I collect baseball cards and autographed baseballs. In the process of expanding my collection, I have learned a few things–some the hard way.
Know Where To Look
When I made my first major purchase, I was amazed that such items were actually for sale. I thought I had shopped around sufficiently. I hadn’t. I found my dream baseball, a 1936 Yankees team signed ball with all the key signatures (except the manager) after making many phone calls, visiting stores, and searching the web. I ended up using a well-established and reputable site, SportsMemorabilia.com, and purchased my JSA authenticated baseball. I was thrilled with it and I still am. I later realized that I paid too much for the ball though considering the fading of most of the signatures. I had not yet learned where to look to accurately compare prices.
Other sites I have used since, which are great for comparing prices and making purchases are:
Antique Sports Shop
Grey Flannel Auctions
There are countless other sites, but those are good places to start. Some sites, like Sports Memorabilia, can act as middlemen. You may initially find an item on their site, then look for it yourself on ebay and get it directly from the source, thus saving money.
Negotiate a Price
When buying an item in a forum other than an auction, I always now try to negotiate a better price. Sometimes I have more success than others, but it never hurts to ask. You can help your cause, or at least assess your leverage by doing your homework before contacting the seller.
I have found three factors come into play, market forces, the seller’s financial position, and attitude.
Market values ebb and flow, but try and keep what you pay in or near the window of what the item is currently going for. That will be a fair deal for both parties.
The seller may be in a position of having paid more for a card than it is currently worth. If they cannot afford to take the loss, don’t expect them to drop their price.
Some people’s attitude just does not lend to reasonable negotiation. I take my money to those who are.
Beware of Fakes
There are three ways I know of to beat fraudsters.
Buy items that have been graded by reputable authentication companies such as James Spence Authentication (JSA).
Buy from a dealer you have worked with before and trust. I have used California Sports Cards for that reason, even when I have seen similar items a cheaper elsewhere.
The third way is to research the item yourself, and self-authenticate.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When in doubt, walk away.
Enjoy the Hobby!
Holding a ball that Connie Mack, Lou Gehrig or Ty Cobb signed is to touch baseball history. Reading the cards from times gone by gives an interesting glimpse into what was going on then. It is a great hobby and one that multiple generations of the family can enjoy together.