Posts Tagged eBay

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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SeeAuctions.com Takes on eBay

13 August 2010

There is a new game in town known as SeeAuctions.com.  At last someone has stepped up to take on an internet industry giant.  What does this mean for you?  The Internet has it’s thousand pound gorillas.  They get that way by building something new and attractive to a large share of the bandwidth hugging crowd.  When branding goes viral it is very difficult for anyone to compete.  So it has been since eBay appeared on the scene in 1995.

I have been involved in selling on the Internet’s largest auction site since 1996.  At one time I hired myself out to less tech savvy antique dealers as an eBay consultant.  In the good old days It was simpler and less expensive to do business on the web site.  As time went by I saw many dealers leave the fold in frustration.  Recent trends have caused my involvement in eBay to be sporadic.  The question is often asked, where else can I go to sell online? Why hasn’t a competitor appeared to scoop up all the disappointed dealers and buyers left in eBay’s wake?

You can build your own web site and sell directly to anyone who can wade through the cluttered wasteland of cyberspace  to pick you out of the thousands of other search engine hits.  That could be expensive to do well and who has time to be their own webmaster and run an antiques business at the same time?  Find another online auction?  Good luck with that.

There was a time when a large group of  net entrepreneurs were attracted to the gold that could be seen glittering brightly in them thar hills.  Nobody ever seemed to attract the traffic that eBay drew and the rules were usually just as complicated and the fees still seemed endless.  SeeAuctions.com  is seriously trying to garner market share in eBay’s back yard by offering commission free trading and no fees of any kind for the first year.  They are quite clear about there objectives as stated on their website:

“All new sellers receive a 1 year free trial at SeeAuctions.com! No listing fees, hidden fees, commissions, premiums, or funny contracts. We are confident that sellers will love our marketplace, so there is no requirement to stay after the first year. We plan to be the #1 online site for antique and collectible items. To that end you will notice an aggressive advertising campaign to let the world know about us. This will drive more buyers to your listings and result in higher sale prices. Selling will be 100% free until we meet that goal!”

What truly attracted me to SeeAuctions.com is that it is specifically an antique and collectible marketplace.  Your Victorian trade cards or Beatles memorabilia won’t be lost among the 99 cent mp3 players and CD collections of public domain documents.   As experienced antique dealers themselves the creators of this web site say, “We are dedicated to provide a better Internet trading site. We ensure a safe, flexible and fun experience, for buyers and sellers alike, offering such features as 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 21 & 30 day listings, commission-free trading with no extra costs or fees, options like 0, 1, 5 & 10 minute extended endings, instant payments from both Google Checkout & PayPal, automatic insurance calculation and never a buyer’s premium.”

I have registered with SeeAuctions.com and awaiting verification of seller status.  In the coming days I will post some auctions and see how things shake out.  I encourage my readers to do the same.  It’s free and it looks like fun.  Let me now what your experience with SeeAuctions.com is like.  Maybe we can participate in real economic recovery.

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Selling for Free On Ebay Update, How are You Doing?

5 July 2010

We are well along in the current eBay free listing opportunity.  How are you doing?  I’d like to know if there are lots of people taking advantage of this or is everyone just kicking back enjoying the fireworks and beer. I have been busy posting auctions.  As of this writing I have 23 active auctions.  I have kept all of the starting prices low.  About half are relisted items that i would like to clear out of inventory.

I started posting on Sunday and added several more today.  I will probably put a few more into gear tomorrow.  I never seem to have good luck with items posted later in the week than Tuesday.  If you are interested in what i am offering check my member ID, gwynnsmom.  I have no bids yet but there are a bunch of watchers and page views.  The real action happens at the end anyway, so I’m feeling good right now.

My favorite item is the Naval Air technical training Center photo book.  I wrote a post about it when I first offered it for sale and I am surprised it is still hanging around.   Write a comment and share your experience.  Tell us what you have high hopes for or what is just a dog you hope to shed soon.  Have a happy Fourth of July.  I hope you all make the big bucks.  It’s the American way.

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Sell For Free on eBay, Right Now!

1 July 2010

We all love the rare occasions when eBay has an event allowing auction style listings without an initial insertion fee. They did back around the Memorial holiday.  I was very pleased but did not expect it to happen again soon.  well, expect the unexpected because it’s here again for Independence Day.  the dates for this special event are June 29 through July 12.

You can get all the details from the horses mouth by going to auctions to begin and end on Sundays between 5:00 and 6:00 pm eastern time.  Be advised that other premium fees may still be in effect.  I would suggest keeping your auctions simple and starting bids low.  this is the ideal time to give those items that didn’t sell in the past and are just languishing in your inventory another chance.  Whenever possible offer free shipping.  Consider the occasion a clearance sale and make a little cash to spend on some truly hot collectibles.  Good luck!  Think like a capitalist and prosper.

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A Passion for Paper

1 July 2010

What does a dealer in collectibles collect for himself?  For me it was paper.  There is something about printed media that interests me on many levels.  Maybe it’s the pack rat in me.  As I grew into the antique and collectible field I continually came across what is called in the trade “ephemera.”  It fascinated me like nothing else in the profession.  I like the way the name suggests something that is lacking in substance and liable to imminent decay.  It suggests that not only our lives but the physical traces of our path through history are but dust in the wind.  The great paper trail of society comes in many forms: advertising, books, maps, documents, trading cards, lithography, prints and engravings.  The field is a grand combination of history and art.

I am fascinated with the artwork found on old documents.  Check out an antique stock certificate.  The engraved illustrations can be quite beautiful.  A postage stamp album is an art gallery in miniature.  Old checks and bank drafts often have very well done engravings or lithographed pictures.  As an item to collect collect old paper can include a broad array of subject matter or be highly specialized.  I have enjoyed maps since I was very small.  they feed the imagination as well as keep one from getting lost.  They record the locations of history and remind us of so many things now gone.  I used to have a climber’s map of Mount St. Helens that I kind of took for granted until one day it became instantly collectible as it became apparent that they weren’t going to need to print anymore of them.

Remember when road maps could be had for free at any gas station?  They are quite collectible especially if they have the right art work on the front panel.  If you are new to collecting road maps be advised that the printers didn’t always place a date on them in an obvious way.  Instead, they had a code in one of the margins.  you can read the date codes at websites such as http://www.roadmaps.org/date.html.  Maps were one of my first surprises in the collectible business.  I had always appreciated them and enjoyed them and didn’t realize what a treasure they were until I put one on eBay for a dollar and it got bid up to sixty.

One of my other favorite items were Victorian trade cards.  I had hardly known of their existence.  They keep showing up in box lots and stuffed into old books as page markers.  I admired the many charming lithographed designs and appreciated the historical detail they conveyed.  The light soon came on in my head and I adopted them as a lively little niche market.  They were doubly fun as I could gather them up at estate sales and flea markets. I kept the ones that interested me and sold everything else.  It was the first hobby I ever had that paid for itself and then some.

Of course the category includes books but that is a huge subject I will leave for another day.  There is so much more to cover in this fascinating area.  The use of paper spans centuries and the printers art has been so important in developing civilization it can hardly be grasped.  The invention of the printing press was every bit as world-changing as the invention of the Internet.   Before photography brought every man’s eye view to printed pages the graphic arts flourished wherever ink landed on paper.   Art in the hands of the common man is democratizing.

There seems an endless supply of ephemera stashed away in attics, basements and store rooms.  A good specialty shop in the field is like a god mine.  Back east I loved to go to Mr. 3L, Leonard L. Lasko’s shop on The Lincoln Highway east of Lancaster, PA.  Mr. lasko is a character and he’s been in his business for a long time.  The shop is not the neatest and if you like organization forget it.  This is a place to adjust your attitude and surrender to the thrill of the hunt.  You can find a staggering array of old advertising sometimes in new old stock wholesale units.  I remember finding packets of old Seven-Up soda bottle labels that had never been used.  They were just as they had come from the printer.  I bought them for a good price and sold them in small lots on eBay for over a year for a healthy profit.  Deals like that are just the ticket for steady cash flow.

Lasko doesn’t have much of  an internet presence but apparently he is still in business if you are interested.  You can find him at 2931 Lincoln Highway East, 17529 Gordonsville, PA, Phone: 001 (717) 687-6165.  oddly enough his favorite advertising strategy is announcing a “going out if business sale.”  he’s been going out of business for as long as I can remember.  Maybe he will shutter his shop someday but it’s still worth stopping in sometime just in case.  After all business in this day and age can be somewhat ephemeral.

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Ebay Does it For Free

9 June 2010

This past Sunday saw the end of my eBay auctions which were listed the previous week.  They did one of their rare free listing periods.  Essentially an eBay dealer could list anything without being charged an insertion fee.  You pay nothing unless an item sells at which time the usual final value fee is taken.  It’s a pretty good deal.  If you are selling on eBay always keep on the look out for these opportunities.

The recent occurrence offered free listing of auction style sales only from May 30 to June 1.  This gave a little boost to sales which typically flatten out around summer holidays.  When the nation goes vacationing in a big way they tend to leave eBay at home.  Memorial Day, July Fourth, and Labor Day usually show less activity in page views and watchers.  Sales can slow to a crawl. It’s a good time Casino En Ligne for dealers to take a break .

free listing opportunities sometimes show up around holidays.  This one a bit of an intrusion but as a dyed in the wool capitalist I rose to the bait and put up 22 auctions.  All I had to do during the holiday weekend was post the auctions on Sunday at 6:00, my favorite eBay sweet spot.  The real action occurred the following Sunday as the auctions came into their last moments and snipers came out of the wood work.  I didn’t make a killing but it did net me some much needed cash to feed to a hungry gas station.

Unfortunately this means that it will be some time before another free listing day occurs.  I always hope for one around Christmas.  They have done it before and when they do it is worth all the time and effort you can spare.

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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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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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