I love strange objects. The weirder the better as far as I’m concerned. Which is why I was almost giddy when I stumbled upon a Discovery Channel show called Oddities . If you’ve never seen it, Oddities profiles a couple who own a store in New York called Obscura which specializes in strange, rare, and downright crazy collectibles. The search for new inventory takes the shop’s owners and employees into the homes of other like-minded collectors, which is always fascinating.
The show made me think about collectors and how hard many of them work at their hobby. Quality collections of any kind require interest, attention, research, and a sharp eye, among other attributes. If this sounds appealing, and you want to get started as a collector, be prepared to spend time honing your skills.
Nice post and I especially agree with #1. Knowledge is king and has enormous payoffs. I have a niche which lacks an organized published knowledge base, so I created my own, which is constantly expanding. Most dealers have their own organized knowledge base, which they value highly. Now I know why, and I value mine more highly because I think mine is now nearly the largest on earth. Only three dealers of whom I am aware likely are more knowledgeable in this niche. Yeah, I should write a book. I’m working on that, the text of my online knowledge base is about the size of an average book and if I am lucky about 10 percent complete.
I find most of my deals on eBay, which has several dozen knowledgeable dealers, probably several thousand semi-knowledgeable collectors, and perhaps several thousand small un-knowledgeable sellers. The niche has tens of thousands of different specialized collectible items (and thus countless sub-niches), and sellers who are not knowledgeable cannot efficiently make optimal listings. This results in listings with Not Enough Information for bidders to properly value the item. and when my knowledge base
has the right information, I can get great deals and resell them with better listings which include the most valuable information.
#2 is also important. I often offer information to sellers when I know more about an item than they do, as this information makes the seller happy, improves the listing, makes the ultimate buyer happy (who probably gained more info from the improved listing and may have been prompted by the new information), and is sometimes reciprocated with deals or information bdown the road by the seller.
#3 There are virtually no unique items in my niche, although some can be quite scarce and even rare. I usually have a very good idea of when to wait (about 99.99 percent of the time) and when to just go ahead and buy. Many buyers don’t wait because an item is sufficiently scarce or in high grade they don’t know if they’ll see another one like it.
#4 There is a joke among coin dealers that sellers grade a coin two grades optimistically and buyers grade the same coin two grades pessimistically. That’s saying a coin that objectively grades Fine is offered as Extremely Fine while the potential buyer thinks it’s only Good. That has to be a major exaggeration but it’s common for people on both sides of a transaction to be at least a grade apart in their perception.
#5 One coin dealer, in making the case for quality over quantity, said he’d rather have a great sandwich than a lousy steak. The only time quality ever fails is in a collapsing economy: your Gem Uncirculated 1913 Liberty nickel won’t be very valuable then.
#6 It is indeed crucial to preserve your collectibles to protect their value. A tiny detraction from grade often makes a big difference in the value of a collectible. In many collectible fields there are specialized protective holders available, of varying quality. Go for the quality, it will be well worth it.