While experienced collectors may already know most of the following tips, I get many inquiries from total beginners, including many who have gotten burned by buying fakes and who find my columns via internet searches. Considering this, I think it’s a good thing to post my age old “Essential Tips for Beginning Collectors of Most Anything.”
I’ve used this list, and variations of it, in numerous of my collecting and authentication books.
Essential Tips for Beginning Collectors of Most Anything
Whether it involves sports memorabilia, celebrity autographs, movie posters, fine art prints, postcards or antique figurines, collecting can be good clean fun. However, all areas of collecting have problems.
The following is a brief but important list of tips that the beginner should read before jumping into a hobby with open pocketbook.
1) Start by knowing that there are reprints, counterfeits, fakes and scams out there. If you start by knowing you should be doing your homework, having healthy skepticism of sellers’ grand claims and getting second opinions, you will be infinitely better off than the beginner who assumes everything’s authentic and all sellers are honest.
2) Learn all you can about material you wish to collect and the hobby in general. The more you learn and more experience you have, the better off you are. Most forgers aren’t trying to fool the knowledgeable. They’re trying to make a quick buck from the ignorant. Besides, half the fun of collecting is learning about the material and its history.
3) Realize that novices in any area of collecting are more likely to overestimate, rather than underestimate the value of items they own or are about to buy.
4) Get second opinions and seek advice when needed. This can range from a formal opinion from a top expert to input from a collecting friend. Collectors, including experienced collectors, who seek advice and input are almost always better off than those who are too proud or embarrassed to ask questions.
5) Start by buying inexpensive items. Put off the thousands dollar Babe Ruth baseball cards and Elvis Presley autographs for another day.
Without exception, all beginners make mistakes. From paying too much to misjudging rarity to buying fakes or reprints. It only makes sense that a collector should want to make the inevitable beginner’s mistakes on $10 rather that $5,000 purchases.
6) Gather a list of good sellers. A good seller is someone who is knowledgeable and trustworthy. A good seller fixes a legitimate problem when it arises and has a good authenticity guarantee and return policy.
It is fine to purchase a $9 baseball card from an eBay stranger, but it’s best to buy expensive items online from good sellers, including those you have dealt with or those who otherwise have strong reputations.
Ask other collectors who they like. Discover good sellers on your own by buying a few inexpensive items from an eBay seller and seeing how good are the transactions. The seller you bought that $9 baseball card from may be added to your list of good sellers.