Rising prices are to be expected in any normal economy. We don't like them, but like them or not, they are reality. Like most of you I try to stay away from dealers, but once in a while the item I want is only available from a dealer and then it is a matter of shopping around and knowing as best you can who is reputable and who isn't. The Forum is a very valuable asset in that respect. It also is important to know what the going market price-range is for the items one collects, which is another advantage the Forum offers.
I collect U-Deutschland artifacts, that is items that have been made from metal taken from the boat's cast iron ballast or from the several metals that were taken when she was converted to a show boat in 1919 and scrapped in 1921-22. When I got into this hobby in 1988, the artifacts were already pricy by any standard, but today they are mega pricy. In part the high prices result from the fact that the artifacts are very rare and becoming rarer. The reality of the situation--high prices and limited availability--mean that my collection is relatively small. Still, I occasionally find a bargain. But if something comes along that I do not already have, is in decent shape, and unquestionably genuine, I will pay what I have to shell out to get it, unless the seller has completely lost his mind and placed a ridiculously high price on it. For example, there is a Deutschland cross currently on Ebay that the seller is asking $225 for, and even if I did not already have one, I would not buy this example because it is in terrible condition and vastly over-priced.
The bottom line is that we can all continue to pursue our hobby, but will probably have to do so more selectively and at a more careful pace. Dwight