In the old days (read that as Pre-eBay), you would very often hear, “Hold on to that, it might be worth money someday.” Does that still hold true?

Sure items definitely can increase in value in the future under certain circumstances. Sports stuff usually ends up increasing, especially when you have something from a new player who later becomes a superstar. Celebrity autographs also usually increase as long as the star was either A-List or a cult favorite (mediocrity kills. . . your bid price in the long run). Heath Ledger autographs, for instance, are worth much more since his untimely passing but will they still be worth anything in 20 years? Things no one thought to keep, such as something from the opening of a small business that turns out later to be a Fortune 500 company or a can of some cult favorite beverage no longer made are always standbys for the simple reason that no one thinks to keep them and most are thrown out. There is always going to be those few things for which scarcity drives the price up. But for the majority of rare or collectible items, the new mode seems to be, if you want to get the best price for it, the sooner the better.

Let me give you an example. It was the late 90s. Everyone was Beanie Baby obsessed. My father went to a Yankees game and they gave him a free Beanie Baby with some special card. I think it was an Ostrich. Beanie Babies are not my thing, obviously.

On eBay, the next day, these dolls with the card were selling for over $150 each.

My mother took one look at these prices and immediately squirreled the doll and card away. Her logic, and I cannot fault it because it was how things used to be, was that if it was worth over $150 now, if she held on to it, it would eventually be worth much much more.

I went to look to sell that Beanie Baby a few weeks ago. After holding onto that item for about 10 years it’s now worth. . . less than 25 cents. Ouch.

Now just about every Beanie Baby collector is still smarting about this but, sorry guys, it needs to be said. That market has pretty much crashed. I sold a bunch of them for a Trading Assistant client a few years back and she had the price guide. Dolls that used to sell for $100s of dollars sold for less than $1 each. Beanie collectors are bitter, bitter people. They shelled out hundreds of dollars for what they thought were going to be worth even more later and it all turned out to be a case of marketing creating a demand without a scarcity to maintain the prices. Beanies are now 5 for $1 at most flea markets and collectibles stores.

But back in the 90s, anyone selling those Beanie Babies as soon as they got them in their hands was making big money!

Another example: When the first set of reissue My Little Ponies came out, people were spending upwards of $40-$50 each for them on eBay. Now, they are selling for around $6-10 on average on eBay for the set. Not as huge a difference as the Beanies but it shows the same point.

People get it into their heads that they want something when they first see it. Logic takes a back seat so they are willing to pay more to be one of the firsts to have it rather than wait and risk not getting it at all.

Where am I going with this? Other than in a very few cases, there is no “some day” in which the item in your hand will be worth more.

  • If you go to Comic Con and get an extra exclusive, the best time to sell it is as soon as you get home while people who didn’t get to go to the convention are still drooling with jealousy and will bid for it (some people list before they even have the item but this is technically against eBay policy).
  • If you find an extra Wii Fit at your local Game Stop, put it on eBay right away while it is still in demand. If you snag 2 of the limited edition 1 out of 100 issue of whatever, throw that second one up as soon as you know the 100th one has sold out.
  • Put all those eBay Live pins up on eBay between sessions while still at eBay Live.

With eBay, if you snooze, you really do lose money.

Demand = higher prices, not time. Waiting only let’s your potential buyers forget that they wanted an item. The less people who remember they want your item, the lower you sell it for.

On the flip side, buyers, if you really want that rare item, no matter how much you are chomping at the bit for it, don’t try to buy it right away. Usually even just a few weeks later you will get a substantial price break. Write yourself a note and just remember to look for it later. Patience is the frugal collector’s best friend.

For instance, I have this Ostrich, a steal at just 25 cents. . .