Have you ever had to justify your collection to a loved one? Have you perhaps occasionally had to assure your partner that your collection may be worth more than you paid in the future, and that in case of an emergency you would always be able to raise some immediate funds? We are extremely lucky in that we partake in a hobby that can one day give something back, even if it’s at a loss, we can sell the bulk of our collections for a significant amount of what we paid originally. Those who have been more careful or lucky with their buying can even end up years down the line with more money than they originally spent. Not all hobbies offer that kind of safety net.
It’s easy to forget that other hobbies don’t offer that kind of future security, for example, sports fans who buy season tickets get no return on their spending. Not to belittle the experience, but it’s a financial fact. Quite often, we will buy Transformers at prices that ensure we don’t lose out should the day ever come where we need to liquidate parts or all of the collection.
Recently I’ve been selling off sections of my collection and the experience has taught me that what seemed in theory to be the most difficult hurdle to overcome, the acceptance of saying goodbye to treasured possessions, is just the start of the journey and depending on what it is that’s being sold, quite possibly even the easiest part.
Now, I’ve sold regular stuff like everyone else, things like Transformers Animated toys, Movie toys, reissues, standard vintage G1, Classics etc, and as always after a brief advert on the forums I resorted to eBay and the items sold for what they were worth to the buyers with access to my listings. When we think about selling our collections, I’m sure this is the route we would go down for a bulk of what we have, because nearly all of the Transformers in existence belong to the ‘normal’ category. Even Masterpiece and 3rd Party, I’d still go the forum route then eBay, assuming a friend didn’t want first crack.
But, what happens once you get to the rare stuff, and worse, the extremely niche obscure stuff that only a handful of collectors know, appreciate or care about? When you’ve got something on your hands that you know only turns up once every few years, and it’s not something that receives regular fandom hype, selling it for what it’s worth can be an absolute slog.
At this point, I simply must insert a disclaimer. This is absolutely not an opportunity to show off about rare toys that I have now or have had in the past. A significant part of my collection is meat and veg Transformers, from childhood Generation 1 to Binaltech, from Masterpiece to reissue Macross Valkyries. If what I also have now in terms of Diaclone and artwork is rare and valuable, it’s because I have already gone through the process of selling the ‘easy’ or ‘regular’ stuff over the last few years. It’s what’s left that has inspired me to document my experience and feelings about selling off the top-end of what I have.
When it comes to the rarest toys or pre-production prototypes/artwork, things that could even be one of a kind, it becomes very difficult to assign a value. People say that something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. In many circumstances, I’ve managed to decide that value, either by dint of having a good reputation in the community as a collector with knowledge of obscure pre-TF or G1 rarities, or simply because the buying party was so interested in what I was selling that – within reason – I could name my price.
How do you settle on a figure for a piece of one-off Alternators box artwork, for example? Well I could start at a figure like $200 and ask myself “Is this artwork worth the same to me as a Masterpiece MP-11 Starscream?” and the answer would be no, I know I could get Starscream again and $200 just doesn’t feel like enough compensation for letting the artwork go. Extrapolate that process and it helps me arrive at a value. A value that must be revised when there are no takers at $700, then $600, then $500 etc. It also helps a great deal when another piece of similar artwork is bought for a certain amount, and a bar is set.
Now assume values are acceptable and there are collectors you have in mind for that super rare – possibly four figure – item. For that amount of money to be involved, a buyer’s situation has to be conducive to dropping such large sums either in one go or over a suitable period of time. Let’s face it, you wouldn’t be selling the best of your collection if you didn’t have to, and chances are it’s an immediate and urgent financial need that necessitates such a parting of ways for you and your treasures.
As a result, maybe a 6 month or 1 year payment plan is not an option. Move to a secondary buyer who may pay a little less, and there’s no guarantee they aren’t committed to other purchases, needing time to raise funds. I’ve personally had to ask sellers to give me 3 months to arrange suitable funds for a purchase, in which time I’ve liquidated whole toy lines through the above outlined methods.
For virtually every rare piece, I have a number of people in mind for them, people I know would likely pay the asking price. But how long can I wait? When I’ve (mistakenly) let my wife know the value of certain things I own, I have been guilty of raising the expectation that at a moment’s notice, that cash amount is obtainable and all I need to do is let go. The reality is completely different. It could take 10 years for me to sell the remainder of my Ceji Joustra or Finnish Diaclones or Alternators artwork for what I perceive them to actually be worth and realise that total value I have quoted her. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that there actually aren’t that many collectors who specialise in these kinds of items, and some of those would not consider paying anything more than a “curiosity” price.
Just recently I sold a rare Diaclone of which only a handful have ever been found in respectable condition, and a collector I knew would pay top dollar had it reserved with me for 3 months. The deadline passed and that got extended to 5 months when he had trouble coming up with the money and had a few complicated issues with his finances. Eventually I had to cancel the deal as it was long past the deadline, and I took a very slightly lower amount from another collector a full half year after putting it up for sale. This, an item that Diaclone collectors would fall over themselves for an opportunity to own, was a pain to sell.
In fact, that’s been the story for almost every rare Diaclone or variant I’ve sold; Powered Convoy, special colour Diaclone Trainbots. minibots, G2 prototypes…it’s anything but a case of “Right, time to sell” and people throwing money at me. Sure you can eBay all of this stuff and risk lower end prices but immediate cash, I just feel I owe myself and my collection more than that.
So when I ask myself the question “Who will buy my collection?”, it’s easy, everyone could buy it if I offered reasonable prices, maybe cost prices and slapped everything on auction where it would definitely find new owners. But when I ask myself the question “Who will buy my collection for what it’s worth?”, the list of names drastically reduces, and the period of time drastically increases.
Sadly, when that day inevitably comes where there will be greater priorities and financial commitments to be made, the process of separating from my rarest toys will be a long drawn out process where the gems depart one by one over a period of months and years as I find the right buyer for each piece willing to pay what I believe certain things are worth. Have you ever heard anyone complain so much about making money?
All the best