Buying online can be frustrating when the item you receive isn’t as expected. In most cases, an item may be damaged or altered in transit. Occasionally, the seller may have purposely deceived you; however, it’s more likely you managed to overlook flaws and defects when examining an item on a reseller site like eBay or Amazon. Collectors need to take the utmost care researching and analyzing antiques when bidding or shopping online. Here are my suggestions:

1. Double, triple, and quadruple check for any flaws or defect.

Look through all photographs provided by the seller and examine for conditional issues, discoloration, missing pieces, chips, or cracks. If  you’re purchasing a model car from the 1950s, check for paint damage. Is the car missing a wheel? Are there defects in design? If these things are overlooked, you may be disappointed when the collectable you receive is valued significantly less than you anticipated.

2. Ask the seller for more details.

If you have suspicions that the item may not be in the condition advertised, ask the seller to give you more origin details, the model number, or disclose defects that may not be visible to the naked eye. Conversing with the seller will also give you a good idea whether or not they should be deemed a reputable source. Do not continued with a transaction that makes you uneasy or you feel isn’t secure.

3. Know how to spot reproductions and fakes.

So often, sellers on eBay claim to have 100 percent authentic vintage items, yet when you finally get the item in your hands, the G’s on your Gucci bag are actually Q’s! If you’re buying a handbag, know the designer’s stitching patterns. If you’re purchasing antique furniture, know the type of material the craftsman used in the time period it was claimed to have been made. Did they use redwood or cedar? How about stained glass detailing?

4. Feel free to request additional photos.

If you do not feel the images posted on the listing are adequate, it is well within your right to ask for additional pictures. Be specific about where you want the photographs taken. For instance, are you looking for missing patches of hair on a doll’s head? Do you need to see the underbelly of a plane? Make sure the seller knows which area you’re asking to see to save time on both ends of the transaction.

 5. Make sure you clearly understand the return policy. 

Not every seller is obligated to present you with a money-back guarantee. In the case of antique and collectables, many transactions are final sale. If the seller’s return policy is not clearly stated, ask them to explain it to you so that you can avoid strained, awkward situations down the road. Many services like eBay do offer buyer and seller protection programs, however, websites like Craigslist do not. Moreover, independent websites will operate on their own terms, so you’ll want to be clear on each site’s stance. Don’t make assumptions.

I hope these tips will help guide you through online purchases and aid you on your journey to becoming an even better collector.