The Economics of Collecting Pt. 3: The Zen of Selling

We've made our budget and looked at our collecting habits. Now it's time to objectively view our collection, weed out what we don't use and put it up for sale. But how do you know what to sell or when? We sell for different reasons. Whether it's to make space, make doll money to spend or because we need quick cash, the process is the same. Let's work it out together.

1. When to sell:
Most collectors only sell when they have to; when the stack gets too high or they need money for another doll or need to pay a bill quick. Collectors don't want to part with their "preciousssss" (go on, laugh at yourself 'cause I know I do). However this puts you at the mercy of the market and you might end up selling for much less than the purchase price. It not only leaves you with less cash but also the one-two punch of buyer's remorse followed by seller's guilt as you reflect on your loss. If you continually go through your collection and sell off dolls in a timely manner, not only will the have to point not arrive, but you might actually make some money flipping dolls. 

One key is to practice the Buddhist rule of detachment. Totally defeats the purpose of collecting, right? Not really. Detachment doesn't mean that your collection isn't important to you, just that you appreciate what you have for the time you have it and are satisfied with that enough to let the item go when the time comes. If you can work just a little detachment into your collecting viewpoint you will be better off. 

Detachment goes hand in hand with the second key: sell at the height of the market. If you are looking to make money on your investment you need to be able to sell when you see the prices at their highest, whether you are ready to let the doll go or not. We've all had dolls we've held onto longer than we should, only to have them lose resale value. For example, I bought 7 Mirror Mirror Daphnes at $65 when they were released because it was cheaper and more convenient for me to buy them than to have platinums rerooted to repaint. At their height they were going for $200-250 a piece on the secondary market. I didn't sell. Now you can pick them up for $80-100. They are still worth it to me for repainting purposes so it didn't make sense for me to sell but you get my point. Don't get me started on those damn Holiday Barbies! Most dolls in your collection will go on the block at some point or another. You might as well get as much money for them as you can and practicing detachment will help you make that leap.

2. Decide what to sell:
If your collection is anything like mine there are probably some dolls that don't get looked at, let alone played with. This is the easiest place to start: pull out the dolls and clothing that you haven't seen in quite some time and decide whether or not they have a place in your collection. If they are stored because they have sentimental value to you, evaluate the level of value and decide from there. Great grandma's porcelain dolls might stay whereas last year's Toy Story Barbie given to you by a co-worker is a goner. 

Where it gets trickier is after the first or second sweep when you get down to the dolls and clothes you really have feelings for. If you haven't been practicing your detachment, make a list of dolls you would grab in a fire. Everything else gets put on a "Maybe" list. You don't have to sell these dolls. You can let them sit on the "Maybe" list for as long as it takes for you to get comfortable with the idea of selling them or even move them to the "Fire" list. Keep in mind, you can always buy back a factory doll. If you are thinking about selling an OOAK but don't have to, I suggest giving it a little time to make sure you won't have serious sellers remorse afterwards. 

3. Evaluate the condition of your items and research the market:
Now you have a list of items you want to sell. You need to evaluate the condition of your dolls and see what the going rate is. Take some time to really investigate the doll's condition. If she is NRFB you are not expected to remove her to do so but do what you can. The last thing you want is to go to ship her only to find a flaw that will undo your sale. Make note of what the doll comes with and whether it's all accounted for. I don't need to tell you but cigarette smell is a big deal breaker for many. If there is smoking allowed in the house then chances are your dolls will be affected. It isn't a crime but it is expected that you disclose it. With all of your information in hand, do a search of completed items on eBay or the boards to see what price you should be expecting. 

If the sale dolls are repaints then there are a few things to consider: the quality of the repaint, the artist, the type of body, any wear and tear. All of these factors go into figuring out how much to ask. If the repaint is a new acquisition you can sometimes get close to if not the same price you paid. If the repaint is older and in bad shape then you might get 1/3 to 1/2 of the value. If the repaint is older work but from someone who no longer repaints and has a great secondary market value, you might be in luck and even make some money. Again, research is necessary. If the doll doesn't have a COA then write the artist to ask if one was issued. (I might have issued 5 in the beginning but not since 2000 (I know, slacker)). Once the doll is sold, suggest the buyer write the artist for a replacement COA if necessary or to see if they can freshen up any problems or do a body switch for them (ask if there is an additional fee for these services).

4. Organizing a sale:
There are a few different options with sales venues. In any case you'll need clear good pictures of the doll including a close up of the face, a full shot and separate shots of any accessories and condition issues like cracked knees or stains. Depending on the venue you might also need a full write up on which year the doll was issued, by whom, what the sale includes, etc.

Selling on the boards is useful if you need money quickly and don't want to deal with conventional fees. Generally people are looking for steals and deals so you might take a hit on the price you wanted but you won't have to wait for an auction to run its course either. Before any cash changes hands, ask for references to make sure the person you are dealing with is trustworthy. Check the feedback boards as well to see if there have been any prior issues. Chances are the person is safe but you wouldn't believe how many people still don't ask for references and are surprised when they get taken for a doll.

Selling on eBay has its pros and cons: You will get a very large pool of buyers who have easily identifiable feedback and possibly more money for your item than you had thought. You will also have to pay some hefty fees on the final sale prices. If you are going to go this route, educate yourself on exactly how much you are paying for this sale (remember to include money fees) to judge whether it's worth it.

If you have enough items think about making a web sales page with a First to Know List of interested buyers. This allows you to have complete control of price and information without paying listing fees. There are no time limits and people can browse at their leisure. If you not depending on a quick sale then this is probably the choice for you.

Whatever you sell and however you sell it, keep excellent records. You'll need these in case something goes missing or for tax purposes.

You might not feel great about selling your items off initially but the joy of having money in your account again will make it all better. Now that you have cash again, the itch to buy will start up. Next week we will go over the our new rules of smart purchasing.


Anonymous said...

Another super collecting article. Thanks, Sam.

Sam said...

Thanks so much!