As an early adopter of eBay I experienced the heyday of online auction fever. It was an economic frontier, wild and lawless. in time there were more rules and restrictions, some good, some oppressive. Having taken a break from the collectibles business for several years my re-entry has been a little bit turbulent. The inconsistency of eBay sales trends is disconcerting. I can hardly believe I could make a living on eBay at one time.
Living in a smaller more remote community than I used to is enough of a challenge. The volatile economic and political landscape has a larger impact on my personal little corner of capitalism. I remember well the big hits my business took over the years. From the time I started sales were on a steadily rising slope. There were seasonal peaks and valleys. Aside from those, stock market fluctuations had a strong effect. The customer demographic in my niche areas coincided with upper middle class educated people with a tidy supply of discretionary funds. Over all the trends were logical and easy to track. in 2000 we had the dot com bubble popping rather loudly all over this land. Sales tanked for a while then started a slow ramp up following the stock markets performance.
By midsummer of 2001 I felt that all the losses had been pretty well regained. I was very hopeful for the future, very focused on inventory acquisition and exploring new niches. One bright September morning I was standing in line to get a number at Conestoga Auction Company in Manheim, Pennsylvania. People around me were speaking in hushed tones, telling an unlikely story about airplanes crashing into buildings. I got my number then went to my car and turned on the radio. The unlikely story was playing out in real time. Surrealistically, the blue sky and crisp air of a Pennsylvania September morning which had put me in such a good mood contrasted strongly with the destruction being wreaked a hundred miles away in a city I have visited often. The impact of September 11 affected so many things including bringing eBay sales to a crashing halt. I don’t remember selling any of the 70 or so prime collectibles I had listed just the day before.
The recovery was a slow climb from a very low place. A year later I was starting to feel confident again and was on a roll. I was lucking into some very good buys. The star purchases of the year were my $800 slide rule I got on a seven dollar tray lot and a ships half model I paid $200 for and sold for $1500 on eBay. Then life changed and I set the antique and collectible high life aside for awhile. I did a couple months run on eBay last summer and had some decent sales although the cost of gasoline ate into my profits along with eBay’s usual fees. I set things aside again.
I am taking another run at eBay in a small way because I feel that if I’m going to spout off about in a blog I should also have some skin in the game. I’m also defraying some of the expense of starting up my new media empire. Hopefully my selection of advertisers will take up the baton and provide an income stream soon.
I find eBay to be fairly healthy right now. I am starting slowly putting up about three to five items per week. Most of it has sold and I had some very nice items including an aircraft loadmaster slide rule that went for $82.00 and as well as the $177 silk fly line that I blogged about in earlier posts. This represents a small sampling in comparison to what I used to do with an average of 50 auctions a week. By some standards even that was small time although my stuff is all genuinely vintage collectible. I can’t get this in a container load from the far east. I have to run the fence rows in search of my quarry. Which is what makes it so damn sporting and so much fun.
The thing that encourages me most right now is the number of watchers and bidders I have been getting lately. right now I have a n item up with 5 bids on it and 11 watchers. That is the spirit of competition. Ebay’s own fascination with it’s “stores” and “Buy it Now” robbed the site of it’s spontaneity and kind of missed the point of auctioning off unique or hard to get merchandise. It would be nice to see things stay this way for a while. That was the model that built eBay and will always be it’s heart and soul as long as they aspire to be something different that provides the thrill of the hunt for buyers and sellers alike..