Dr. Michael Echols
Mental collecting games:
When confronted with making a high-end medical antique purchase, I have a number of mental tests which I run to determine if I really want to make the buy or not. They are:
When was the last time I saw one of these and what is the likelihood I'll see another one? (Dangerous test if you are a beginner and think everything is rare!) After you collect for a while and build up contacts among other collectors, the feeling that you will see another piece again is more positive. The longer you collect, the more you understand what is really rare and what is not. There are lots of items out there still in the hands of non-collectors.
If I pass on this, can I find another one in the same condition? (Mental masturbation at best.)
Is it really something I will enjoy in my collection? (Do you get warm and fuzzy feelings?) With the passage of time, we all tire of parts of our collections. Today's passion is tomorrow's trader. It happens.
Do I want to go off in another collecting direction, or stay on the path I have decided upon? (One tends to collect that which is available. Do what works for you. Adapt.)
Am I going to get mad at myself if I let this pass? (Who among us has not kicked him or herself for passing on a piece because "it cost too much", only to later wallow in regret?) There will be another, but the test is when and how much will it cost next time around.
Is the price out of line with my experience or that of other collectors of a like mind? (One doesn't want to pay too much and be seen as "stupid" by ones' peers? On the other hand, stupid today maybe smart tomorrow!) Always pay a premium for quality. You never go wrong with the best. (I will keep repeating this mantra.)
How many survived? Is it really rare? (Experience is the only teacher. When you first begin collecting, everything is rare because you don't know how many are available.)
Is this a fad buy? Will this "hot area" pass and should I just wait until the demand dies down? (One or two competing collectors can drive the prices on a limited supply and when they drink their fill, the price will drop like a rock. . A few competing collectors can drive the price through the roof but once they finish their collections, prices settled back down as calmer collectors re-enter the market.)
Is the item worth a premium to obtain at this time? (If it is a rare and a once in a life time opportunity to fill a hole in the collection...just do it! That post-purchase depression gradually fades after a while....I hope.)
How many people collect this item? (If you and two other guys are the only ones collecting a given item, don't overpay for the right to own it.) If you are the only person collecting a given item, then you have to think twice about being held up for a high price. Where else are they going to sell it?
Is this item so unique that no one else would want it but me? (A collectible is not a good investment unless other people want it.) Yes, I realize that the pure of heart collector doesn't really care, but at the levels which items go for these days, you have to weigh the cost vs. return on investment equation.
And finally, how am I going to get out of this item if and when I want to move it to another collector or dealer? (Is it a good investment? Is there a market for the item?) Quality will always move. As long as you have the best available, you won't have to apologize when it comes time to sell.
Knowledge is your best advisor: buy books! Study before you buy.
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Last update: Monday, December 12, 2016