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Buried Treasures

WEEKEND TICKET:

February 14, 2002|By JASON ZARA, Special to this newspaper

The world of collecting has changed drastically with the presence of the Internet.

It used to be that if you wanted a rare autograph, an out-of-print figurine, an old comic book you had to travel to shows or search out other collectors. And even then, it was possible you would search throughout the state and not find what you were looking for.

Now, out of print and out of stock doesn't mean unavailable. Just a few clicks away you can find most anything.

The most prominent means of finding collectibles online is through auction sites like ebay. Quite frequently I will be looking for something no longer available through regular distribution, and there it is on ebay, usually for about 25 percent under retail. But even if an item is so hot that it can't be found in any store, and anyone selling it is asking an outrageous price, there it is on ebay.

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While being able to find anything on ebay may seem like it would make a collector's life easier, that's only true to an extent. I was looking for a limited edition figurine for someone that was no longer available through distributors. The print run for the figure was limited to 2,500 or so and I figured it might be hard to find online, but I checked anyway.

At the time I looked, ebay had something like 27 of them, including one person selling a sealed case of six. And they were still available at around retail price. But the item hadn't been off the market that long, meaning these people weren't cleaning out the closet or trying to sell an old figure they were tired of. These were simply people who snatched up all the figures they could hoping to sell them on ebay at a profit.

Think about it — slightly more than 1 percent of all copies of this figure in existence were listed on ebay at a given moment. Depending on how long that trend continued, it's possible that more of these figures were sold online than were sold through retail shops. I suppose that's great news for people who don't live near a specialty store, but it may actually be making collectibles harder to come by for the fans who actively pursue them at shops, conventions and shows.

Personally, I've always enjoyed the hunt for collectibles almost as much as I've enjoyed having them. Finding a dusty old treasure in the back bin of some dealer's shop is somehow more appealing than point, click, pay.

Of course, I don't always have time to go pawing through those old dusty bins like I used to, and there is something to be said for convenience.

So I guess I'll just keep using ebay for the things that I've just gotta have and can't find anywhere else. And I'll keep looking in those old dusty back bins for the things that's I've just gotta have but didn't know it until I found them.

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