Been collecting slabs for the last 6 years or so and its been a pain (in the wallet!) being based overseas here in Asia. I'm sure those of you reading this from Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand (all places which at one point in the past 10 years I've called 'home', and where I've had the pleasure of interacting with several fellow comic book fans) can relate to.
Fortunately I have a shipping address in California where I have my slabs purchased from US sellers to, later consolidated and shipped en masse to the Philippines which saves me big time on freight.
On the brighter side, I do see interest and the hobby in general growing, albeit very slowly. In 2008 I remember searching for and not finding any Ebay listing for slabs located out here. Nowadays I see a lot more interest as well as active buying/selling in this around the region - local Ebay, Facebook forums, even in an LCS in Manila (where I just recently found out we also had a CGC SS witness which is cool). Pricing I can see is still normally about +50% at the minimum higher versus what one would pay if one were based in the US though, but on occasion I do see pretty good bargains though I suspect the sellers could be absorbing losses.
A few things which I've learned through the years (which worked for me and which I'm hoping can also help my fellow collectors out here):
1) Leveraging door to door shippers who provide the service to Southeast Asian countries, most of which are based in the west coast. Several have even begun offering consolidation services. Makes sense paying say $50 bucks for sea freight which can cover for over 100 slabs versus having 3 slabs USPS'd here for the same amount if not higher.
2) GPA and OPG have been my best friends throughout, and have really helped me not overpay for books (raw or slabbed) .... or at least not do it with my eyes closed. I know astute collectors in general living anywhere use these as references, but its even more important for overseas collectors, for obvious reasons
3) Cautiously try out non-Ebay and non- trad online auction sources, i.e. direct deals with reputable sellers, BST forums etc. Over the past 2 months I was able to get 2 modern slabs and 2 SA keys very close to guide (+/- 10%) DELIVERED here in Kuala Lumpur. Bit risky and won't do this for pricier slabs I will pursue, but makes sense I think for some. Always good to develop relationships also with sellers you can trust.
4) Leverage the selling community both locally and in the Region. I got several of my SA slabs from an Australia-based seller, where shipping fees are obviously lower versus getting from NA and where I found his pricing very reasonable. Also active in a handful of FB forums here where I clearly see interest grow (which can only be good)
5) PATIENCE. I've found that the most economical way for me to get from raw to slabbed is to ship it to Sarasota and have them ship to my CA consolidator, then sea freighted to Manila. This process takes months - on top of CGC grading. So I end up physically seeing my slabs maybe 6 months or more after I send in my raw book.
Many other things learned through the years. Love this journey and I really do hope that hobby continues to thrive for us out here in this part of the world.
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