eBay

Christmas at eBay and Into the New Year

11 December 2010

Tis’ the season to sell things on eBay.  Head on over and tale advantage of the spirit of buying.  Even my poor contribution has experienced an uptick. It’s a great time to clear out some inventory.  Keep in mind that people buying gifts are wanting to get them shipped in time for Christmas.  You may be tempted to think that all the action takes place in the days leading up to the holiday.  I have had very good runs of sales in the week after Christmas.  I attribute this to the popularity of giving money as gifts.  A lot of people receive cash they can spend on themselves.

Don’t forget to stimulate buying with cheap or free shipping whenever you can.  Ship items promptly as customers seem extra sensitive to shipping issues at this time of the year.  Expect some customers to want their items shipped to family or friends as a gift.  I recently shipped a beer tap handle to Florida for a buyer who lives in California.  Good luck and Merry Christmas to all!

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Where is eBay Going?

8 September 2010

I was an eBay seller near the beginning.  I saw it go from a kind of curiosity that fed the popular press with stories of unusual and bizarre items for sale to a a wide open and profitable collectibles marketplace.  Some strange articles offered for sale included a U.S. Navy F/A-18A Hornet jet fighter, a man’s kidney, and Britney Spears’ chewed gum (note the past tense).  At it’s peak a seller could make something like a living wage.  I used it in conjunction with several stands in antique malls and occasional consulting jobs for antiques dealers who were anxious to get a piece of the ebay pie.  Today I can’t help but wonder what has happened to the pie.

The simple answer is, to borrow a political catch-phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid.”  The same economy that has wreaked havoc with everything from blue chip stokes to hog futures has brought us an eBay that seems to be winding down.  In the last two weeks I have sold only one thing and the buyer has not answered his email or paid what he owes.  So the item will wait until such time as the funds arrive.

In conversations with other users I have heard a generally critical tone aimed at eBay itself.  I don’t think that eBay has endeared itself to sellers over the years.  rising fees and more restrictive rules have chased some people away.  Personally I was irked way back when they added the Buy It Now feature.  The auction fever aspect of eBay was part of what  gave me unexpected chunks of cash.  I had no idea what that JFK campaign poster I sold back in 1997 was worth.  I paid two bucks and there seemed llike plenty of gravy left over.  There were JFK poster reprints all over the auction site but none like mine.  By the second day the poster was up to $50.  It top out at $200.  That kind of thing was not unusual but it hasn’t happened to me in a long while.

Once upon a time I used a simple formula to estimate my sales total for the week.  It was simply 10 times the number of auctions listed.  If I listed 30 items I would sell $300.  No science was involved, no analytics or deep thought.  It was what I observed when I first started.  It held for about four years, better around the Christmas season.  There were big dips when Clinton jumped on Microsoft with both feet,  The dotcom “bubble” burst, and when a beautiful morning in September was ruined as airplanes crashed into the heart of America.

Lately eBay seems to be making some efforts to improve the situation with such things as free listing periods.  I guess they have figured out that they  are not a store with their own inventory.  It is the many individual sellers who bring the goods to market.  Furthermore it is the people who know antiques and collectibles that bring the unique and desirable items that make this market exciting.  One more electronic gizmo starting at 99 cents with an overcharge on shipping is not thrilling.  Even if it’s a bargain it is a dead common bargain.  The thrill is in finding something that you don’t see every day or that you can’t by within a days driving distance of home.

Let’s face it there is a lot less loose change in the average American’s pocket in the present day.   Inevitably eBay will scale down.  It looks like it already has.  The company I work for has become leaner and probably yours has too.  Let’s hope our favorite auction site leans itself down to a vigorous marketplace with exciting merchandise that will continue to be worth our time. and effort.

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Flying High With Aviation Collectibles

2 September 2010

Human powered flight encompasses a large area of collecting interest.  Aviation is equal parts technology and romance.  It occupies a small slice of the span of human history but is a defining element of the modern world.  Airplanes fascinated me as a kid who spent many hours in libraries.  I poured over all the books that showed airplanes and explained how they worked.  The magazine racks held Model Airplane News magazine.  I was one of those kids who hung on the airport fence and watched the planes take off.  After high school I got distracted by popular culture but came back to my earlier interests as I got settled into a steady job and home ownership.  I put the necessary time and money into getting a private pilot’s license which was one of the highlights of my life.  Virtually every aspect of Flying, it’s history and continuing development, civilian, military or commercial is part of an ongoing love affair..

The kind of feeling I grew up with for aviation is what makes a collector tick.  A lot of people have that feeling for automobiles, trains, dogs, horses, stamps, coins, you name it.  I have the same thing for sailboats, hence my other blog: Seaward Adventures.  As a dealer in collectible items, buying and selling to make a profit was the main consideration.  Aviation was one of the few areas I collected for myself.  My pride and joy was an assembly of aviator’s wing badges.

When I first started selling collectibles I naturally gravitated toward items that interested me personally.  My interests payed off surprisingly well.  I had stumbled onto the formula that became my business model.  Artifacts that relate to an activity engaged in by well educated people with a passion for the activity and a healthy income to support the activity equals profitability.  Lets face it you don’t see any poor people climbing into a Cessna 172 to go for a hundred dollar hamburger.

The aviation demographic was grown by WWII and the postwar economic growth that allowed many Americans to pursue their personal dreams. My customers were frequently people with good stories to tell.  I always enjoy some good hangar talk which is why my favorite podcast is Uncontrolled Airspace.  Jack, Jeb, Dave and the various other contributors to the podcast are entertaining and educational in a way that makes a pilot feel connected with the flying community.

Some interesting items I have handled in my business or personal collection are:  Pilot’s operating handbooks for various vintage aircraft, early variations on the E6B flight computer, parts for Jacob’s radial engines,  early pilot’s goggles and way too many other items to remember.  I divested myself of all those collections.  I still dabble.  I have a few items on eBay right now.   A recently acquired WWII item was the subject of a previous Adventures in antiquing post.  You may view it at http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=220663480133.

I find that people have fond memories of the aircraft they flew once upon a time.  The old sales literature with full color photos of prosperous young folks traveling cross country on business and pleasure have been good sellers.  I three examples on eBay right now.  See the Vintage Beech Sierra Sales Brochure 1973.

Sales have slowed down a bit because eBay is not a happening place lately.  Aviation itself is feeling the effects of the economic downturn.  Certainly some people will slow down their collecting as they tighten their budget.  Ultimately what sustains the market is passion.  Pin your business model on that

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Sales on eBay trend upward For Now

13 May 2010

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..

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Sold! To the Man Hidden in the Crowd.

20 April 2010

Well the Hardy silk fly line provided some excitement in my house. It was interesting that I had actual early bids but things heated up again on Saturday and went back and forth into Sunday. It took ten bids in all to win this auction with one bidder responding to all comers until the last second of the auction when a sniper got the last bid in precisely at 5:00 the scheduled end of the auction.

The final price was $177.58. Not bad for a piece of old string purchased in a local antique shop. Throughout the week I got several requests for shipping costs to various foreign countries. In fact this item will be going to Luxembourg. Both of the other two auctions I had going resulted in items sold. A good week on eBay. I will set aside some of the cash to look for more items to sell. I have a lot of blog business to attend to so I did not post new auctions this week. Next week I may try a few interesting aviation items. Sure wish I could find more old string.


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Diving into the eBay

13 April 2010

Once upon a time in a land on the other side of the continent I hacked out my living trading in collectibles. I came to it as an alternative to working as a paralegal.  About the time I got fed up with lawyers and their barely disguised ethical deficiencies the internet gave rise to a whole new way for people to part from their money.  EBay emerged from the internet on a mercantile flood tide.  I was already situated in an Antiques mall after spending several months researching the business and gathering some inventory.

September of 1996 saw the quiet arrival of ebay which soon rose to make a big noise in American culture.  I was what they call an early adopter.  I was into computers and they fit with my new business so I was off and running.  Those were the good years.  The site had lot’s of traffic and everyone seemed to get into the spirit of auction style bidding.  The fees were well below anything you had to pay at local auction houses.

Ebay has it’s ups and downs.  I noticed a trend that matched the stock market generally and consumer confidence indexes more specifically.  for the most part I did okay all the time with nice upward movement during the holiday season and immediately after.  Things began to deteriorate when the Dot com bubble burst in early 2000.   Ebay rallied but September 11, 2001 brought things almost to a halt.   Christmas sales were less vigorous than prior years I hung in there and began to see a comeback in late summer 2001 (your mileage may have varied).

About that time other forces brought changes in my personal life.  I relocated from Pennsylvania to Washington.  The area I am in is not a good hunting ground for antiques and collectibles.  I dabbled in eBay occasionally but haven’t gotten  much out of it.  Until two weeks ago It was a year since I posted anything on eBay.  I figured that if I was going to shoot my mouth off in this blog I should be willing to get back in the game.

Diving in feet first I posted two items.  They were a felt pennant souvenir of the Golden Gate International Exposition 1939-40 and a  WWII silk survival map.  I didn’t put high starting bids on them, just $18.00 AND $12.00.  I got bids and had both sold and shipped out in good order.  The next week I put on just one item, a WWII yearbook from the airman’s training school in Garden City, Kansas.  It went for $35.00.

Not a rapid start but I have been selling everything, That’s the way I like it. The trend I’ve noticed for a long time is a lack of competitive bidding. So many buyers seem content to go for things with “Buy it Now” status. That’s fine for new items you could actually get at a store in your own city. I tend to use higher starting bids now so that I don’t take losses. I like everything to at least break even.

This week I had a pleasant surprise. I posted three things among which was a Hardy silk fly line. This is a great little fishing collectible from a bygone era. It comes from a day when fly-fishing was often done with superbly crafted bamboo poles using silk lines and gut leaders. they are a thing of beauty in both there appearance and utility. This particular line is in it’s original box with all the original labels. I have a good idea of it’s worth and started it at $97.00. I had a bid within a couple of hours. better than that, I have 10 watchers and have 64 views so far with five days left. All the other items did not receive more than a half a dozen views.

could this be a return to the good old days? Well maybe for this item. I know there are still buyers in touch with the concept of quality. Let’s hope for a marketplace that gives us all opportunity.

If you are interested in seeing the item I am talking about follow the link: Vintage Hardy Silk Fly Line

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