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What is eBay, how it really works?
what is eBay, after all? Who of you that follow the Forum and also follow my auctions, may have noted that I have never advertised one of my auctions here. I actually don’t know why; somehow, I think it not fruitful or not correct.
Since I do not sell fakes, my auctions are almost always listed on Bidamount Weekly newsletter. So, besides thanking Peter for that, I always assumed that as a big advertising. Being in a list of very few selected items, compared to the huge number of Asian objects on sale, is the best possible way of advertising.
BTW, I have always suffered of small visibility. In many cases, the items listed by those “Supermarkets of antiquities” as I call them, have more bids than the number of visits that I have on my items.
Until recently, I always started the title of my auctions with the words “Chinese antique ….”. If I searched on ebay for “Chinese antique”, I had pages of things that even do not have those words in the title, and not my auctions. Absurd!
Recently, Peter did explain us how the Search function of ebay works. I did apply those suggestions in my last three auctions (I sell few items at a time) and what a surprise, they appeared among the first places of search result!!
Very happy for that, I was expecting a substantial change in those last auctions.
Nothing changed! Very low number of visits, low watching, and consequently low number of bids.
Now, you may think that the reason could be because of not interesting items.
Please have a look at the latest Bidamount Weekly video, at about 7:40 (thank you dear Peter):
That Buddhist item is very rare. Despite the damages, I am ABSOLUTELY, really absolutely sure that, if auctioned by one of those “Supermarkets of Antiquities”, it would fetch more than one thousand dollars.
It went out for 200 dollars. Discounting eBay’s and PayPal fees, the dollar/euro change rate, at the end I get 140 euro.
Now, why that? One of the reasons could be that I am based in Italy, but I believe that the main reason should be resumed in the following sentence: On ebay, 99 % of Asian items are fake, and 99.9 % of the bidders potentially interested on them is not competent at all.
They do behave like geese, they follow the mass. Does a seller have many items on sale? Does he have many feedbacks? Then he must be reliable for them.
The fact that such bidders thinks that real antiquities should normally be bought at supermarkets, is showing that they are not only incompetent, they are quite silly actually.
If I go at an Antique Fair or at a Street market, I do not even look at the stalls of the big antiquarians. If they have something right, it will not be a bargain. I look at more modest individuals, those who buy from houses. It is logical that, if something can slip through, it will most probably be there.
In conclusion, I don’t know how long I will sell on ebay. First at all good items are really, really scarce nowadays; and selling, in many cases, for less than what have been paid is not fair at all.
I have something to add to the above, that I had in mind but forgot it while writing down the text.
Probably one of the reasons why I have less visits than the already mentioned ones could be that they are advertising their sales on the social media, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
May be, I do not now because I am not there.
But I am also convinced that shill biddings is a largely abused practice on eBay. Much more than what we think.
As for the sale of the Buddhist item that is shown in Peter’s video, the only positive side is that it went to a faithful lady who buy and appreciate many of my things.
I can understand your frustration only too well. I have stopped selling on Ebay, being spectacularly unsuccessful.
The low point was reached with a porcelain censer that I once bought as Kangxi but with growing knowledge considered to be 19th century. When I cleaned it what the seller had called a Kintsugi repair dissolved, it was only a line from a golden pen that covered a huge hairline. It sold for the minimum price of 1 Euro. Later I found out that the buyer resold it for $150. Now a Trocadero seller offers it for $1550 as 18th century. This really hurts, although I’m still convinced that it’s 19th century.
I don’t sell on ebay, but I was talking to a very stressed acquaintance today who does... a lot! He was stressed because he ‘desperately’ needed stock for his ebay shop and couldn't find anything. In his opinion, he must add new items all the time, good items, to keep his buyers happy. He said that if he takes a break, even for a few weeks, he looses his customer base (and their bids) and then it takes months to build it back up.
He felt he needed to constantly feed his customers’ insatiable appetite for new things all the time, that it kept them interested and encouraged them to compete with each other thereby achieving better price.
I don’t know if any of this is true, but I though I’d relay it because it may (or may not) be relevant.
Your Beijing enamel was the bargain of the week Giovanni.
NicDan, There is truth in what your acquaintance has said. I always marvel at how some of the sellers manage to find so many beautiful things so quickly. So it is more than just an auction for regular ebay sellers and you sense they under pressure, it is also kind of like watching Drew from Salvage Hunters and this is his collection that he has gathered from his trips. He is urgent to sell it and use the capital to get even more beautiful stuff.
On the issue of Antique super markets.
In the UK there are dozens of Auctions around the country every week from the hundreds of Auction houses in the UK. The reason why I may like say a big Ebay seller would be that they can offer free postage and free packaging and or just economy postage and free packaging.
These Auction houses do not offer that service. I would have to pay a company to go to the Auction house and package the Item and then send it for shipping to me. A very expensive business i would imagine. You will see Antiques sell at these Auctions for sometimes peanuts but usually the Porcelain sells quite high. It is a still hard to get a good price. However there are always bargains.
The ebay sellers have to rely on getting these items cheap at the moments when they can get something well under price. They then have to organise getting them shipped back to their house or business.
They then auction them at a with no reserve and for a few pounds. They offer free packaging and economy postage at very affordable prices.
I want a Chinese Vase that is selling at Jefferies Auction house in the UK, however it is not worth the cost if i was to pay the shipping and packaging company to have it delivered to me after auction. It is a dilemma our friendly Ebay seller solves for us.
The ebay seller offers free packaging and economy and sometimes free postage. What more can you ask for. They also offer the item with no reserve and start it at a few pounds or 0.99p.
So that is magical for a buyer that such a wonderful service is provided by this wonderful seller. So of course everyone wants to see what the Seller has gotten from the Auction houses or flea markets or whatever means he has used. It doesn't matter because this is a good service.
have you never sold something on eBay? I think that you would not be so enthusiast if you, after many trips to all flea markets (time and fuel consuming) will finally find (really hard today, believe me!) for 500 dollars an item worth let say 1,000 dollars, then you buy it and list it on eBay, where at the end it will be sold for 200 dollars. And on top of that the buyer will complaint because you are not offering free shipping.
What would you answer to such buyer?
When all this happens to me, I am not feeling myself a wonderful seller, but a stupid seller instead; and I am sure that you would feel the same.
Things must be seen in real from both sides.
PS: Of course, if one is selling for high price some fake item worth two or three dollars, then he can offer free postage too.
Why not selling on regular markets? I don't know where are you based in Italy in terms of distance to other countries and how the markets are organised out there, but my own perspective is this - nothing will beat old school stall on the regular market. You have a chance to browse it as well and find something to buy, meet real people and do some business in person. Also I believe you could set up for yourself a very nice stall with genuine antiques of very good quality, so this way you wouldn't require much place (for quantity) and the costs would be lower than others who always bring tons of crap. Do you sell on regular markets in Italy?
I think ebay is good for buying but not for selling and every week I scratch my head watching Peter's videos - how on earth those items went for that kind of money!?!? I mean I did sell quite well in the past on ebay but I never take a risk of listing something on an auction. I keep noticing that well established sellers with like 400+ items in stock are listing them with fixed prices.
Maybe it's a matter of numbers of sells and making yourself a name? But that's like going circles as to get there one have to sell, and to sell... 🙂 exactly 🙂
I am not very experienced but my understanding is that eBay is OK for the little things, not over 1000 USD, if I'd got items of higher value I'd try my luck with more established auction houses. Many will have a system to accommodate your item even if you are from overseas.
I do not sell on ebay. I have listed items but never Antiques. Unless I was a big seller which i simply am not then i do not think it would work out.
In saying a member here called Dealaway who has never sold any antiques and knows nothing about Asian Art and with little ebay experience managed to sell A Chinese celadon vase for $330. First time lucky i suppose and after that he has tried and tried to get lucky again but well, you may have seen the items he has been trying to sell.
If i was to sell on ebay and had a particular price in mind then I guess the safest course would be to list as a buy it now. It is a very slow process and while you might get more by auction and undoubtly auction is the fastest method, at least you are setting the price you want.
Also a reserve might work on an Auction. When i see a reserve I might bid up to what i am willing to spend to see if it passes the reserve priced.
I also think there is some secret herd mentality that seems to be governed by some cosmic force... like the full moon?!
In our store, we see it all the time. We often have periods where we don’t sell any kitchen tables or chests of drawers for months, not one, then in a matter of a week, we sell 5, all to different people in the course of a week! It’s completely bizarre.
it also happens with dealers - they sell nothing for months and then they sell everything within a fortnight, totally cleaned out, they rush to restock their unit and then they’re back to selling nothing.
In local auctions, you have one where the prices are ridiculously high, the next everything goes for a song. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve decided to not attend an auction because the prices in previous auctions have been off the chart. Then, when I check the results, I’m devastated to see that nearly everything went for way below estimate.
I’ve given up trying to understand the buying habits of the general public. Every day in retail is a revelation! Whether you sell online, in fairs or from a consignment store, you are completely at the mercy of this cosmic force which has no rhyme nor reason to it.
There are so many variables in retail, it’s a really tough way to make money. I’ve always said that the minute I cease to enjoy it I’ll be getting out.
Love your comment Nic! I feel the same about the whole thing - the cosmic force, full moon - love that!
True story: years ago my father was selling on a fairs and it was coming to an end, he didn't sell anything for the whole day, started to packing up and the bird flying above dropped a nice load on his car and that annoyed my father so much that he even complained to a friend from the stall next to his and that guy said to him: are you crazy! this is a good sign, do not pack up your stock, whenever bird craps on your car that means you'll get some extra cash! My father laughed at him saying he's nuts. Half an hour later he had a series of very good sales and made more than a decent profit!
Now every time I see a bird's dropping on my car I think hmm... 🙂
All the best,
🤣 I’ve had similar experiences, without the bird poo though!
Another thing that may or may not be relevant, I have some friends who are small-scale specialist sellers on eBay and they don’t list anything on eBay in June, July or August. They reckoned that everyone is out, on holiday, taking advantage of the long, warm days. That no one is at their computer.
They swear by the short, dark winter evenings, when people are more likely to be by the fire, perusing eBay, to achieve good sales.
I guess there are as many theories as there are dealers?
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A free Asian art discussion board and Asian art message board for dealers and collectors of art and antiques from China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and the rest of Asia. Linked to all of the BidAmount Asian art reference areas, with videos from plcombs Asian Art and Bidamount on YouTube. Sign up also for the weekly BidAmount newsletter and catalogs of active eBay listing of Chinese porcelain, bronze, jades, robes, and paintings.
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