We are always buying postcards and photos from before 1950 - email us at circa1910@tampabay.rr.com.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Buyer Beware - Warnings & Pet Peeves

We have been buying, collecting and selling postcards since the 1970s, so we have had plenty of opportunities to make mistakes - we hope to warn you against making the same ones.  Our thirty-plus years of deltiology have also given us many opportunities to gather pet peeves.  Here we present both

Buyer Beware
This old rule - that the buyer needs to have a healthy dose of self-protection - applies to collecting postcards as it does in any purchasing situation.  Dealers often fail to mention the imperfections on their postcards from simple soil to terrible tears.  Sometimes they have not noticed the flaw; sometimes they are choosing not to mention it. Look carefully whether you are buying online or at a show. 

At a show, put aside all the cards that you are considering buying from any given dealer and then, when you are finished searching, go over the cards carefully, taking your time.  If the cards are in sleeves, and they usually are, you may wish to remove the cards for a closer inspection; sleeves hide a multitude of flaws.

When buying online, search beyond the seller's description.  Even when you trust the seller, examine the card carefully.  The best sellers can make mistakes.  Plus, there is NO reliable way of evaluating the difference between grades of quality as they are used by sellers.  For instance, we have seen both VERY GOOD and EXCELLENT condition used to describe postcards with tears, ink stains, large creases, pinholes and other significant flaws.

IF the flaw cannot be clearly seen in the photo on the listing AND the seller has not mentioned the flaw in the listing, you may be able to return the postcard for a return - we encourage you to do so, as returning postcards that are poorly described helps to keep sellers honest.  You may have to pay the return postage, which doesn't seem fair, but is the usual manner of accepting returns.  At Postcardiva, we pay postage both ways if the error is ours but many sellers will not offer you this.

Pet Peeves - We always feel peeved when sellers use non-descriptions such as "over 100 years old!" (yes, we know)... "wear appropriate for age" ... "normal wear" ... "expected wear" ...  "typical wear" ... (there is no such thing...you can find a postcard of any age that is near mint, and the exact same card in a condition indicating it has been used to scrub the floor.)... "nice condition" or "great condition" without any details (what does that mean?)

More Buyer Beware
Your best bet in receiving postcards in the condition you expect is to ask questions and to examine the picture on the listing very carefully before you bid or buy.  If the photo on the listing is small or underexposed, we recommend skipping the listing...it's easy to upload a good quality photo of items for sale and we are suspicious of sellers who choose not to do so.  Also, we know that buyers can be at fault.  We have purchased desirable cards in a fit of excitement and found when the postcard arrived that a flaw was visible - but we missed it. 

We attended an eBay seminar where the speaker said "rare" was the most over-used word in eBay listings and we have noticed this is true in postcard listings.  If you have a good library of postcard guides, you will have a way to research if the postcard is indeed rare.  Another way to check is to look in the eBay Stores and Completed Listings to make a price comparison.  You may find several of the cards you saw in the Auction listing available in Stores for more or less than the Auction opening bid.  Shop both carefully and completely and you will find cards you want at prices you can afford. 

Today is Halloween, which reminds me of another odd problem.  We've seen labeling of postcards that is just wrong...for instance, European Easter witches flying on brooms listed as Halloween postcards.  Also, Thanksgiving postcards with pumpkins can be listed as (the more valuable) Halloween postcards.  Look carefully!

There are so many Buyer Beware points when purchasing Real Photo postcards that we will devote an entire post to RPPCs later.

More Pet Peeves - We are always irritated when sellers label ordinary cards as though they are the artwork of popular artists.  We don't pretend to know everything about every artist - there are fat books about this - but we do recognize how sellers try to glamorize their listings by attaching Flatscher, Brundage or Schmucker to listings of postcards with uninspired artwork.  We collect those three artists, and don't like to see their illustrious names attached to poor quality designs.  The fact that so many of their images are unsigned opens the door for unscrupulous or ignorant dealers to use the artists' names on designs that are not theirs.  Your best protection against this is to know the work of your favorite artists so well that you can recognize their style.  When in doubt, either question the dealer (we have sometimes learned valuable information this way) or refer to your guidebooks. 

More Buyer Self-care 
 We recommend you limit your collection with a few basic rules. Rules are personal - you will decide what rules you want to use.  The purpose in limiting your collection interests is to keep you from becoming crazy (or destitute) following up on every attractive card you see.  Because we consider our collection an investment, for instance, we do not knowingly buy cards that have flaws.  We will wait a long time to find a card we like in excellent condition, passing up those that appear with creases, bends, corner chips or marks to the front.  We have also chosen - arbitrarily - not to collect black and white artwork or state views (except California and Florida, our two 'home' states).  With these rules, we have managed to keep our collection to a workable number.  Most people find they have special interests and some collectors only purchase one specific kind of card, like Advertising or Indiana views.  We have been at shows and met people who only collect hospitals or images of people vomiting (true, I swear) and once read about a lady who only collected postcards of cows with one foot in the snow.  Now, that is a limited collection!

Do you have your own pet peeves, shopping experiences or buyer warnings to share?  We would like to hear about them!

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