Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Collecting Not Hoarding


How a Collector Avoids Being a Hoarder. 

                                        

After years of collecting, (cough, hoarding) the only reasonable way to quickly acquire more stuff is to sell of some old stuff to make room for the new. It might sound crazy, but with a few oddball collections sitting around, you can, if you are willing to part with some old stuff, recycle things on eBay for new stuff. In my case that is now gaming materials. 

Before I move on, I'd like to spend some time discussing collecting, hobbies, neurosis, and other odd eclectic behaviors. Don't be afraid. You are amongst friends. First off, if you are a collector with odd habits, remember to refer to yourself as eccentric or idiosyncratic. You might get referred to as a lunatic, bizarre, nerd, or even bat-shit crazy but just forget all that. Just be yourself. 

Here are a few ground rules to remember if you think you might be an oddball eccentric.

• Remember to bathe, brush your teeth, comb your hair (if you still have any), change your clothes daily (yes underwear too) and above all—put on deodorant. Visit the dentist every 6 months too!

• Try not to keep more than 2-3 animals in your home. If you are a woman, resist the urge to keep more than 2 cats to avoid the unfortunate"catlady" stereotype. Never bring pigeons or squirrels into your home!

• Also, sit and carefully watch a few episodes of Hoarders. Quirky habits can quickly, quietly, spiral out of control. This can happen quickly if you are a hermit with no one around to look you over and raise an eyebrow now and then. Make sure you have a few close friends who do not share your exact tastes, collecting habits, or desires. If you can not maintain strong friendships with people who fall outside your passionate comfort zone then you might need to do some self reflection. A good varied group of friends is healthy and helps us all to grow. Remember you are part of a society. If you cant function in it, well, dont act shocked when others act shocked by you. 

OK, so now back to collecting. Everyone is passionate about something. Some people like shoes, some like hats, some like fancy spoons, some get a thrill from buying lottery tickets. As long as your passion is not excessive then all is well. Can you stop if you had to? Try it for a while just to see. Also do you get bored with stuff and move on? I know I definitely do this. I have a yo-yo collection that I rarely look at it any more. Years back I was buying new yo-yos left and right. Now the thrill has worn off. 

Collecting is not a bad thing. Toys, yo-yos, movie memorabilia, DVDs, T-Shirts, antiques, etc. have all been things I have collected or still do to this day. Once gaming came into the mix over a year ago I could see fast that this was going to not be just a small quick collection of yo-yos. First of all there are a lot of games out there. Too many to reasonably get, play, read, explore, for any one person. Gaming too, I quickly learned, is not just about sitting down and playing games with people. That is the most important part, but there is a lot more too it than just that. 

Almost anything you can think of these days has entire subcultures built around them, and if you want to delve deep you might be shocked to learn just how deep some of these rabbit holes can go. For example, yo-yo's are not a large industry, but there are many websites, online stores, tournaments, tricks, micro celebrities, etc. to honor the trade. Gaming, on the other hand, is a huge industry and rakes in millions every year. In 2006 the board game industry alone made $802.2MM. With video games added to that mix, the figure is well into the billions. It's not exactly a niche market. TSR, which was started by Gary Gygax, was eventually bought by Wizards of the Coast. Eventually Hasbro purchased Wizards of the Coast in 1999 for $325 Million. Pen and paper gaming might seem not to be mainstream, but I suspect it's kept that way on purpose because that is how it originated. When something gets really big though, like Pokemon or Magic the Gathering, you will see it at Target, Toys R Us, and everywhere else. Angry Birds is a good example. Those damn angry birds are everywhere now. Pokemon already has well over a dozen films. I'm sure it will not be long before Magic the Gathering & Angry Birds find their way to the big screen or Cartoon Network. Skylanders too. That is gaining speed quickly. Just ask my 5 year old son. Wait, you don't already know about Skylanders Swap Force

Reading is a big part of pen and paper gaming, too. There are countless books to go through, rules to read, art to admire, and more. Reading alone has taken up more of my time then actual gaming. With D&D there are also maps, miniatures, dice, cards, adventures, etc. When you get into games like Warhammer over at Games Workshop, the construction and painting of miniatures can easily become a full time hobby in and of itself. I recently started painting some miniatures myself and even as the trained artist I am, it still took up a lot of time. Be prepared to allocate your time carefully. Try not to get burned out on any one thing. And take a break from your hobby to do other things. Being well-rounded helps a hobby from becoming an obsession. 

So, if you do want to acquire more than you might be able to reasonably spend in a short amount of time, what do you do? Well if you have been, like me, a collector for decades, it's quite easy to sell old stuff to acquire new stuff. Garage sales are great in the summer months, but one two-day garage sale a year is my limit. Remember to carefully gather up everything you don't want and could care less about parting with, and put it out. Next is to remember to price stuff to sell. Far too often I go to sales where everyone wants to squeeze every last cent out of an item, and they wind up selling little. This is a huge waste of your time. Electronics rarely sell for more and almost always sell for far, far less then you paid. The reality that you paid $200 for a game system and are only going to see $20-$40 in return is not a bad thing. Rather then thinking of it as a loss, think of it as a savings when you bought the system. You paid for it, used it, tired of it, and in the end spent less for it. Take that money and run! Electronics, old bikes, furniture, clothes, utensils, tools, pocket knives, boxes of nails, cans of paint, art, particle board, and just about anything you can think of will sell at a garage sale if it is priced right and someone has a need for it. I suggest posting your sale on Craigslist at least a full week ahead of time. Start setting up a good 1/2 hour before you advertised it would start. Start the day off asking slightly more for items and then go down as the day winds down. On the second day, be even more willing to sell. If someone asks about an item, that means they likely want it. Do not be afraid to let them haggle with you for stuff. Think about what the item is. Some spoons, glasses, old Walkman. More often then not you should be lucky to be transforming most of what you are selling into money. Most garage sales I see have stuff that I'd toss into a dumpster. Sell, sell, sell! 

eBay is the greatest website in the world. Well, OK, Wikipedia is, but eBay is a close second. If you have not already done so, go to eBay and set up an account. Then go to Paypal and set up an account there. You will need to give them both a lot of information, credit card, bank account numbers, etc. It's worth it. Selling on eBay if you have a lot of worthwhile, oddball stuff that you will not get good money for at a garage sale is a gift from the Internet gods. The odds that someone local will shell out a few hundred dollars at your garage sale for your wacky Land of the Lost lunchbox is slim. eBay is where the real money is for items like this. I can't go into detail here about eBay. I'd be here forever. You must learn as you go. My dime store advice for eBay is as follows:

• Always look at sold and completed listings to see what stuff is selling for. What people ask for things means nothing. If you want to sell something fast and get money into Paypal quickly, make sure you use Buy it Now and sell your item at the low end of what the item is going for. Buyers will always look for the cheapest ones first. If you want more, then up the price a bit. Also, make the auction 30 days if you want a lot of exposure and want to make more. 

• When shipping, always use tracking and signature confirmation, especially for expensive items. Insure packages too, to put your mind at ease. 

• Even if you do not offer refunds be aware that people can request refunds for up to 60 freaking days after you sell them something. I know this is insane and I think it should be more like 10 business days for what is mostly second hand goods but that is the reality of eBay and Paypal. The buyer has the upper hand. 

• Remember, most people are good and trustworthy. If you sell a lot on eBay you are bound to come across rogues and scoundrels. Don't let them sour you. Move on and forget about them. 

• For Paypal, if you are worried about tethering it to your checking or savings, simply set up another bank account just for Paypal. Do the same with a credit card for eBay and Paypal and only use it there. If there is ever a problem with any of it, it's not attached to your main account and credit card. You can cancel the card quickly without it affecting your day to day finances. 

• eBay and Paypal can work both ways for you too. Just as you can sell stuff and get more then you might have at a garage sale, you can buy things off eBay too, and find odd ball stuff you want—usually for a great deal. You can save searches in eBay for hard-to-find items, and you will be emailed when people post new stuff.

• If you plan on buying on eBay sign up for eBay Bucks. You will get 2% back on qualifying items and you can use that accrued pseudo cash to get stuff off eBay a few times a year. 

!!! Be aware that Paypal has a service called Bill Me Later. While this might seem convenient, this is (to me) a bad idea. It's always wise to pay for what you want with money you have. If you do buy anything aside for a car or home that you can not pay for entirely up front, then I suggest looking around for deals where you are charged little or no interest for the purchase as long as you pay it off on time. This requires paying close attention to the bills. When I sometimes do this, I always pay the item off a month or two early just to not even come close to the danger zone where HUGE interest payments that have invisibly accrued all along suddenly come due.  

Crazy large items that cannot be easily sold on eBay nationality can be sold on eBay locally. Craigslist is also a good place to go. With Craigslist, always make sure you get cash from the buyer. Be careful who you let into your home, too. Carefully read the warnings and guidelines on Craigslist. 

So remember to get new stuff, just purge and sell your old stuff. Getting a bit zen every now and then can be a good thing and will clear up some space and free up some money for you so you can enjoy what you are currently indulging in. 

–A