Friday, March 03, 2006

Haggling

Classical Coins ( http://www.classicalcoins.com/ ) is a “one price” store. Many collectors don't understand that concept, so let me take a moment to explain it. A “one price” store offers items at fixed prices that will not be discounted. Haggling over prices is not allowed.

When you go to an automobile dealership to buy a car, have you ever wished you could short circuit the bargaining process with the salesman and just get their best price up front? After all, these guys bargain car prices for a living. They are bound to be better at it than you are, they know all the angles and have important information that is not available to you, such as the promotional discounts they receive, or what they actually paid for a used vehicle.There are car dealers who do operate one price stores, offering cars at the minimum they are willing to accept without allowing any bargaining, and I got the idea from them. I purchased a vehicle from such a dealer in 1996, and it was a very satisfactory experience. The price was fair, the transaction was fast and I still own that very satisfactory vehicle.

Thus, every coin listed at Classical Coins is offered at the minimum price, and you don't have to bargain to get it. Why should I sell ancient coins for less than I could get if I bargained like other dealers? Because I'm not a used car salesman, or a rug merchant in a Middle Eastern souk. I dislike haggling, which impresses me as undignified. Collecting ancient coins is a noble avocation with a very long and impressive history dating back to the days of Augustus Caesar. It was once the avocation of kings and the nobility, who began the great national collections now housed in the British Museum, Bilbliotheque Nationale and similar institutions. Also, although my business does have to make a profit to continue, I am really not in this for the money – I can make far more money per hour working as a consulting engineer.

You will find lots of dealers who will be very pleased to bargain with you. They abound at every coin show, and they hold all the cards. They know the market better than you possibly could, they know what they paid for their coins, and they know how to size you up and accurately estimate what they can get from you. They have already gone through many thousands of bargaining sessions, and they have it down cold. Many dealers who like to bargain don't display prices, and after “sizing you up” will start the bargaining by casually mentioning a figure that may be as high as twice the price they would ultimately be willing to sell the coin for. I know this because I regularly buy coins from such dealers at shows. I routinely make brutally realistic offers that are less than half the “sticker” price, and they are quite often accepted.

You would be surprised to learn how often collectors (particularly new collectors) just pay that initial asking “sticker” price. When that happens, the dealer’s profit may be four times as much as the minimum he would accept. It's a real challenge for a collector to manage the bargaining process so as to find out what the real "bottom line" price is, and only the most experienced and savvy collectors (or other dealers) can expect to do that. You may occasionally be able to get a bargain from such dealers that is better than you would get from me, but in the long run you will save quite a lot of money by buying from a "one price" dealer.

If your collecting pleasure depends on feeling that you “got a bargain,” there are two ways to look at it. Your odds of genuinely “getting a bargain” by haggling over each coin purchase are in actuality far worse than your odds of breaking even playing the lottery. You could certainly get better odds from your local numbers runner, and over the long run you will get far more real bargains from a “one-price” store. Haggling over prices also takes a lot of time, time that I do not have enough of and would much rather devote to more constructive activities such as cataloguing and listing coins for sale.

Finally, an Internet ancient coin store simply is not a good venue for haggling. The software that manages cataloguing and order processing does not know how to haggle (God forbid that it ever should). Consequently, bargaining would involve logging into the “back office” to manually adjust the sale price for each transaction - a great deal of unnecessary work. I prefer to keep prices low and sell coins as efficiently as possible, instead of squeezing the maximum profit from each transaction.

1 Comments:

Blogger gerald said...

Sounds reasonable to me.

6:19 AM  

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