Monday, February 19, 2007

2) Knowing the shape of things to come.

SECRET NUMBER TWO. When it comes to collecting, condition is critical. There is nothing more frustrating than paying a premium price for something and then later realizing the object's condition is sub-standard. Beware of the claims made by sellers. If you collected everything Luther out there that was being sold as a "rare" item, you would need a closet the size of your local Home Depot. While many listings of Reformation collectibles use terms such as "rare" or "mint," actually these terms, following Humpty Dumpty, mean anything the seller wants them to mean. All the variations on the "rare" theme (example: dead mint) are officially outside any standard system of measuring an item's condition. Let the buyer beware. While "MS 65" can be verified and certified by independent judges of coins, "in excellent condition" is often used because it is intentionally vague. When it comes to stamps and coins and medals and books and postcards and plates and statues of Martin Luther and the Lutheran Reformation, it never hurts to ask, using the most objective, standard grades of condition available. "Are there any defects?" "Can you please send more detailed photos?" "What if the object's condition is found unsatisfactory after it is shipped and examined?" are often quite helpful questions to ask. If a seller is too busy to provide more detail, then it does not bode well for helpful negotiations if there is a problem with the object's condition. If you're collecting books, browse sites that specialize in offering collectible books using solid, detailed descriptions in their listings. If collecting Luther medals and coins is your thing, take time to learn how dealers in the United States -- as well as in Germany -- grade coins. No one wants a bad taste in their mouth after purchasing a Reformation item from across the Atlantic. Do your homework when it comes to understanding the condition of your prize Luther Rose stick pin or Saxony Thaler or Melanchthon 10DM proof. More often than not, it's all about condition, condition, condition.

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