mad in pursuit:: entries about selling on ebay


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Additional Ebay Thoughts from My Week in Review Entries

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1.08.05 I've been treating my ebay work like an official job. Just do it! The work feels sort of menial and yet it keeps me absorbed and fascinated. It has also kept my mind off my annoying combination of hives and hot flashes. The hives (which only pop out when I scratch my itches) seem to be subsiding, but the hot tub didn't help. I'm hoping the hot flashes & night sweats are just a hormone-withdrawal phenomenon. Unfortunately, I'm beginning to think that wine contributes to the problem, so I might have to clean up my act.

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1.15.05 Week in Review

Sunday. I sold a carpet -- a nice big 8 x 12 that I've had since the early days of my first marriage. Put an ad in the paper. I loved that rug -- beautiful blues in an oriental design -- but it has been rolled up in the corner of the utility room for years because it won't fit anywhere. An artist buying her first house came by with her parents. I wanted a hundred for it but off course got talked into $90. Memo to self: ask for more than you want. Bleating that your price is "firm" just makes you sound rigid and insensitive. If I'd gone down from $125 to $100, they would have thought they were the bargainers of the year.

Monday. Ditto for the microscope I've been trying to sell on ebay. I swear I've seen similar brass 19th c. microscopes for sale upwards of $1000. We thought we'd be thrilled to get $500 and someone would think they were getting a deal, so I set the opening bid for $500. Dream on. No bites.

Tuesday. On the other hand, a couple of items we thought of as "junkers" attracted a lot of bidders and zoomed up to $56 and $86. We won't be buying a mansion on the profit, but that's the kind of transaction that keeps me excited about auctions.

Wednesday. I better start selling more stuff because the empty boxes I'm hoarding are crowding us out of the garage! After breakfast with a former colleague, I did my "cardio" by getting some of the junk in the garage reorganized. My goal is to be able to put my hands on something without having to move 5 other things to get to it!

Thursday. I was very excited because one of my 19th century photographs sold for $110. I spent some time researching the details and found out the photographer was Norwegian and so it turned out all the bidders were from Norway. Hands across the waters - I love it! Anyway, I called Maria and convinced her to come by and share a bottle of wine with me, under the pretense that I'd help her write up some minutes she was stuck on.

Friday. Now that my auctions are starting to close I'm spending a lot of time wrapping packages. We're lucky that the post office is only a short walk from here. This evening was very exciting: Jim had an old camera tucked away and it turned out to be a U.S. Navy periscope camera, used aboard a submarine in World War II. It seemed so rare we had no clue what it was worth. It took me quite a while to get the nerve up to auction it. I started the bidding at $95 and put on a "reserve" of $250 (i.e., if the bidding didn't go up to $250, I'd keep it and try again another day). It sat at $202 for days but tonight, as the auction was nearing its end, the bidding zoomed up to $510! Yippee!! What's interesting is that it is being purchased by the curator at Battleship Cove, "the world's largest collection of naval ships," in Massachusetts. It makes me feel really big time.

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1.22.05 Week in Review

Saturday.  Running around like a crazy woman organizing paid-up merchandise for mailing. One of my problems is that (as our President would say) I have "misunderestimated" the postage for mailing photographs internationally. They weigh less than a pound but when I've packed them up to my satisfaction, they weigh about 2 lbs. My profit dribbles away...

Sunday. Offering some tiny souvenir photo albums saved by Hannah H. Sisbee. I got all excited because one of the albums didn't contain photos but printed drawing. I researched and researched and discovered the artist was known for his "aquatints" - a kind of copper plate etching. Some print dealers had fat price tags on his work. Who knows what I might get for it. Broke down and got a proper URL for our ebay store:

Monday. Our stupid microscope didn't sell again.

Tuesday. Way too much time staring into old lithographs. Finally sold the microscope. We had put a reserve on it of $250 (after trying to sell it at $800 and at $500). The top bid was $227. Our choices were to try auctioning it again, put it in our ebay store for the price we want & hope someone comes along, or stick it in the back of the closet again. I'm refusing to let things back into their closet hiding places so I used ebay's "second chance offer" process and offered it to the high bidder for $227. He bought it. Hooray!!

Wed- Thurs. I am researching and reviewing my ebay sales methods. My things are selling but too often have only one bidder. I'm learning there is a strategy: if you are too cautious and set a high starting price and/or add a reserve, it puts off potential bidders. You are supposed to be bold enough to "go naked" without a reserve and start every auction at $1. This is supposed to attract lots of bidders who then begin to compete with one another. I need to test this out with a few things I wouldn't mind losing for $1.

Friday. I was running around getting sold items off to their new owners. My guy in France was really uptight about his photo so wanted it sent Global Express - nearly as expensive as the item itself.  Friday. I was running around getting sold items off to their new owners. My guy in France was really uptight about his photo so wanted it sent Global Express - nearly as expensive as the item itself.

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2.5.05 Week in Review

Saturday.  Put up some junk for auction. For junk-box items, I'm trying to live up to a philosophy of "Pitch it to buyers or pitch it out" (as opposed to my general habit of looking at it, scratching my head, and putting it away, over and over and over again)...

Sunday. Didn't step foot out of the house. Auction madness. Five auctions ended. Put up an auction for a visually complex calligraphy piece that required lots of scanning and Photoshop work. Straightened up my office. Glued my fingers to the keyboard for a couple hours getting up another batch of postcards -- Nebraska, New Jersey, New York -- a process that gives me repetitive stress syndrome in my neck and shoulders. Sorted through the rest of my St. Louis stereo views to decide which ones to sell and which ones to keep.

Monday - Friday. ... I've done a bit of tending to the business side of our shop: I'm trying to make a list of all my customers so far in 2005, with what their interests are. Our stock is so varied that I'm not sure we will ever rely much on repeat business. But already I've emailed a few customers, based on their past purchases, that I am offering something else they might like. On at least a couple of occasions it has resulted in more bids.

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2.12.05 Week in Review

Saturday.  Auctions ending. The junk I put up for auction (e.g. a 1937 National Geographic reprint on the history of the telephone) sold for what is was worth. The marketplace is cruel. Got the rest of my "place" postcards listed in our shop (Oregon to Yellowstone) and spent a long time researching 2 32-inch long views of Duluth, Minnesota from 1910, till I had enough info to get them up for auction. Lots of time researching Tom's airplane photo.

Sunday. ... There was still at least a foot of snow on our shady deck, including on our glass tabletop. I put my shovel to work. This was my breather from the bottomless shelf work in our bedroom. I was sweating out the sale of a 1863 set of penmanship samples by Platt R. Spencer, the inventor of Spencerian script. It looked like it was stuck at $0.99. Saturday night it crept up to $26. Then in the final moments it closed at $213! That was a great energizer.

Monday. Dealing with comic books.

Tuesday. I'm not happy with the results of experimenting with Tom's postcards. Some fine little things of his and mine (old stereo views) went to bidders for next to nothing.

Wednesday. Oh, crap, the Spencerian script sampler got damaged during shipping -- just the corner of the mat, but I felt terrible. I immediately refunded the guy's shipping cost ($12) and offered to take the item back, but he was okay with it. I'm a customer service freak and don't want anyone to think it's a risk buying from me. I've been a student of quality for too long: it is the customer who defines quality, not your own perception of what you're peddling. There are a lot of ebay sellers who give you long lists of requirements for buying from them and clearly they've been burned by idiots. But life is too short not to be gracious.

Digging into a stack of novels -- editions that were printed in conjunction with silent movie releases of the 1910s and 1920s -- Ramon Novarro's Ben-Hur, Mary Pickford's Poor Little Rich Girl, Penrod and Sam, etc. In those days they were referred to as "Photo-Play Editions" but using that word on an ebay search doesn't bring up anything. I play it safe -- put one up for auction (with a link to my store); put the rest in my store for a fixed price. If the auction item sells well, I'll leak the rest of the store items out to auction.

Thursday. I'm using a similar strategy for the 1950s 3-D comic books. Put 25 in my store at fixed prices, put one out for auction to see what happens in the open market. Low risk, low visibility, low gamesmanship vs. high risk, better visibility, high gamesmanship. Stayed up past midnight to get this done. I'm my own slavemaster.

Friday. My target is to have some auctions posted for the busy weekend period. Going on the block:

Crap: a little battery-operated plastic scuba diver Jim bought as a gag gift, which never got given.

Not worth it: Half dozen books of stereograms -- an early 90's fad (you know, where you stare into a picture till the hidden image pops out in 3-D). My research told me there are a zillion of them out there, so (because they were new enough to have ISBN codes on the cover) I put them for sale on

Unique: a salesman's kit for 1952 Hudsons, which includes a battery-operated viewer (like a Viewmaster with its own internal light) and 30 3-D glass slides, all in a customized case. Spent a lot of time polishing this up and testing the viewer to see if the electrical parts still work.

Calling all stamp collectors and anglophiles: Jim had a binder of first-day covers (FDCs -- illustrated envelopes, with stamps and postmarks celebrating the new issue of a stamp), which he bought as a ready-made collection that struck him as neat.  I sorted them into 3 lots: Queen Elizabeth's Coronation in 1953 (postmarks from very exotic British colonies); Elizabeth's "Royal Visit" celebrating her tour of her kingdom; and assorted FDCs from very far-flung colonies. I'm in love with the exotic stamps from places in the south Pacific and Africa whose names have disappeared from the maps.

Pretty busy week. Highs and lows.

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2.19.05 Week in Review

Saturday. My yard-long postcards of Duluth, Minnesota sold for $91. Yippee!

Sunday. I was holding my breath about Tom's aviation Christmas card -- the one I spent so much time researching last Saturday night. It looked dead at a buck thirty. Early this morning it was $5. Then with minutes to go it zoomed to $52! Minus about $6 in expenses, that's still pretty good. I put up 10 auctions of his stuff and predicted "best case scenario" -- the jackpot on these items -- would be $45. We made it!

Didn't go out of the house all day. The sun was shining and it made me feel guilty, but I was enjoying scurrying around inside. Rearranged one of Jim's fat binders of postcards -- replaced the bad plastic holders with "archival" ones and moved some to a new binder to give them all a little breathing space.

Opened another "mystery" box I'd been trying to ignore -- another "sell" box on a shelf in the garage.

Monday. Valentine's Day. I am exploring "pandora's box" -- trying to decide which to auction first: the Mickey Mouse viewmaster or the 1870 vanity set. There is a photo portrait Jim assumes is a fire fighter. I challenge him -- how do you know? Then we spend too much time bickering over the guy's insignia -- a Maltese cross-- and too much time searching the internet and our books for pictures of a 19th-century fireman in his dress uniform. The bits of evidence mount and I finally concede Jim's instinct was right.

Tuesday. Still sorting through stuff that needs to be put back on the shelves in the bedroom. Went out to buy some protective plastic slip covers for items that need to be preserved...

Thursday. Research question of the morning: When was Bud Light first produced (back when it was called Budweiser Light)? I have a silly little bar lamp that I think was once meant as a present for someone in my family. Budweiser Light, get it? Answer: 1982. ...

Friday. I decided that I've put up enough auctions for one week and decided to do a little more "curator" work in my sunny bedroom -- i.e., putting some photos into archival sleeves and boxes for better protection and neater storage. I was sorting through a stack of World War I photos and started wondering about my grandfather. My family history folder has a notation about his Division. Jim has a couple of government-issue reference books. What can I find out? What if in all these old photos of WWI there was a photo of him and I missed it?

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2.26.05 Week in Review

Monday. Made the mistake of looking in another stored box, marked "1940s" and two new projects emerged. (When will I learn?) First, a moldering old photo album with pictures and news clippings about Highland Hospital, here in Rochester. It really needs to be given to the hospital for its historical archives, but I decided I'd first remove everything from the deteriorating black paper and put it on archival card stock.

Tuesday. Bought the supplies for above project, but my enthusiasm waned. The rest of our "1940s" box is filled with a photo collection by someone named Paul Wall. All are neatly labeled, mounted on 11 x 14 cards, and slipped into flat brown bags. All the photos were taken 1939-1941 and are on various buildings and "tourist views." Some are dull; others are striking. But who is Paul Wall? Even the internet offers no clues.

Wednesday. I thought a quick project would be to transfer the Paul Wall photos from their opaque brown bags to clear, archival slip covers. Another case of "loaves & fishes" -- two hours after I started, the stack in the box seemed just as deep.

I spent another couple hours with the photos this evening while watching the finale of "Project Runway." (How did I get hooked on a Reality show??) There are still several inches of photos in the box...

Thursday. First return on a sale. I was so excited to get $333 on a sales kits for 1953 Hudsons, but my buyer was disappointed in the quality of the stereo slides and asked to return it. Bummer. But cheerfully allowing customer returns is a must for this business. But then I got my first Negative Feedback on my ebay "permanent record." GRRRrrr. I bought one thing this year on ebay -- a $25 book. I paid for it over a month ago. No book, no answer to my e-mails, so I gave him a Negative. I still don't hear from him directly, but suddenly he retaliates by giving me a Negative, saying I'm unfair and he didn't get my e-mails. What b.s.

Friday. The guy who gave me a Negative is trying to strong-arm me into removing the Negative I gave him. He opened a case against me with the ebay mediation service. What an asshole --someone who belongs to the customer-is-always-wrong school of thought. He even admitted to the online mediator that my e-mails to him were caught in his spam folder. Is this the I Can't Be Accountable Because I'm An Idiot defense? Nothing like a tempest in a teapot to get my blood boiling.

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3.10.05 Week in Review

Ebay. I'm taming that beast now with all my auctions beginning and ending on Saturdays. That gives me a three-week cycle for all my auction sets: A week of watching bids, a week of intensive shipping, a mop up week for those who send checks or money orders instead of paying instantly online. There are always a few stragglers but 3 weeks about covers it. Having all auctions end on Saturdays might be a recipe for burnout, however. It was fun having one or two auctions ending every day and sending out a package or two every afternoon -- even though I wasn't getting anything else done. Taking Saturday afternoon to generate invoices and a couple hours on Sunday to wrap packages feels more like a job. (I prefer being a fantasy shopkeeper to a real shopkeeper, I guess.)

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3.19.05 Week in Review

Auctions. Eight auctions ended last Saturday but I was underwhelmed with the results - I guess they were all small items, but I did have a nice firefighter photo that sold for only half of what I paid for it 20 years ago. Win some and lose some, I guess. I didn't put up any more auctions because we are going away next week. But I did post the rest of my brother's postcards in our ebay store at fixed prices.







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