Taking My Hacks

Is Trading a Thing of the Past?

Joe Orlando

There was a time when trading with fellow collectors was a very prevalent part of the hobby experience. During my youth, I can remember how important this activity was to the collecting endeavor. Trading with friends was just as fun, if not more so, than buying items. It gave you the opportunity to engage with others who shared the same passion for collecting as you did. It added a social component to what can become an antisocial endeavor if you let it.

It's not like the act is becoming extinct. I just wonder how often it occurs compared to the past. Trading with others is often facilitated by establishing trusted relationships with the people you deal with on a routine basis. To be fair, many trades are consummated with a strictly business approach, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. For a trade to be enticing or fair, both sides must be getting something they really want.

That said, it all begins with developing some level of trust between the parties involved. Somehow, we are connected to more people than ever before via Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media, but I wonder if quantity has replaced quality in our relationships. Of course, when we were kids and sitting across from each other with our binders full of baseball cards, the transaction was right in front of us. Literally. It was a simpler time and it made the process less complicated.

We meet more and more hobbyists over the course of our collecting careers, and many of them do not conveniently reside in our hometowns or even within a feasible driving distance. Some collectors take it to an extreme and buy or trade for items sight unseen, but I always think it is best to use certification as the foundation only and decide if the specific item is for you based on your personal taste.

There are a large number of collectors who don't make trading with others a priority or a part of their hobby experience at all. Let's face it. It can be difficult. Finding items that we want and offering items that someone else wants equally can be a daunting task. Card trading is tough enough, but memorabilia trading can be even more difficult. It does happen; it just comes with challenges.

One aspect of the current market that contributes to that challenge is establishing value that both parties can agree on. The access to information is so much better today than ever before, but interpreting that information can be very subjective. This is especially true when trying to determine a fair market value for memorabilia. In a sense, every piece of memorabilia is a one-of-one. Even if they share the same numerical grade, no two autographs or professional model bats are the same.

While you can make the same argument about cards, they are at least more like commodities than memorabilia in many cases. With cards, the real challenge comes in when you are dealing with extreme rarities, cards that simply aren't sold often. It can be very difficult to establish market value. Even when we have access to endless price guides and auction results, how we interpret those results can alter the trade.

In the end, I hope collectors keep the concept of trading alive. When a good trade happens, where both parties feel like they received something of value, everyone walks away happy, and that builds camaraderie. It also makes you feel good when you help another collector move closer to a goal they might have. It isn't all about what you take. It can be equally as satisfying, if not more so, to give.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
CEO, Collectors Universe
President, PSA & PSA/DNA