By James Plankton When buying tickets, most people simply call the box office, log on to the official website of the performer or venue,...

By James Plankton

When buying tickets, most people simply call the box office, log on to the official website of the performer or venue, or visit Ticketmaster.com. At each of these sources, the tickets are all sold at face value, which is the “official” price set by the producers of the event. There may be extra fees and service charges, particularly at Ticketmaster.com, but the price of a ticket will not fluctuate. Typically, face value will be the cheapest price around. However, there are exceptions.

Just as the primary ticket market consists of tickets sold through official sources at face value, the secondary ticket market consists of tickets bought at face value and are being resold. People who buy tickets with the intention of reselling them are known as ticket brokers. They hope that, if an event is sold out, there will be people willing to pay more than face value for a ticket. By reselling the ticket at a higher price, the broker makes a profit. Ticket brokers are similar to stock brokers, since they speculate that “actual” values of certain tickets are higher than the face values. Usually, they’re right. But when they’re wrong, it can mean a great deal for the consumer.

In the ticket business, face value is the standard, so that anything a broker sells for more than face value represents profit, while anything a broker sells for less than face value represents a loss. Selling below face value is tantamount to a broker admitting that he or she is anxious to get rid of the tickets as soon as possible. That’s something you can use to your advantage.

If a show proves not as popular as predicted, brokers may be forced to sell their tickets below face value in order to cut their losses. Suppose a broker has tickets for a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees for April 18th. The game is on a Tuesday night; the forecast is chilly with a chance of rain and the face value of the ticket is $20. The unpopular time and bad weather predicted for the game mean that the demand for tickets is very low. Therefore, in order to sell his or her tickets, the broker must slash the price. The $20 ticket may now be a $10 ticket.

While tickets below face value do exist, they are fairly rare because brokers often have a good understanding of what tickets are really worth. Finding bargains is challenging, though the Internet makes the search much easier. Most brokers who have substantial amounts of business list their inventories of tickets online. There are a few methods to unearth these gems.

First, brokers will advertise the fact that they are selling tickets below face value, since they are so desperate to unload them. Spending a little time on the major online search engines for tickets below face value should yield some results. Sites like Ebay.com and Craigslist.org also have sections for ticket commerce. Those sites are primarily designed for individuals who buy tickets with the intention of using them, but are then unable to use them. The tickets for sale or trade are typically last-minute and there can be some good deals if you are flexible.

A better way to obtain tickets for less than face value is to search large databases of tickets on the Internet. There are a few of these databases, known as exchanges, which carry the vast majority of inventory existing in the secondary ticket market. TicketLiquidator.com is the home of one such exchange and among the hundreds of thousands of tickets in the system, there are certain to be some below face value. The best way to locate these is to look for events that are coming up soon or that you know to be unpopular.

Almost universally, the best deals will be found just before the event takes place, when the broker has waited too long to sell and must get rid of the tickets or lose them for nothing. The problem then is obtaining the tickets in time for the event. With will call and electronic tickets this obstacle can sometimes be circumvented, but most tickets must still be mailed. The number of tickets below face value is small and the number of those that are will call or e-tickets are even smaller. However, a little legwork and patience will help you find the absolute best-valued tickets you can buy.