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80s Airwaves - 80’s Music, Movies, Media & More » Blog Archive » The edge of scarcity

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The edge of scarcity


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I always get nervous whenever my wife starts looking at my amazon wish list with the intent of buying me something for Christmas or my damned birthday. It’s not that I don’t want the things on my lengthy list (9 pages now), it’s that I have apparently created a complex system for what I buy and when.

The first step, as they say, is admitting you have an issue. Been there, done that. So I have an obsession, addiction, predilection, fascination, call it what you will, but I am a pure at heart music fan. My disposable income, which seems like a term that is dangerous to use these gray days, is mostly focused on biographies of musicians (books), CDs, music DVDs, “limited” edition box sets of sorts or some combination of the three. While this would probably be an acceptable hobby if I were just focused on a particular artist, say Bruce Springsteen, or a particular genre, say Ska, life would be okay as I would grow old with my strange fandom and highly obsessive “record collector” like state. But I am way too distracted to be interested in any one of anything for any prolonged period of time.

So, down to my “process” for buying what and why: Most of my casual web browsing time is spent looking through the music bios & DVDs currently being auctioned on eBay. That’s where things tend to start. I almost never pay any attention to the buy-it-now prices unless they are substantially below the $5 or $10 marks. Probably 90% of my individual purchases are less than $10 each. These constant auctions of music bio books, CDs and DVDs allow me to see whats coming up and I will tend to peruse within the next 24 hours of auction endings. When I find something of interest with few or zero bids that seems to priced reasonably, I’ll flip over to my Amazon tab.

While the world knows about Amazon as a resource for buying anything NEW, fewer know they also have a good history of things that were new 25 years ago and are no longer available. Vintage paperback, hardcovers, CDs and DVDs that are now long out of print with details about page counts, running times, photographs and illustrations and, to some degree, publishing dates of both the original hardcover and paperbacks (where applicable). Beyond these pertinent details, Amazon also provides user ratings. So while there are always cheap books, if the publication isn’t worth the paper it was printed on, I don’t need it for my shelves either. I only want the best of the bunch, given my affliction and my limited budget.

So I will ping-pong back and fourth between eBay’s auctions ending soonest and Amazon’s reviews and ratings to help me identify what is most likely a value. Frequently… okay 50% of the time, those “deals” that appear on eBay are actually cheaper when researched on Amazon. And almost as often, not only is the item cheaper, but its from a more reputable seller (Amazon’s used products feature Seller rankings similar to eBay).

Before continuing further, please let me remind the kind reader that I do NOT consider myself a book collector. To reiterate, I am a music fan and I don’t get too stressed about first editions or hardcovers vs soft. Honestly, the condition of the book is not a major factor, though most of my actual purchases are at least Very Good condition or better. And yes, I am disappointed when I receive a book that was formerly a library book if the description didn’t mention that important detail… but I’m not a book collector. Got it?

Moving beyond a well rated book and a valid price point from a reputable seller, the last bit I’m looking for is scarcity: In other words, is this still available NEW from Amazon? If so, my interest is lessened. Clearly books, CDs, DVDs and now even Blu-Ray’s will go out of print (OOP) for a reason and by doing so, that factor usually increases the future value of that item. And while I’m not buying these items for future value or investment, it is reassuring to know the book you bought for $2 last month is now selling for $30 because everyone’s realized that they are not likely to re-print that import biography on Peter Gabriel again.

So there we have it. To review this now concerns me. At one point I shared an office with a woman who was an obsessive shopper and she literally made me ill with all that she bought for the sake of a “good deal”. Hopefully I’ve not offended others in a similar way. Regardless, I have other important issues to attend to… like listening to some good music and curling up with a good book!

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