Thursday, April 14, 2011

Value of Things

I’m a big fan of buying and selling things.  It started as something silly, really, buying nonsense toys or comics and then selling them on ebay for a profit.  Now, almost ten years later, I am one positive feedback away from breaking 1000 and that isn’t a small feat.  But by that same token, I’ve been learning something with my most recent large-scale purchase.

This past year, I bought season tickets to both the Washington Nationals and the Washington Capitals.  One was much cheaper than the other, I always quip that I could have bought a small car with the amount I paid for the Capitals tickets, but the Nationals one, in comparison, were practically nothing.  One of the things I regularly sell on ebay are trading cards.  A little known industry, really, but fans of say, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or Twilight will pay big bucks to get a complete set of the trading card corresponding to each movie.  I’ve been hanging my hat on those for a long time, but the Nationals tickets, to put this in perspective, are worth about the same as a 100-case set of any of those cards.  So I bought those in lieu of buying more trading cards, which have been slowing down.

This card retails for over $1500, sadly I do not have it

Now, this comes back to my main point, what is the point of all of it?  With the Capitals tickets, I’ve learned quickly that I lost more money than I made, but to be fair, I sold more than two-thirds of the tickets, and was only in the red by a bit.  Thanks to an amazing deal on the Nationals tickets, I’m doing really very well with those and expect to be ‘in the black’ before August. 

A key question comes up, what is this all worth?  With every one of my trading card sets save one, I am still in the negative.  But because the items continue to move, and I keep track of the reconciliation, I don’t feel bothered by it.  But how can I be sure I’ve ‘made’ anything?  How can I be sure that all the work and effort is worthwhile?

With the Capitals tickets, I really truly have had a unique experience over the course of this year and the events that, as a ticket holder, I’m invited to are pretty difficult to get admission to and are a lot of fun.  The organisation does not skimp on extras and it showed at the few events I went to.  But does that justify the money I didn’t make back on the tickets?

I realised, this week that the value for the tickets, in some respects, are not always there.  Last night was the first game of the Playoffs for the Capitals and I had far more trouble selling that one game than I had for most of the year.  I couldn’t fathom how I couldn’t sell the tickets for close to twice the value and ended up selling them with less than twelve hours to the event for about what I paid for the tickets, so little to no profit in that transaction.

I’d argue I learned an important lesson on value this week, and that really was the point of this rambling entry, even though I might think that something has value, it may not.  The cost of doing business, in this economy, can be unpredictable.  If I plan on continuing down this path of relative uncertainty, then I’m going to have to find an intrinsic value to what I’m both buying and selling.  If I’m only making a small profit, or losing money and gaining nothing, then I think I’ll need to get an intervention on not buying things in hopes of making money.

This was really rambling, I realise, but I’m distracted with watching auctions on ebay.


  1. i've always said you need to keep a spreadsheet on this, to see if you are making a profit or not. to a large extent I wonder if this is more about your time, you enjoy doing this, so its a bit of a hobby for you, and what is the cost of that - doing something you enjoy? take that into account.

  2. I have the green book! It tells is more a hobby, but a hobby I make money off of :)