So What Do You Think It’s Worth?

I just blasted a Buzzfeed article on the value of some 1980s-1990s toys. The writer simply took outlandish eBay Buy It Now prices and somehow conflated it as being the value of the toy. Lazy journalism at it’s finest.

The article brought to mind a recent experience I had in a negotiation for a trade and a story I have about a dealer friend of mine. At a recent collector’s market, I had a customer interested in a plaque that was presented to, and owned by L. Gordon Cooper. It’s a one kind item, so I had it priced at $700, but was willing to work with him for the right trade.

He offered a really nice Woodrow Wilson re-election pinback, which, from recent sales, will go between $275-$375. A few years ago it would have commanded closer to $500-$600, but it looks like a few more became available since then. When this happens, it effectively drives down the value of a collectible. I’ve seen the same thing in the coin market when a previously undiscovered hoard comes to market.

I showed him the recent sales of this pinback and he counters with one recent sale, at $500 and proceeds to insist that this is the correct value. This is all well and good, since it was a negotiation. But still, if I can provide four recent sales clearly showing it sells for no more than $375, I’m already on the losing side of this deal. After some more back and forth, I politely terminate the negotiations.

Even dealers can overvalue items. I have a dealer friend, who always goes to the high end of an object’s value when he does his research. In fact, at times, he will simply find a like item selling online and use the high price without ascertaining past prices. He just says “Well so and so is selling it X. It oughta be worth that”.

You’d think everything he has is gold, going by his pricing. Eventually he sells it at a greatly reduced price or pulls it from inventory. It also hurts his cash flow, because the item would sit for a couple of months, preventing him from buying new inventory.

Whether it’s a dealer overpricing or a collector overvaluing, the ultimate price of something will depend solely on what a buyer is willing to pay. Good research is always your best weapon to prevent from falling into either trap.