This week's column is about an experience I had last week and a cautionary reminder when someone is selling collectibles or precious metals.
A woman came into my shop with a collection of old baseball cards that had come in cigarette packs in the early 1900s, known to collectors as T-206 tobacco cards, that she was interested in having me make an offer to purchase. We do purchase old baseball, sport and nonsport cards. She asked if she should leave them with me, which surprised me, and I responded no, she should wait as I wouldn’t take long.
I went through the cards; they were mounted in pages, which made reviewing them easy, and after about 15 minutes I arrived at an amount to offer for purchase. When I made the offer, she accepted and asked when she should come back for the money. I told her I would pay her immediately, no waiting, but her questions about leaving the cards and waiting for payment had me curious.
The story she told afterward raised some red flags. She had taken the cards to another dealer before showing them to me, one who claimed to deal in sports cards. When she showed them to that dealer, after a few minutes he asked if he could take them home to study them closely, to which she agreed. Several days later he called and asked if it would be OK to rearrange the cards in the pages to make it easier for him to study them, this to which she again agreed. Finally, he called and said he was ready to make an offer so she should come back to his store.
His offer was $650 for all the cards, but he would need to keep them and sell them in order to pay her, which might take a week. In other words, she wasn’t going to get paid then. She told the dealer she was going to take them to Beachcomber for a second opinion, to which the dealer told her Beachcomber would be cheaper than he was. When she got the cards back she noticed three of them had been taken out of her pages and placed in individual holders.
I then understood her questions about leaving the cards with me and when she would get paid. There is so much wrong with how she was treated by that dealer (whom I will not name) that I can’t help but wonder if she got all her cards back. First and foremost, she should have never agreed to letting this dealer “take them home” to study them. There were a little over 100 cards, most of which were commons, so studying was not necessary. Then to ask to rearrange them makes remembering what was were almost impossible.
Taking cards out and placing them in other holders was unnecessary and confusing, mainly because only one of the cards was a premium priced card; the other two were common. And if a dealer is so undercapitalized he can’t pay immediately, he shouldn’t be buying.
When Beachcomber reviews a collection to make an offer, we want the owner to stay with us, even if it takes hours, and we never ask for the collection to be left with us. We want the owner to feel comfortable, and if there are any questions on their part, we can answer them immediately. And if our offer is accepted, we pay immediately.
While there is no way to determine if any cards were taken or switched, the opportunity was there. And I paid $2,000 for the collection; guess I wasn’t as cheap as I was accused of being.
Douglas Keefe is the president of Beachcomber Coins Inc. He and his wife, Linda, operate Beachcomber Coins and Collectibles, formerly in the Shore Mall and now at 6692 Black Horse Pike in the old Wawa building just beyond the former Cardiff Circle. They have satellite offices in Brigantine and Absecon. Between them they have more than 70 years of experience in the coin and precious metals business. They are members of the American Numismatic Association, the Industry Council of Tangible Assets, the Numismatic Guarantee Corporation, the Certified Coin Exchange and the Professional Coin Grading Service.