And in conclusion -- if you knew then (when you started collecting) what you know now, how would that have changed your collection?
Not very much. My best recommendations now would be to avoid high priced snowdomes and snowglobes that are advertised as RARE!. Most of these turn up eventually if you keep track of them on eBay.
Try to avoid high shipping costs of single items. Shipping costs, especially from other countries are an important concern. So consolidating shipping with trading partners or sellers is a good strategy.
I became very well informed and proceeded slowly, increasing my investments as I gained more knowledge. Small collections are available on eBay occasionally and can be a great way to start a collection.
I also have learned not to be shy about requesting careful packing and have a standard request of eBay sellers:
"Please pack extra well to protect, using plenty of bubble pack in a sturdy and room box with extra cushioning around it to reduce shifting in transit. Mark package FRAGILE. High praise feedback will be left upon their safe arrival."