With the simplicity of online shopping at our fingertips, it’s easy to be convinced into buying something you don’t want. Not only that, you may be tricked into buying something different than what you thought you purchased. I’ve created a simple guide to help you buy valuable ephemera without the later disappointment of buyer’s remorse. Follow these tips to get your hands on the real deal!

Examine the Description and Images

The images online should be almost as life-like as actually touching the document. If you’re buying costly ephemera, make sure the seller takes pictures of the front, back, and inside.   You want to make sure that the pictures are clear, not taken at strange angles, and have good lighting. It never hurts to message the seller directly and ask if they can send you more images. If they say “no” then that may be a red flag that it’s a scam.

Read the description of the item thoroughly and decide if it matches the pictures shown. Make sure you understand what you’re buying, and again, ask questions if you have doubts. There’s no harm in clarifying information when you’re dealing with an expensive transaction.

If you are buying a piece of ephemera that may have additional printings, make sure to compare the price, description, and item of the two. Meticulously search different sites to make sure you have found the best price for the item. To find out where you can buy ephemera, read Searching High and Low for Ephemera.

Buying in Person

On the other hand, if you are lucky enough to view the ephemera in person, come prepared with questions to ask the seller. Questions regarding the use of the item in the past, how it was stored, and how it has been preserved give great insight and explanation for the condition. Likewise, you’ll be able to discern if the price is appropriate for the item. A careful examination of how the seller handles the item is a good indicator of the importance they put on expensive ephemera.

Ideally, all transactions involving expensive ephemera would be done in person. However, we know this isn’t always the case, nor is it always plausible. When given the option to meet up in person, make sure you meet somewhere public with good lighting. Who knows, you may even strike up a negotiation with the seller that wouldn’t have happened online!

Look Out for Stock Images

Sometimes, when an image is unavailable online, stock images will be used in place. Unfortunately, at times they aren’t distinguishable, so make sure you read the description of the item carefully to know if what’s pictured is what’s being sold. Expensive ephemera pieces will hopefully always have an accurate image.

How to Avoid Scams

Wouldn’t it be nice if scams didn’t exist? Unfortunately, they are a threat to everyone. Nobody likes the feeling of being schemed into purchasing something they didn’t actually want. Especially not something quite as valuable as an expensive ephemera collectible. Avoiding scams while shopping online requires patience and research, but can help save you a great deal of remorse and money in the long run.

Red Flags to Look Out For

When working with an online seller, it’s important to identify that they are using a legit website. There are many attractive sites that draw buyers in, only to later scam them out of their money. A sure sign that the site is phony is whether or not they give multiple forms of contact information. If all they give is a number to call, call that number to verify the legitimacy of the site. Ideally, you should see a phone number, email, address, and anything else that proves they’re real.

If, as a buyer, you feel any pressure from the seller to buy their item and act fast, my advice would be to back out. You want to feel confident in your purchase. Avoid anyone that tries to persuade you to buy their item in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable.

Another sign that they may be fraudulent, is if they don’t have any sort of reviews or very few lousy reviews. Search for a review page and carefully sift through the reviews to calculate the type of people you will be buying from. This leads me to my next word of advice.

Read Reviews

Reviews are very telling regarding the seller and transaction experience. Often, the reviews describe the product purchased. However, they can also give insight into how fluid the communication with the seller was, the time it took to receive the item, and if the item matched the corresponding description. Read, read, and then read some more reviews to get the best possible feel for the documents you’re purchasing and whom you are purchasing from.

Check the Return Policy

When buying expensive ephemera online, make sure you read the return policy of the seller. Some sellers will gladly accept returns, others will not, and some will only accept them within a certain time frame. Obviously, it’s a better sign if the seller accepts returns. When purchasing online, after doing all the research we can do, sometimes the item received isn’t what we thought it was. Having a reasonable seller who accepts returns, makes the entire experience of buying items more simple.

If, however, the seller refuses to make a return or doesn’t specify their return policy, it’s probably best to avoid purchasing from them. Don’t be afraid to message them directly about their return policy if it seems fishy.

Ensure Delivery

Make sure to track your valuable package. Thankfully, many online businesses have the option to track your package and be notified when it is delivered. When purchasing pricey ephemera, it’s wise to keep tabs on your item. To know if you will be given the option to track your purchase, carefully read the shipping policies of the seller.

If you are unable to track the package, ask the seller for an estimated date of delivery. In this way, at least you will be aware of the arrival date. Better yet, ask if there is any way you two could meet up in person to exchange the item!


Making pricey purchases can sometimes be a bit nerve-racking. We all want to get a fair deal. With these simple tips, you’ll be well equipped with the knowledge needed to succeed. Good luck with your ephemera collection and happy shopping!