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Tips for Buying at a Swap Meet or Show

While trade shows and swap meets are a great place to find unique and hard-to-locate collectibles, they are not the same as purchasing from a brick-and-mortar store or via online sites such as eBay or Amazon. Most sales at shows are on an “as is where is” basis - meaning once money exchanges hands, the deal is done with little or no recourse should issues arise later.

Show promoters provide a venue for the collecting community to come together. Show promoters do not guarantee the show's content, nor the quality of product or business practices of each vendor who participates. It is ultimately up to the buyer to be well informed and know what they are purchasing as well as the items condition before walking away from the dealer area.

Here are some helpful tips:

Always inspect the item thoroughly. This might include removing from the original packaging (ask the seller to either do this for you or get their permission). If the toy is battery operated, open the battery cover to make sure there's no corrosion damage.

If the seller does not want to remove the item from the packaging, make sure there is a return policy in place. This includes getting contact information from the seller in case there's a problem afterwards. We provide a business card with our sales which instills confidence with our buyers because there's a way to contact us in the unlikely event of an issue after a show. (It's always a good idea to ask for a business card). Some vendors will provide a receipt with their contact information.

For electrical items, quality shows (such as The Greater Toledo Train & Toy Show) will have a test area. Make sure you know where this is firsthand by asking the show staff when you are admitted into the show.

It is not unreasonable for the seller to request purchase of an item before taking their item to the test area. However, it must be agreed and understood that you are taking the item to the test area and if it does not work, a refund will be expected when you bring the item back to the seller.

It is important to realize that many collectibles whether they are toys, trains, antiques and such are old with aging issues accordingly. There are various grading gauges that take into account the items condition. But even mint condition items are still old items. Have realistic expectations when purchasing, do your research ahead of time, know what you are buying, and ask lots of questions when looking at an item. “Buyers remorse” is never a good reason to return a purchase.

By following the above tips, you will have lots of fun in “treasure hunting” for additions to your collection; but more importantly, you will be happy with your purchase when you get it home.

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