Thoughts on Garage Sales

I have a lot of stuff. It’s dangerous enough being the kind of person who hangs on to random items because of an emotional attachment, but I’m also the sort of person who constantly wonders about what an item’s future value might be. Consequently I have a lot of baseball cards, toys, comic books and obscure CDs.

In a post-eBay world, what really becomes collectible and valuable anymore? It seems to me that, since the mid-80’s at least, Americans are more keenly aware than ever that the little things with which we decorate our world will have monetary value to others in the future. For example, the baseball card industry exploded in the late 1980’s as more people started to discover that big money was being paid for cards from the 50’s and 60’s – but the thing that made those cards valuable was their scarcity, and they were scarce because few people thought they were worth saving. These days, however, fewer people are throwing anything out. So what’s rare anymore? What toy, card, or comic could ever become the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card?

The temptation to keep an item simply because it might be worth something to someone else is a maddening game. I have rare CD singles by completely obscure acts…maybe there’s an obsessive fan out there somewhere who’d pay money for it?

Fortunately, eBay helps connect me with that potential obsessive fan, but what eBay giveth, it also taketh away, as there is now such a glut of stuff in their database that everything tends to get devalued. Back in the day, I could have sold a Mark Grace rookie card at a local shop for a price based on my buyer’s demand (a buyer could only travel so far and visit so many shops) but with eBay, there are dozens of Mark Grace rookie cards to choose from, so the price drops. Ebay doesn’t increase a supply, but it does facilitate a greater degree of supply fluidity. Add to that a public giving increasing scrutiny to every little potentially collectible knickknack, and you’ve got a recipe for a buyer’s market. Good luck profiting from your massive stash of stuff when it turns out everyone else stashed theirs, too.

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