Michael Jackson’s death has triggered a spike in the market for collectibles linked to the pop star. Much of it is being sold on eBay Inc. and other online commerce sites. But be careful — there may be some shady operators out there who may be pitching items that aren’t authentic or properly licensed. Here’s a few tips from the Better Business Bureau and dealers in the memorabilia industry:
HOW UNIQUE? Unless an item is truly rare, its market value may be minimal. Research the cost of comparable items on the market before agreeing to a price.
CONFIRM AUTHENTICITY: Autographs can be verified by a third party, including memorabilia dealers who are members of the nonprofit Universal Autograph Collectors Club. For other items, the collector should feel free to ask questions about the item, including how the seller came to own it. If the seller can’t answer simple questions, then walk away.
PAY WITH PLASTIC: Consumers should always buy with a credit card if they’re shopping online. If the seller turns out to be fraudulent, then the consumer can dispute the charge with the credit card company, and may be eligible for reimbursement.
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BUY FROM REPUTABLE SELLERS: When shopping online, collectors should look for the Better Business Bureau’s seal on Web sites and click on the seal to confirm its legitimacy. If there isn’t a BBB seal on the site, check a company out at www.bbb.org.
READ CAREFULLY: Don’t be fooled by empty advertising claims. Just because the seller claims a commemorative item is a limited edition doesn’t mean that there weren’t millions made. If it’s being widely advertised, it’s probably too common to actually gain much value over the years.
WANNA SELL? THINK TWICE: Remember that the value an item holds for you might far outweigh the price you can get for it on the resale market.
“It is all very personal,” said Martin Brochstein, senior vice president at the New York-based Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association. “If you are looking at something as an investment, my advice would be to wait until the emotion dies down. If you’re looking for personal satisfaction, that is an evaluation that everybody has to make for themselves, and what it means to them.”