Most collectors start by trading; good ol' one-for-one swapping. But as one's collection develops, there may come a point where what one wants is hard to find. When found, the person who has it may not want what you have. Therefore you buy the patch. In turn, that collector can buy the item he wants. The result is a three-way trade with money being the medium, not the end point. As some may not be used to buying Scouting collectibles, the following are some guidelines particularly with respect to buying from auctions.
The best items, in general, are now offered through auction. Many of these items do not have established market values or the people offering and wanting the item are greatly removed geographically. What ever the source, buying at auction has become a common practice for most senior collectors. There may be some mystery to it for the first time bidder but the following will hopefully de-mystify it. The result can be getting those scarce items that really separates one's collection from another.
Historically, most auctions are distributed by mail. With the broad use of the internet, most offerings are 'virtual' on the web. Still, special collections will have a mailing associated with them. You receive a catalog of items offered. The better ones will do the extra work to provide meaningful suggested minimum bids. In this way you can assess whether an item is within your budget as well as not substantially overpay for an item. You choose the items you are interested in and send in bids of what you offer for the badge. If someone offers more, they will be the winner. If you offered the most, then you will win.
Most auctions have a call-in service on the closing date. At this time bidders can call and check what the high bids are for a given lot. If you want, you can out bid the high bid. Usually there is a requirement for a minimum bump (5%-10%) over the highest bid so as to be fair. Do not be intimidated to call. Do not be intimidated to check on several lots even if you do not bid. Understand though that as the call-in period progresses, the auctioneer will need to move through the calls as quickly as possible to give everyone a chance. Be organized. Be prepared. Know what you want to check out and what you are willing to bid.
There are a couple of understandings that you must have. First, your bid is an obligation to buy. If you bid it, you must be prepared to pay for it if you are the high bidder. On the other side, the auction is responsible for the authenticity of the item. If an item is not as the one that was cataloged, then you should receive a full refund for the lot.
When the auction is over you will be sent an invoice of your winning bids. You do not need to call to find out your winnings. As it turns out, such calls are a significant interruption to the auction service in preparing the invoices. After receiving your notice of winning bids, promptly send in your payment. Include your name and address and the list of items. Your items should be sent within the next week although it is proper to expect that personal checks can take a while to clear through the banks. In this case your items may be held until your check clears.
Over time you will develop those strategies that work best for you. Here are some that have been shown to work well.
Write-in Bids vs. Call-ins
You should always send in written bids. Calling in may not be convenient or you may not get through. Write-in bids do win, especially if there is a call back service offered. You can't win if you don't bid. Your written bids will cover you if you fail to call. Use the call-in bid for the really rare lot or the lots you really want.
A smart play is to sometimes make a pre-emptive bid. Although we always want to get something for as little as possible, sometimes one can make a strategic bid that practically guarantees you the patch. For example, say something is worth $70-$80 to you. If the bid is at $65, you could bid $72. But the next bidder could bid $79 and still be within your range but your next bid would require you to go out of it. If instead if you bid $75 or $77, you have forced the other bidder to go outside your range. If it goes higher, well it was outside of your range. But this is less frustrating than just losing out on a item you wanted.
SPA will take a "Limit Bid." With this bid, you bid the minimum bump but authorize the auctioneer to bid on your behalf using the minimum bumps up to your limit. Your limit is not revealed. For example, you might bid $30 on a specific lot and authorize the auctioneer to go up to $50 if that is what it takes to win. The auctioneer will use the best strategy to try and get you the item you want. This saves you the hassle of having to repeatedly call-in to see if you were out bid while improving your chances of winning the item at the most favorable price.
Using the Call Back service
This service, started by SPA, guarantees you the opportunity to be the high bidder. On your bids, written or called-in, you mark those lots where you want to be called if you are out bid. If you are out bid, you will be called. When called, you can bid higher if you so choose. In some instances, there may be more than one bidder with a call back on a lot. In this case, bidding will go back and forth. There is a fee, typically $3, for each phone call. A call can cover several lots though.
Use the Call Back service on those items you really want. Because there is a fee for the call, it does not make sense to have a call back on very inexpensive items; the call could cost more than the amount of the raise. Most auction services with this feature impose a minimum per lot bid value for call backs.
If you are going to have a call back on one lot, you might as well mark several. But be careful on which ones you mark. If you are the high bidder on all but one lot where you have requested a call back, you will still get a call and a charge. Even if you are not the high bidder, you are still responsible for the charge even if you do not win any lots.
Auctions can be an effective way to add significantly to your collection. Still, as with other areas of collecting, the following quote is relevant: