Build a Collection Without Going Broke
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Growing in popularity are the online auctions for collectibles, where people can bid for items they see at online sites. For kids, there's nothing to keep them from participating in this buying venue other than controls you may place. Setting controls is a good idea, something that one mother had wished she'd used when she learned that her son, thinking it was only a game, had bid almost $3 million and had won bids of over a $1 million at online auction sites. Of course, your child also will need your help to pay for items he's bought (usually a check, but increasingly a credit card).
Watch Your Step
Before buying online, buyer beware—and then some. While most online sellers are reputable and stand behind what they sell, some don't. Things represented as “perfect” may be damaged. Things represented as “real” may be fakes. And after payment is sent, the objects may never be delivered. The online auction sites make no guarantees about the honesty of the sellers.
Be extremely cautious about any online purchases. It's virtually impossible to be sure of an item's quality or authenticity just by viewing it online. Keep these other warnings in mind as well:
- Buy from a dealer who's reputable to avoid rip-offs. Don't know a dealer's reputation? Start with inexpensive purchases until a level of trust has been established.
- Before buying, ask about the return policy if your child isn't satisfied. Most online dealers are very amendable to returns, although you'll probably have to pay the cost of shipping and insurance. The dealers also may be willing to adjust the price (for example, if something sold as “mint” turns out to be slightly damaged and you decide to keep it in that condition).
- Pay by credit card if the seller will accept it. If the item is not as represented and the seller won't take it back, you can refuse to pay the credit card charge.
Auction sites to check out include these:
- eBay is by far the largest auction site, with nearly a million items listed in more than 1,000 categories.
- Auction Universe is much smaller but may have things of interest for your child's collection. Click on www.auctionuniverse.com.
- Yahoo!Auction has a growing auction market. Click on auctions.yahoo.com.
- Excite has both an auction and a classified market for collectibles online at www.classifieds.2000.com.
One of the benchmarks of certain types of collecting—particularly of small or inexpensive items typically collected by children—is trading. One of the lines from the movie Big, in reference to the character's baseball collection, was “got it, need it, need it, got it.” This is how it goes, and it's not limited to baseball cards. All it takes to trade is two willing parties.
Trading is a means of commerce in which people exchange goods with one another.
Trading, or bartering, is one of the oldest ways by which people acquired something they wanted or needed. It typically didn't require any cash; it took only two parts: the willingness to give up something else of value, and someone else to want that thing. Trading is a way for your child to cull unwanted items from his collection and replace them with more desired ones. Trading is particularly useful to kids because they don't need to pay money to get what they want; they use what they already have.
Trading teaches kids some important money lessons as well. The skills acquired in trading carry over well beyond their experience in collecting:
- Learning to fix value. Until your child gets a good idea about value, he may give up more than he gets. Much to the chagrin of their parents, many elementary school children have traded an expensive toy for a cheap one because they've wanted the cheap one. But it doesn't take long for kids to learn about the value of items they're collecting. Most 11-year-olds who collect baseball cards know what it takes in trade to acquire a Mark McGwire rookie card.
- Learning to negotiate. Generally, trading involves compromise by both parties to arrive at a final deal. Each side wants to get the most for what's being traded; your child can't always get the exact deal she's hoping for.
More on: Money and Kids
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Money-Smart Kids © 1999 by Barbara Weltman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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