Thursday, April 24, 2008

I don't speculate or invest in comics or cards or toys or anything else. I've got 28 years experience, so if anyone should know how to do it, it should be me. But I think it's more or less pointless. I've decided I'm the bartender, I'm the pusher-man, I don't get hooked on my own product. I try to enjoy the stuff I sell for it's own merits, just as I live in the house I live not as an investment but as a home.

But everyday I'm asked, "What should I buy? What's worth money?" I don't know how to answer that question. It's illogical. If I thought what I was selling you would be worth twice as much in a month, why would I sell it to you?

Antiques Roadshow aside, it's extremely difficult to make money by collecting. If you already own something worth money, that's different. But to set out to do it is much, much harder than anyone realizes. Sure people get lucky, but it's not a way to try to make money.

Who should know better what comics to buy, or what brand of cards to collect, than me? And I don't have a clue.

But I'm told by people who have one little smidgen of the knowledge I have that somehow THEY know how to do it; ebay, or shows, or they got a friend. I usually shrug my shoulders and say, "Have at it."

You know, there is always the possibility they know something I don't know.

No there isn't. Truth is, I can't force the issue. I've already said my piece. It's way more difficult than it looks, even if you spent all your time doing it, and unless your time isn't worth anything, you might be better off gambling in something else.

I know this sounds ridiculous to them; (just as I realize it probably sounds ridiculous to you readers). I probably benefit from this illusion to some extent -- though not with my active hyping -- but I do know that most people chose not to believe me. After all, there are entire industries built on the concept of collector value; price guides, conventions, shows like Antiques Roadshow. I won't argue with you. I'll just say this: I have tons of experience, and access, and inside knowledge -- and I DON'T SPECULATE.

However, if you want to read comics, or collect cards, or play with or decorate your desk with toys. Then I've got what you need. Hopefully, this is the majority of my customers.

This slowdown had me thinking for awhile that it might be an opportunity to make money in real estate. That maybe -- if I had some cash in hand -- I could invest in some commercial property, for instance.

That possibility is starting to fade, because the same dreadful conditions that might lower commercial prices to within reach, also are going to impact on my chances for profits. I'm beginning to think that I'll get by, again, maybe better than any other slowdown, but not so's there will be a pile of money at the end.

And I think I'm O.K. with that. I think, despite my supposed negatively, I had stars in my eyes about the possibilities of profiting from a bust. But I forgot that every bust I've seen in my store -- beanie babies, pogs, comics, cards, whatever -- has never really presented an opportunity for huge profits after they burst. No matter how much cash I might have. No matter how much experience. Slow is slow is slow. What remains is an afterglow, and illusion of it's former glories. Other people buy into the illusion that comics are worth money, or cards are going to go up in value, but not I.

So why should real estate be any different? Historically, real estate hasn't been that great of an investment. Not to rubes like me, because that's what I would be. I'd be the equivalent of those people who come in my store who have a closet full of 'old' comics or 'old' cards and think they're rich.

What really brought this to a head, was a comment by someone over on the Bendbubble2 board that it might be time to buy a 'cheap' house and 'rent' it until it became worth something again.

The resident real estate agent over there, Marge, said:

Dudes, Rental investments haven't made REAL sense in Bend since the early 80's. I don't care if you pay cash or 30% down there is no sense in todays prices.You never make your maintenance and PITI. Now it's even worse. If you have bought or are buying in years 2006 to date, you are screwed. The only way you make money is by selling. Since the prices are going down for the next 3-4 years and will be held down for years after that, the only thing you gain is depreciation. If that works with your income , jump right in. Otherwise jump ship. I ask, why do people consider a house anything different than any other purchase that you have to maintain, that goes down in value as soon as you own it? Why should one expect a return on the investment? You use it, many don't maintain it, you but it like a car. It's not a diamond that may go up in value like gold. What is the point of the unrealistic expectations. Answers?

You know what? That has the ring of truth. That sounds like the sort of thing I say to my customers.

So I think I'll stick to what I know.

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