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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History Lives in Auction Houses

30 November 2010

Auction houses display historic artifacts from the momumental to the mundane.  Spending time at auction is like being in a class room where everyone has come to participate.  You can learn much and often enjoy the simple emotion of amazement.  So many times I have seen things at auction that I dimly recall reading about.  Seeing a tangible object associated with an important person or event stirs the memory, engages the imagination and brings history to life.

I am not alone in the auction as history point of view.  Rosemary McKittrick writes about auctions at her website, Live Auction Talk.  She has been writing about art and antiques for over 20 years.  Her site archives over 800 articles covering a broad array of categories.   The depth of her experience and keen eye for the story behind the story shows clearly in her articles.  Typically they focus on a particular item that has come up for auction with a description of the historical personality who owned it.  Her research is very good and filled with educational nuggets of information.

Rosemary looks at auctions all over the world to find the story behind historic objects as they come up for sale at auction.    As she says:

“It could be Harry Houdini, Bob Dylan, Truman Capote, Amelia Earhart, Babe Ruth or William Randolph Hearst. I tell their stories through the handcuffs they’ve owned, books they’ve written, songs they’ve sung, planes they’ve flown, empires they’ve built and homeruns they’ve hit—all of which sold on the block.”

Her story on Baron Von Richthofen (The Red Baron) includes interesting details surrounding his untimely demise.  I’m a pilot and dedicated aviation history buff and had forgotten this story.  It’s nice to have it back in my memory bank.  One of his silver beakers commemorating a victory in aerial combat sold at auction for $28.000.

These articles contain some great research on auction prices realized.  Don’t pass up this kind of resource.  Rosemary gets it in one when she says, “When the bidding stops and the hammer falls, the value of an item is set. The buyer, not the seller, sets the price. This simple distinction cuts through all the chitchat about what art, antiques and collectibles are really worth.”

Go to Live Auction Talk and sign up for her free weekly subscription.  It includes an article on the 8 essentials of collections.  It will tell you exactly what needs to be at the forefront of your thinking every time you enter an auction house.  It’s brilliant stuff and lots of fun.

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Antique Auctions, Live and Online With a Lot of Zip.

7 August 2010

I don’t have access to an auction house of any sorts where I live.  The nearest one is about 79 miles away.  However, I really miss it and only stay away because it involves to much time and gasoline.  Thanks to this intriguing bit of technology we call the internet I may have found the solution.  On a recent visit to a local used car lot I entered the sales office and saw something wonderful.  the owner of the business has recently become a dad.  There he was sitting at his desk with baby on lap, watching and participating in the automobile auction he used to attend in person.  It seemed like an elegant solution to a modern problem.  One which I could borrow.

With a little searching I found Auction  This well put together web site brings together auctioneers from all over the United States.  The auctions are live webcasts so it’s like being there.  You can log in at the time of the auction or place a prior absentee bid.  I have to give this a try and will post a story if and when I get the chance.

I previewed some ephemera auctions and was basically satisfied with the format displaying the items offered.  It could be improved a bit with the use of thumbnail images giving more screen room for better browsing.  You can search the site somatroph hgh by subject matter and can probably find just about anything you want.  Be aware that most auctions seem to have a buyer’s premium and sometimes an extra little online fee.  the auction houses are responsible for shipping anything you win and will tack on shipping charges accordingly.

In going over the list of auctioneers I recognized a bunch of those which I regularly attended back east.  It was kind of nostalgic.  This new forum does lack some of the old familiar ambiance.  Like cheap hot dogs from the snack bar and crotchety local dealers whispering their deals in the back of the room and dour looking Amish men fresh from working the fields.  Just to get that authentic feeling, try sitting in front of the computer on a steel folding chair.  If it’s summer turn on the heat and reduce the ventilation in the room.  If it’s winter position yourself to catch a frigid draft every time someone opens the door.  Get your least favorite relatives to come and go through those doors frequently over the course of the auction.  It’s the next best thing to being there.

Maybe the good old days are getting better.  Give it a try.  Many of us are all old dogs and the new tricks are coming thick and fast.  Now all we need is an economy that keeps pace with our capacity for innovation.

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A Devine Collection Goes Up for Auction

29 April 2010

When God speaks we tend to get our butts in gear.  How well are we listening and how quick are we to respond? According to Antique Trader magazine, word comes from Indianapolis that the owner of a major collection of antiques will be putting his cherished items on the block soon  This amounts to about 900 lots of vintage Americana at Dan Ripley’s Antique Helper during an auction May 15 in Indianapolis.

The collection is diverse, ranging from Arts & Crafts to outsider art. More than just the antique collection is intriguing. The owner, Mike Kirk of Hardinsburg, Indiana, says God told him to sell off  his antique collection.  This occurred at a mens’ conference where the Lord is said to have told Mr. Kirk to”Present my talents” to the church where the event was taking place.  I guess there must have been some mighty fine preaching too.

The collection includes over 200 paintings and 50 prints, Arts and Crafts pieces, a large amount of tramp art frames and vintage advertising. Kirk who is the creator of the Carhartt logo was a successful dealer in antiques and decorative items. It will be interesting to see what kind of prices this collection fetches for the cause.

The live sex videochat antiques market is one based on artifacts that are not necessary to our lives. Apart from a few people who utilize vintage tools which perform a unique function, we buy them because they have an aesthetic appeal or create a certain style for our homes or on our persons.   American acquisitiveness can reach into realms that are downright bizarre. This is not to say that we should all turn in our tchotchkes for sack cloth and ashes. maybe we just need a little self-examination occasionally to preserve our sense of proportion.

In this age of consummate materialism we don’t often see religious conviction motivating people to divest themselves of such worldly trappings. The “contemporary” Gospel is often taught in the context of laudable social behavior because the idea of revealing our sinful nature is wildly unpopular in today’s culture.  Theology is an ancient artifact, the patina that enhances all of civilizations learning.  The cross outshines any polished mahogany or gold leaf. Scripture urges all of us who possess ears to hear. It’s nice to know somebody is still doing that. I don’t know Mike Kirk but I hope that his motives are pure and that God is glorified by what he has so generously given up.

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Hammer and Tongs, Allies and Enemies

4 April 2010

Auctions are great places for people watching. There is usually an eclectic mix of personalities and most everyone there has an agenda. The crowd divides into two basic camps: dealers and non dealers. The two groups are not in open conflict but there are tensions.

I started going to auctions a long time before entering the antiques trade. I remember that dealers were kind of looked on as greedy and not operating completely above board. When my status changed from collector to dealer, my attitude changed. I still recognized a kernel of truth in my former way of thinking. Dealers dominate the room.

As a new dealer I was roundly ignored by my colleagues. After a time I became known in the trade and found that there was indeed a sort of brotherhood of dealers. In the auction house environment this was manifested in informal agreements.

This became apparent one day when a fellow antiques dealer standing beside me at a preview opened a line of questioning I had not yet run into. he must have noticed that my examination of items had certain themes or areas of interest. We got to talking about the merchandise and he casually offered that he would not bid on the items I was clearly interested in. Implicit in this was an assurance that I would likewise refrain from bidding on items he was concentrating on. Okay, I could see the advantage.

This sometimes goes according to genre. The furniture dealers will stay away from the glass who stay away from the old books who stay away from the old advertising, etc. This is okay as along as nobody is in collusion to drive up prices.

Casual deals are made all the time. It doesn’t give you exclusive control of bidding but it does cut down on a little bit of competition. keep in mind if you are interested in a cut glass vase and somebody else wants it too, then it’s just a matter of who has the most money and motivation. This is why it is so important for a dealer to know his market.

I was always a electronic cigarette drops niche marketer antway. Why buy something that is outside your area of expertise? Focus on your own auction and stay on the money trail.

One of the most interesting and entertaining characters in the auction room is the person who buys out of emotion or sheer desire to have that one thing that is sure to blind him like a brand new silver dollar reflecting the noon day sun. Such a person is liable to get hijacked by shills. I know, shills are illegal and immoral. They are associated in some way to the auctioneer 9paid to perform, keeps teir brother-in-law off the street) and deliberately drive up the bidding. It’s extremely hard to exposed their misdeeds. Your best defense is to bid wisely and deliberately.

On the other hand, it’s very entertaining to sit and watch a good honest bidding war run around the room. It happens because there is a truly rare and precious item on the block, personalities are colliding or two people are just turning to ashes in the heat of the moment.

You see it coming when the bidding gets above what the average Joe sees things go above pocket money level. There is usually a murmur at the hundred dollar level. The dealers generally have some snse of the market in higher end shops. They aren’t excited yet. if the bidding continues at a steady pace with no hesitation the room will go very quiet. Everyone gets caught up in the moment and heads start to swivel looking to identify the combatants. The tension builds until the auctioneer has finally called, “sold!” Applause often follows with perhaps some chuckling by those who have inside knowledge.

I’ve seen this happen many times for various reasons. A common one is the result of family members having a show down. “Grandma said I could have her sewing box when she was gone.” If you didn’t get get your due from the will then the estate sale is your second bite of the apple.

Find a good auction house to attend regularly. There’s no cover charge and on a good day it’s better than TV.

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The Fall of the Gavel

18 March 2010

The Red Barn Auction house had atmosphere.  If certain government agencies had been present it would have rated a high level smog alert.  On a summer evening the humidity could have made a skeleton sweat.  But it had charm.  The rapid pace of the auctioneer’s song kept expectations at a fever pitch.  Located in the backwoods of Berks County Pennsylvania this antiques treasure trove didn’t attract big city high rollers.  The crowd consisted of working people: farmers, foundry workers, Amish families and a sprinkling of old school dealers who had learned their trade going “on the knock” and mining rural haunts like this one.

Genuine antiques are the hidden artifacts of daily living.  They are the furniture of a family’s life passed from hand to hand by thrifty people not given to frequenting the finest shops.  The chain of ownership of these items often leaves the entailment of inheritance via estate auctions.  This is where we dealers and collectors benefit through good fortune, a good eye, and knowledge of how the game is played.

I love a good auction.  They are filled with tension and mystery.  A really good auction will provide a payoff that means more than mere money.  To be successful it is necessary to observe the environment and use it to your best advantage.  There are a number of effective approaches.  Most of the time it’s best to be low key

You can tell a lot about the nature of the merchandise at an auction by the tone of the establishment.  Some are sophisticated and high brow, others are a bit rustic.  If the auctioneer is wearing a tie and there is an actual catalog with a glossy cover than you need to be ready to shell out some serious cash.  Fine art and high end furniture from America’s well known master craftsmen is a neighborhood that most bidders can’t afford to play in.  It is instructional to sit in on some of these auctions and observe what passes for good taste among the wealthy.  It can help you at a later date to identify an unexpected gem among an otherwise lackluster assembly of personal artifacts.

It’s All About The Early Bird!

Always arrive early to take advantage of the preview period. This is the time to spot your quarry and reconnoiter the surrounding terrain. Dig in boxes, riffle through books, inspect glass for chips.  Remember that condition is key in realizing full value.  look for damage, don’t worry about dirt.  Most things can be cleaned.  Take along some hand sanitizer.  It’s surprising how filthy your fingers get after handling auction merchandise.

Set a value in your mind for everything you look at.  It may not match the so called book value but hat is not the point.  A lot of things are not in the books. Your experience becomes the book and the real point is to set an upper bidding limit.  Without this you can be seduced by the excitement of the moment as the auctioneer’s rapid barely decipherable call rings in your ears.  Keep in mind that he is there to make a buck and excited, competitive bidders can get way out of control.  This is combat and keeping a cool head is as important as keeping your powder dry.

Allowing yourself adequate prep time will pay dividends by placing your bidding on a rational footing.  It also can give you the confidence in the midst of a bidding war to take the psychological high ground over your often unseen opponents in the room.  But, that’s for another time when we discuss the bidding game.

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