Starting a Collection, Part 4: Dangerous Waters
This is the fourth part in our series about starting a toy collection. If you missed the first three parts now's your chance to catch up:
Part One: The Value of Clearance
Part Two: Choosing Figures
Part Three: A Field Guide
Today, we turn to the collector's best friend... and worst enemy.
Ebay. To the collector, it is a place of unlimited potential... and risk to match. If you get too caught up in the competition, you could easy wind up spending far more than you should. The old laws of supply and demand are tossed out, replaced by the law of the jungle. Bidders will flock to a desired item like a pack of wolves. And sometimes, just sometimes, they'll leave an identical object all but untouched.
I never approach Ebay without checking other sources first. You'd be surprised how often an item is fought over on an Ebay auction while it's cheaper on Amazon or another site. Even if you're willing to pay a premium for a figure you need in your collection, it pays to be informed. If you have an opportunity, shop around to get a feel for an item's worth. If you see it at a price that strikes you as a bargain, by all means go ahead and pick it up. But avoid getting caught up in the excitement and competition and you'll be rewarded.
Are there situations where an item's value increases quickly? Yes, but they're rare. In addition, the value usually comes down given enough time. Still, the first thing you need to know when searching for a toy is how much you actually want it. If you know it's something you need to have, and if you suspect you're not the only one who feels that way, you might want to consider buying at your first opportunity. However - and I'm speaking from experience here - don't be surprised if you see the same thing in clearance a month later at your local Toys R Us.
Before we go any further, lets take a moment and consider Ebay. There are things Ebay is good and there are things it is not good for. Here's a list for easy reference.
Use Ebay For:
1. Something rare you'll pay any amount for
But Not For (Unless you're rich):
1. Toys just being released
No matter what you're looking for, there are some rules you should follow.
Rule 1: Impose Limits
Decide how much you're willing to spend BEFORE getting started, and STICK TO THOSE LIMITS. This is an easy rule to subscribe to, but a hard one to follow. When the auction is about to close and you see you've been outbid by 50 cents, it's hard not to up your bid. In fact, it's so hard, let's not follow it. Instead, absolutely forbid yourself from spending more than 15% over what you originally decided. Promise yourself that whenever you're bidding on Ebay you'll start by deciding what something's worth, then NEVER let your bid go higher than 15% above that. This way, you're giving yourself some leeway to compete while ensuring you won't get carried away.
Rule 2: Remember Shipping
Rule 3: Do Your Homework
How much does the item you want usually go for? How often are they available? Is it cheaper to bid or buy now? These are questions you need to know the answers to. And, as long as you're willing to take some time, they're easy answers to get. Where? On Ebay, of course. Sign into your account, search for the item you're looking for, and watch as many auctions as you can. Once you've got a handful of examples, you'll at least have some idea of what the item's value is.
Rule 4: Beware the Fat Man
Rule 5: Read the Fine Print
Make sure you know what you're getting and how you're getting it. Look for anything that sends up flags or makes you think twice. Be sure that the seller's accepted payment methods are acceptable, and that there's no fine print. Remember, Paypal gives you some recourse if the seller is less than honest. If a seller isn't accepting it, I'm not interested.
Those five rules should keep you safe and give you a good starting point. Want more? Here are a few tips and tricks I've picked up. Hope they come in useful.
Tip 3: Buy Used
Obviously, if you want to collect and display all your toys new and mint in package, this isn't going to be useful. But personally, I could care less. I've made no secret of my indifference towards packaging: I put my toys on shelves and display them proudly. I need no boxes or shells! So why pay for them? Used items often cost significantly less than new.
You can even take this tip a step further: if you're willing to clean or make some basic repairs, you could find the price tag drop even more. Lindsay recently posted an article on just this subject. Give it a read if you haven't already.
Tip 4: Timing is Everything
Well, that's it for now. We'll get around to other tips and advice eventually, but these four articles should hopefully give you a place to get started.
By now you know that the only dumb question is the one asked by a dumb person. Prove that doesn't describe you by leaving an intelligent comment at my blog.