Safe Trading

Net User's Guide to Buying, Selling and Trading Collectibles


Before the publication of my first book, “The Net User’s Guide to Buying, Selling and Trading Collectibles”, two years ago, I bought and sold hundreds of pieces online, ever vigilant for that inevitable rip-off artist. He or she never materialized. Since that time, I’ve continued to trade hundreds of collectibles and have yet to be taken to the cleaners. In fact, I made the happy discovery that, by and large, people are scrupulously honest in their dealings. Message boards are small communities and a bad reputation spreads quickly. Crooks are driven out of town as fast as their little IP addresses can carry them.

That being said, there are fraudsters out there. The message boards at World Collectors Net – over 100 of them – are ripe for rip-offs, and collectors can be easy prey. The thought of finding that rare Moorcroft vase or elusive Hummel for a good price can push prudence out the window. When that happens, it can spell trouble. Here’s some pointers for protecting yourself and your hard-earned cash:

If you find a piece you’d like to buy, email the seller, asking about availability and shipping costs. If you’ve never dealt with this seller before, ask for their full name, address and phone number, and references from previous deals. Check the references. Post a message on the message board asking if others have had dealings with this individual before, and ask them to email you directly, not post their comments. If he won’t give you the information you’ve requested, then walk away from the offer. An honest seller will always be forthcoming. 411.com
If he has a box number instead of a street address, walk away. Boxes are easy to rent and utilize for fraudulent purposes.

Call information in the city where the seller lives and double-check the phone number and address. Better still, go to www.411.com and do a search there. Just click on “White Pages”, enter the person’s name and state, and away you go. This will verify the information, or possibly scare you away.

So far, you’ve gathered some useful information about the seller – name and address verified, and comments from previous customers. Of course, this doesn’t mean you still can’t get ripped off, but at least you’ve got some concrete information. www.samspade.org
You can continue your research by checking his or her IP address.

At the bottom of every message on WCN, you’ll find the IP address that the message was posted from. Go to www.samspade.com. www.samspade.org
Enter the address into the box with the button that says “Do Stuff” and click away. It will trace what servers the message came through and will tell you if the IP address is a fake. This is particularly useful if someone is posting false or slanderous remarks about someone else. They rarely use their real email address, for obvious reasons.

There’s more you can do. Ask if they trade on an auction site, such as Ebay, and check their references there. Make sure they give you their real auction nickname, not someone else’s with a sterling reputation. Simply go to the auction site, and send them a note through the site’s “Contact Seller” service. If it’s the real person, they will get your email and respond.

And speaking of Ebay, it does offer $200 fraud insurance to buyers who get robbed in a bad auction deal. They keep $25 as an administration fee (pulleeeze!) so you actually will only recover $175 maximum. Another option is to pay through Paypal – which is now owned by Ebay – instead of sending a cheque or money order. Paypal will also compensate for fraud on bad Ebay deals and this amount can, apparently, supplement the Ebay insurance limit.

Finally, here’s a method I’ve used many times. If you are buying an item that has more than one part, such as a Harmony Kingdom box, or an essential Certificate of Authenticity, work out a deal whereby you pay half the amount first, and the seller sends the lid of the piece or the Certificate. Now, you both have something that is worthless! It forces both parties to complete the deal, and pronto.

Please keep in mind that World Collectors Net is a very large web site run by only a few collectors. Message boards are not monitored regularly and you use them at your own risk. You have no choice but to protect yourself and th ese easy suggestions will help to keep your trades happy and fraud-free.

Also remember that the odds are in your favour – during WCN’s five-year history, there have been very few instances of outright fraud, in spite of millions of trades having taken place. Generally what looks like fraud turns out to be miscommunication and misunderstanding. When you’re dealing, make your intentions and your wishes absolutely crystal clear right from the start. That’s the best recipe for a smooth transaction.

R. J. Gulliver is the author of “The Net User’s Guide to Buying, Selling and Trading Collectibles”, published by Stoddart Publishing. The book is available at www.gulliverscollectibles.com.