Taking My Hacks

The Cheaper They Are, the Harder They Fall

Joe Orlando

Before writing this piece, there was a part of me that hesitated simply because I didn't want to sound like a broken record to the people who read these columns. That hesitation was brief, however, as I felt compelled to share more thoughts about the danger of becoming a bargain hunter based on some recent events.

The intent of this editorial is not to bash the buyers who fall into this category; it is to remind the majority of collectors out there about the danger that exists. It is very simple. Where there is money to be made, the criminals will follow. With each passing year, the market for the premium material seems to escalate. There is blood in the water and the predators smell it.

Knowing this, it is troubling to me that there are buyers out there who continue to fall victim to the predators who seek them out, all in order save a relatively small amount of money in relation to the overall amount being spent. These buyers come from all walks of life. What trait do they all have in common? Their frugal nature attracts them to the danger and, in turn, they often pay a terrible price.

Recently, I had a conversation with a collector who had purchased some counterfeit cards. During the call, I suggested that he work with reputable dealers and auction houses. It is one of the tips we make to current collectors and potential ones all the time. That way, if there is ever a problem with an item, the dealer or auction house is much more likely to resolve the situation to preserve their reputation.

This particular collector's response really epitomized the problem. He said that he didn't want to pay the buyer's premium and that high-end cards generally go for more money in major auctions. In essence, he could buy the cards cheaper from sellers who were basically unknown. For a slight discount, he was willing to walk right into the potential fire. The seller that scammed him had no references of note and, of course, this buyer met the guy locally with cash in hand. Needless to say, the seller is long gone.

The truth of the matter is there are almost no "deals" anymore at the high end of the market. Why? We are in the information age, the age of the Internet. You can research just about anything, including general values of collectibles. Why would someone be willing to sell you quality collectibles at a reduced price if they don't have to? This is not your lucky day. It is the fraudster's if you fall for it.

What is perhaps more amazing is that often times the sellers are pitching items that have allegedly been authenticated or graded. Think about it. If an owner has items that are supposedly certified, by definition that means the owner has some basic understanding of what they have. Why on earth would they inexplicably sell the items at a discounted rate? Even if the seller inherited the items, they could pull up some relevant information on Google in seconds.

I know other hobbyists who have substantial collections where many of the items are certified by reputable companies, yet others are not. They can buy the items for less when the items haven't been vetted. Are these buyers qualified to buy items without expert advice? Most of time, no, but they do it anyway. Why? In their minds, they saved a few bucks. Often, after they buy the non-certified items, they refuse to pay to the relatively nominal fees to have them certified. Deep down, on some subconscious level, they fear the truth. 

I am tired of writing about this. You are probably more tired of reading about it because most collectors know better. The reality is there will always be criminals out there trying to make a buck. Why? Some buyers allow them to do so by ignoring the red flags and by making nonsensical decisions. The fact pattern is almost always the same. For some, greed can be a powerful thing... even for buyers looking for a good deal.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
PSA President