Something I am thinking about trying — I’m not sure about it, though: I might take a vacation from eBay purchases . . .

Occasionally, I have wondered whether eBay is (to me) worth the time, stress, angst, disappointment, and worry.  Again, I am talking about “for me.”  It is a highly subjective thing.  I am thinking about drastically reducing my time on eBay, and also my expenditures there (which are already very slight).

There was a time back in 2011 where I went for a six-month period during which I added only one card-game booklet to my collection — so eBay didn’t much help me build my collection during that period.

As I have probably mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I actively (or semi-actively) collect other things in addition to card-game booklets.  The main subjects I have collected are Professor Hoffmann material, Frank Godwin material, and Robert Hellis photographs.  (Hellis was a magician who was also a photographer.  He was one of Hoffmann’s teachers in magic, and he is mentioned in Modern Magic and elsewhere.)

I have a theory about eBay.  It is not a flawless theory.  But basically, the theory is that you could take a year off from looking at eBay, and then you could dive back in, and it would be almost as though you never left.  The likelihood of something really, really special coming up are pretty low, even during a one-year period.

Again, I am talking about “for me.”

Oh, and by the way, even though I sort of stay in touch with the major auctions of magic books, I have not bid in any over the past, oh, I forget, but we are talking more than a decade.  Exception:  In recent years, a friend bid for me on I think four items — a bunch of Edgar Heyl material (Heyl was a magic-book dealer and magic bibliographer), a copy of Hoffmann’s Bacarrat Fair and Foul, an inscribed copy of The Illustrated Book of Patience Games, and a copy of The Secrets of Conjuring and Magic which Hoffmann had inscribed to his wife.  I was successful on only one of the four lots — the inscribed copy of The Illustrated Book of Patience Games that I described in an earlier post.

Now for the past five years or so, I have sent an end-of-year “collecting report” to my friend John Cannon (of Aladdin Books and Memorabilia, in Fullerton).  It has been useful to me to look back on those reports and see what I have “accomplished,” even though the reports are kind of simplified and summarized.  They have also gotten “worse” in time — more vague and approximate.

But here are a few highlights from my 2012 report of December 31.  These are rough approximations on quantities and prices!

These references to actual dollar-amounts may sound a little crass, but they help support some points I am trying to make.

I bought eight Hellis photos at a total cost of maybe $70.  Some of them are really nice!  That, to me, is an affordable hobby!  (On the other hand, I have become very discriminating on what to purchase — there are tons of Hellis items that I have pretty much ignored.)

I spent a total of about $300 on card-game booklets.  This included a few sets.  I acquired fourteen booklets in all.

For my Frank Godwin collection, I bought maybe fifteen comic books and comic strips (not original art, but simply published versions), and some books.  There I spent maybe $250 in all.

For my regular Hoffmann collection, I guess I didn’t get anything at all!

So, on my four main collecting interests (card-game booklets, Hoffmann material, Hellis photos, and Godwin material), I spent maybe $650 during a whole year.

What’s my point?  Well, in all of the items I bought on eBay for my main collections — and I hope we can agree that I didn’t spend very much — probably only three items were truly significant, as follows:

1.  Card-game booklet:  Schnapps and Other Original Round Games, by Professor Hoffmann.

2.  Two Sunday Connie comic strips, not by Frank Godwin, which were interesting largely because they proved that Godwin did not draw those particular strips.

So, my “collecting year” was pretty much made by those three items.

But what if I had not found any of those three items?  Well, missing the Connie comic strips would have been too bad, but in terms of the overall research value of my collection, they would not have been missed much.

Same with the Schnapps booklet.

So, could I have taken a year off from active collecting?

Emphatically, yes!  My collections would not have suffered much.  I would have saved $650.  Oh, and I would have saved perhaps 100 or 150 hours (or maybe more) that I could have spent on other projects.

On the other hand, even when I was not bidding or spending money, I was still learning from eBay.  I learned a little bit, though — not a whole lot.

So, I don’t know.  I may take a vacation from eBay.

I have already not bid on a couple of items that the “old Tom” probably would have bid on.

A kind of resolution for me for 2013 has been taking shape.  I am already very discriminating regarding what I bid on.  But I think I may ratchet that up a few notches, and try hard to find reasons not to bid on things.

Just a few thoughts.

—Tom Sawyer

Tuesday, January 8, 2012

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