your collection begins to have some value it's time to talk to the experts. Listen to their advice. Through them you can learn what value is reasonable for items you want to add to your collection. They can also help you discover the most common flaws found in fakes or copies of the types of items you collect.
Learn the distinctive qualities of what you collect. Whether you are collecting antique Chippendale furniture or Impressionist paintings your steps are still the same. Learn what makes items collectible as what they are. Learn the specifics - what makes a Chippendale or Hummel authentic or a reproduction. There are hundreds of books on the subject of antiques and collectibles. Check your local library for manuals on your chosen collectible.
Wander in the likely places. Get shopping at antique stores, flea markets and estate sales. Haunt the areas most likely to have the items you're looking for. If that means New England estate sales then head there. If it means shopping at toy stores or eBay, then you go where the collectibles are. You can start collecting with a single purchase and a little research then watch your collection grow over time.
You can begin collecting with just a little bit of time and care. If antiques are your love then you might find your Saturday afternoons captured by wandering through the aisles of thrift stores and small town rummage or estate sales. Get your friends and family involved in collecting and there will be hours of fun in your future.