Which costs more?

By Larry Myers

I'm always amused by remarks that infer that postcard e-mail auctions tend to get prices too high to be warranted. The assumption is that one could buy the postcard(s) in question much cheaper at a postcard show or sale.

Some time ago I kept track of expenses incurred in going to a postcard show. These expenses included:Let's take some numbers that more or less represent these expenses and see what effect they have.

Taking a day off from work.

Filling my gas tank twice.

Thruway/Turnpike charges

Motel room for one night

Evening meal and next morning breakfast near the show location

Cost of postcards that I purchased.1. Taking a day off from work. Some people might make $100 a day. Others might make $30. Still others might be retired, and taking a day "off" by retirees wouldn't change things. Let's compromise and say the day off costs $50.Now let's further assume that instead of going to the postcard show and buying these cards, that we stay at home, go to work, and purchase the same cards at auction. Let's see just how much extra we could offer in a bid to buy the same cards, using the same amount of money that was spent going to the show.2. Filling the gas tank twice. This assumes a fair amount of travel is involved. Gas tanks can hold anywhere from 10 to 25 gallons in typical autos and gas can cost anywhere from $1.25 to $1.40 where I live and travel right now, so let's say a total of $30.00 is spent on gasoline traveling to and from a postcard show.

3. Thruway/Turnpike charges. These can range from nothing to about $12 or $15 for a two day trip. Let's use $8.00 for the example.

4. Motel room for one night. I've seen some motel rooms advertised for around $40.00. However, the rooms I seem to find around large cities tend to be closer to $90.00. Let's compromise. We'll use $60.00.

5. Evening and morning meals. Okay, MacDonald's is available as well as the in-hotel restaurant. We'll figure two people and two meals will cost $50.00 for our example.

6. Cost of postcards that are purchased. We're going to take a leap of imagination here and say that in the postcard show, we bought 5 beautiful cards we wanted for a total of $60.00. A real bargain, considering the quality of the cards. That's $12.00 per card.

To summarize our "going to the postcard show" expenses, we spent $50 taking the day off, $30 on gasoline, $8 on tolls, $60 on a motel, and $50 on meals. That's a total of $198.00!So the cards we bought at the postcard show didn't just cost us $60 for the 5 beautiful cards, they cost us $258.00 all together. Now let's go to the e-mail auction and find out just how much we could bid on those same 5 beautiful postcards and spend the same as we did at the postcard show. Five cards and $258 spent, comes out to $51.60 each. Yes, to make it equal in expense, we would have had to bid $51.60 each on those 5 cards that we thought we'd bought so cheaply at $12 each at the postcard show.While it's evident we made some king-size assumptions in order to compare buying at shows and buying at auction, perhaps the most outlandish assumption of all was to assume that we would find the same postcards we wanted at both the show and auction.So are the higher prices we think are produced by e-mail auctions really justified? Maybe they're not so bad after all!Next time you see some postcards in an e-mail auction that you want, think about how likely it is that you'll find the same postcards at the next postcard show. And think about how much money it's going to cost to get to the next show. Then decide how much you want to bid in that e-mail auction.