Hello! How is your summer?
Mine has been great! I just had my best July on eBay ever, and I even had time left over to go on vacation and write several more chapters of my eBay book for Wiley.
This e-zine is published every other Tuesday.
August 2, 2005 Volume I, Issue 5
- What on Earth is This? Some tips and tricks for researching your items.
- August 2, 2005
What on Earth is This?:
One of the most important steps in selling your item on eBay is to find out exactly what you have and what it is worth. The first step is to check on eBay by doing a completed auction search. If that doesn’t work, go to a website like Google, Replacements or Priceminer. Finally, you can use a ? in your title. Let’s discuss these options.
EBAY COMPLETED RESEARCH:
The first place that I go, hands down, to do my research is on eBay. Why not? We want to sell our item on eBay and there is no better site to test the waters than the site we are going to sell it on. When you research for identification and valuation purposes, you will most always use the completed auction research tool.
If I don’t know exactly what it is I am listing, I will enter descriptive terms into an eBay completed auction search. Often this will return details that help me to identify my piece. A positive identification and clear description for your auction will draw more people to your auction and raise your chances of selling at a higher price.
Never use current auction searches to do your research. Many times people make this mistake and just type their search terms into the standard eBay search box found on every page. Do NOT do this. Current auctions results give no indication of what things finally sell for and are limited to auctions currently offered. eBay “Completed Auction” records will give you two weeks’ worth of history and provide you with what items ACTUALLY sold for. Most people do not bid until the very last seconds and a current auction search is not a true indication of final prices.
To do “Completed Auction” research, click on the “Advanced Search” link that may be found on the top right hand corner of every page just beneath the standard search box. On the “Search” page that will be returned, type your keywords in the keyword field, and check the “Completed listings only” checkbox. Then press the “Search” button. When your search results are returned, select the “sort by highest price first” option. We want to know what others did to get top dollar.
As an example, if I have a red pottery vase and I know nothing about the maker except that it has a USA on the base, I will type in “pottery vase USA” into the completed auction search. What comes up is always interesting. I find that it could have been made by Morton, McCoy, Shawnee, or Hull etc. I now have some maker’s names that I can search using more details. If I think it is Shawnee, I can now search with “red vase Shawnee” and see if anything similar comes up. It is a really fun way to do your detective work.
Priceminer is an incredible new website by the owners of Go Antiques. For a small monthly fee, you can get months and months’ worth of sales data for antiques and collectibles. Using Priceminer is very similar to doing your completed auction research on eBay, but Priceminer does not limit its pricing data to the previous two weeks (as eBay does), and as a consequence it has a much larger database from which to draw its data. It’s especially useful for rare or unusual items which might come up for auction too infrequently to be included in eBay’s two-week completed auctions database. Priceminer pricing information is gathered from eBay, Go Antiques, Tias.com and other sites. Four times this past week things I couldn’t find on eBay for completed research came up on Priceminer. It was a life saver. Check it out at www.Priceminer.com.
If you still can’t find out anything about your item, the next place I check for any information is on Google. Google (at www.google.com) is basically a tool for finding resources on the web. It was started at Stanford University and it is currently the #1 Search Engine on the Internet. Once I get to Google, I type in keywords. If I have an artist’s name or maker’s name I use these to garner background information on the company or maker to use in my description. Sometimes the story behind an item is worth more than the item itself. Buyers love to know the history of an item.
It is so important to have background information on the company who made your item, the artist or where it came from. Your research phase is the time to get all this background information gathered together. Print it out if it is easier for you, but make sure you have it.
I use the Replacements web site for all of my china, crystal and silver research. www.replacements.com has a wealth of information. I use it about twenty times a week. Replacements stocks over 200,000 china, flatware and crystal patterns and has photos of most of them. It is free! There is a handy thumbnail photo page that you can click on that will allow you to quickly scroll through hundreds of photos of your manufacturer’s patterns until you find yours. It is a huge timesaver.
As an example, I will walk you through a stainless flatware identification. I had a really neat Towle Stainless set that was very Southwest in design. I didn’t have the pattern name (VERY IMPORTANT) so I went to Replacements. To use this website to do my research, I click on the tab at the top of their home page that says “Silver”. On the Replacements site, “silver” means any type of stainless steel, sterling silver, silver plate or hollowware. Once the list of manufacturers of Silver appears, I click on the T at the top of the page so that all the manufacturer’s that start with T come up. Next, I click on Towle and it takes me to the page with all of their pattern names. Along the side of this page is a bar (running vertically) that you will need to click to get to the photo thumbnails. I didn’t know about this feature and used to spend hours clicking on each of the pattern names. My very smart father found this feature and I am grateful every day!
I scroll through the thumbnails until I get to the page with the M’s and there is my pattern. It is called Mesa! Very good news. If I click on the Mesa icon, I am taken to a page that shows all the different pieces available and the cost. I find I typically can get about 30% of their price on eBay. I had paid $5 for this flatware set at a garage sale and got 45 pieces. I added them up at the Replacements prices and I had $426 worth of flatware at their prices. I can hope to get about $125 for these pieces on eBay. That is a good return on my investment. However, I wouldn’t have a chance to get that much if I hadn’t found the pattern name.
? or HELP in the TITLE:
As a last resort, I will place a Help or ? in my listing title and ask fellow eBayers to help me out with identification. This works extremely well! If the item is worth a lot of money, I will consider paying for an appraisal or authentication. As an example, I had an Early American Pattern Glass butter dish but could not find the pattern anywhere. I emailed a photo to a good friend of mine, Elaine Henderson, who is an expert on EAPG. I met Elaine when I was writing my antiques and collectible book and her web site is wonderful, check it out at www.patternglass.com. She had emailed me back that it was a copy of a cut glass pattern and she didn’t know the name but that it was 1900s.
Based on her knowledge, I knew that my butter dish wasn’t one of the really rare ones, so I decided to put it on eBay with a question mark and ‘Help’ in the title. I used this as the title “EAPG Butter Dish Clear Gold Cut Glass Wonderful Help ?.” I think that sometimes using Help and ? in the title can get more people to actually look at your auction because they think that they may be getting a bargain. This auction after 5 days had 70 people looking at it. That is a lot of people! I started this auction at $9.99 because I had nothing to lose. I had only paid $2.00. If it was something that I had thought was worth a ton of money, I would have put a huge reserve on it, say $999 and waited to hear what it actually was. Once it was identified for me, I would have done some research, found the real value, and lowered the reserve to a reasonable price. (eBay refunds your extra funds for the super high price when you lower it, as long as there are no bids.) The reason I would put such a high price on a rare item is so that no one would bid on it. If someone bids on it, you can’t revise your title or price, you can only add to the listing. I would have wanted to change the title and price if it was a very special piece.
Within one day of listing this item, I received an email from Joni W. of Gig Harbor, WA. She said “Your butter dish is Northwood #12 circa 1906 and should have an N in the bottom. Regards, Joni.” Wow! I emailed her back and said, “You are so right! I found the signature in the base. Thanks so much. Lynn.” I couldn’t believe I missed a signature! I, who grew up in the business and turn over every item when I visit friends or even in restaurants, missed the signature. I always check to see who made the dinnerware when we go out to eat. I drive my family crazy. It is an incurable habit and I still missed this signature. I just never expect EAPG to be signed. See, you learn something new everyday. Anyway, with Joni’s help, I was able to post all that on my listing and it sold for close to $30!
August 2, 2005:
Today is a tough day for me. My grandmother, Cheryl Leaf the antiques dealer, passed away five years ago today and I really miss her. To honor my grandmother, we closed the doors of the antique store for good on this same day in 2002. I can’t believe it has been three years without the antique store. eBay has really made it possible for me to make an incredible living without all that overhead, but I do miss the shop.
My grandmother grew up in Cashmere, Washington, and I was in Eastern Washington this weekend for a few days of fun with my high school girlfriends. We had a blast, and on the last morning, my friend Jo Dallas drove me into Cashmere. We found the house my grandmother had grown up in. The owner was home and she invited me inside for a tour. I saw the sleeping porch where my grandmother had the slumber parties she had told me about. I saw the fireplace where Santa Claus would leave their gifts and the kitchen where her family spent most of their time together. It was really amazing and so sad at the same time.
My grandmother was an amazing woman, and it’s because of her that I wrote The 100 Best Things I’ve Sold on eBay. It is a story of my most memorable eBay adventures, but it’s also the story of my grandmother and what she has meant in my life. The book has tons of great tips and tricks and lots of great business tips from Grandma Leaf. If you don’t have a copy yet, check it out here. If you are ready to buy, follow this link for a special price for subscribers to my ezine.
Happy Buying & Selling! Lynn
For more great tips and tricks, visit my web site at:
Please contact me with any questions or suggestions for future issues. I would love to hear from you Lynn@TheQueenofAuctions.com
Lynn is an experienced eBay Power Seller, author and teacher. If you want to know the eBay tips, tricks and tools that Lynn uses for buying and selling at online auction click here.