By Lani Luciano

(MONEY Magazine) – The decision to permit the destruction of the Berlin Wall instantly swelled the ranks of capitalism: it turned every Berliner with a hammer and a satchel into an entrepreneur. Pieces of the wall were soon on sale in Bloomingdale's and other bastions of materialism. By one estimate, more than 600,000 Americans have paid as much as $12 for the fist-size bits of concrete. You want something a little more unusual? MONEY consulted experts in collecting to determine what would stand up as a meaningful memento of crumbling Communism. ''Anything that documents the passing of an era is significant,'' says Harry Rinker, publisher of Antiques & Collectibles Market Report. Rinker cites East European propaganda posters, newspapers and fliers announcing rallies. Also, commemorative statues and lapel pins of discredited leaders may have value. Even the notoriously shoddy consumer products manufactured in the East may gain historical significance. ''People in the East hate their poor-quality clothing and household goods and are likely to scrap them as soon as they can get better,'' says Rinker. ''The worst examples will be quaint eventually.'' Note that he said ''quaint,'' not ''priceless.'' The value here is historical or sentimental, certainly not monetary. No one is expecting an active market to develop in Communist collectibles. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. has been accumulating various symbols of American social protest for more than 30 years. Says Keith Melder, one of the curators of the 60,000-piece collection: ''The more passionate and personal the item, the more important. Things meant to be worn, like buttons and T-shirts, have more meaning than those simply displayed, like banners. Handmade is more valuable than mass-produced.'' Reproductions, like the $100 ''Soviet Military Watch'' offered by Sharper Image and others, may have fashion value but not real significance. So if you want to build a collection that includes more than chunks of concrete, you will have to travel abroad or rely on personal contacts. Meanwhile, the Wall industry thrives. Scores of people are chipping away -- in Berlin they are known as wall woodpeckers -- and hawking their treasures for $3 to $60 or more, depending on size; pieces with paint on them command a premium. Even the East German government, unable to resist the lure of profit, will get into the Wall business. The authorities say they have received bids of as much as $20,000 from museums around the world that are interested in owning large slabs. If you haven't got your souvenir yet, don't worry about the supply running out: there are 26 miles of the 12- to 15-foot-high barrier, enough to satisfy collector demand for decades.