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AuctionBytes Blog
Covering auctions, collectibles and marketplace selling.

AuctionBytes Blog The AuctionBytes Blog has been giving a voice to online merchants since its launch in 2005. Named one of the world's top 30 blogs in 2008 by "Blogging Heroes." Weigh in with your thoughts on the joys and pitfalls of selling online.
Thu Apr 19 2012 11:53:44

Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?

By: Julia Wilkinson
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There's an interesting thread on eBay's Seller Central discussion board: "Is the Collectibles & Antiques Market on eBay Dead or Dying?"

Many opinions and theories are being offered up; from agreeing with the decline and citing reasons for it, to disagreeing that one exists, and theorizing that sellers who do the right things are doing as well as ever.

Here are some examples of the points being made:

- People are aging out of the collectibles market, changing the market. An example given is the baseball card market, as highlighted in the Kovels' article "Baseball Cards Are 'Out.'"

Others disagree, saying new, younger collectors are simply replacing older collectors, and the types of things being collected are changing.

- eBay ignores reproductions in Collectibles and Antiques categories. "For a company that doesn't allow reproductions and bootlegs, eBay sure turns a blind eye in collectibles. Probably half the items in 'Victor Phonographs' are Chinese and Indian junk knockoffs," says "gramophone-georg."

- What some consider lackluster ad campaigns on eBay's part. "eBay showed unattractive and unlikeable people with 'EBay on their mind,' supposedly," wrote one board member. "What focus group did they use for these ads? Dullpeople.com?"

- eBay's focus on brand new/retail items; the "decision to undermine auctions in favor of BIN (the preferred format for NIB consumer retail) and the decision to load virtually all of the fees onto the back-end were both just brutal in terms of the A & C market and in term of holding the existing buyer base both," said "ted_200."

Others say sellers who do the right things can still do well, and should avoid doing things like relisting or selling similar items "at the same price for eternity," overpricing on shipping, poor customer service and shipping materials, and overpriced listings.

- And some say the A & C market is fine, but off eBay: "Sellers can be doing GREAT behind the scenes here as they can sell off of eBay to customer bases & buyer relationships developed over the years here," writes "bizybeez." "No, it's not dead...just slowly fading," they conclude.

What do you think? Is the Antiques & Collectibles market on eBay indeed dying, or just fading? Or do you think it's as strong as ever, and why? Post a comment here!



Comments (24) | Permalink
Readers Comments

Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?   Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?
by: Mr. Me This user has validated their user name.
       
Thu Apr 19 13:41:42 2012
Antiques and Collectibles has been dying a slow painful death on eBay.

With e-bay's retail-ish "free" shipping and 14 day tactics, and also inviting "amateur" mobile users into the fray, it is now a minefield for any seller of antigues, collectibles. Etsy is much better !
Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?   Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?
This user has validated their user name. by: Ric
       
Thu Apr 19 13:45:12 2012
In a word... YES!

eBay's one size fits all approach to their marketplace does not work with antiques and collectibles.

eBay has continued to be ambivalent about the market share loss in the category because they see OOAK items as contributing to the garage sale image eBay is purging from the site. Management's attitude has been one of "goodbye and good riddance".

The combined fees of eBay and PayPal have become so high, it has become a challenge for sellers to convert sales and generate profits.

eBay leadership has continued to turn a deaf ear to antique and collectible sellers who find that eBay's seller policy and system changes do not serve the category well and are not conducive to successful outcomes.

The sad part is that antique and collectible buyers once spent hours searching eBay listings for that rare treasure and no longer do so. Best match as a default search method does not suit OOAK merchandise but eBay insists on continuing to force it upon buyers. Buyers became frustrated with the search feature and many simply gave up searching eBay.

As disenfranchised sellers have walked through the exit door John Donahoe has so graciously held open for them, they take their unique inventory with them to other venues or to their own web site further diluting merchandise diversity and reducing buyer interest.

If eBay is losing market share in the antiques and collectibles categories, it is solely due to the unfavorable changes eBay has undergone at the hands of it's CEO and his inexperienced management team.



Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?   Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?
This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie
       
Thu Apr 19 15:35:00 2012
I think this is just another example of eBay engaging in policies that intentionally fulfill their own prophecies. It goes like this:

Reality: Collectibles and OOAK's are strong sellers.

eBay Claims: ''Nobody wants collectibles or OOAK items.''

eBay's Policy: Hide all collectible and OOAK listings.

Effect of Policy: Sales of collectibles and OOAK items sputter and falter.

eBay Touts: ''SEE?! We told you that buyer's don't want that crap!''



Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?   Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?
by: paperdetective This user has validated their user name.
       
Thu Apr 19 18:56:36 2012
Off Ebay 'live online' auctioneers providing auction services for selling antiques and collectibles are very well. Examples of such firms are like Liveauctioneers, Arfact or Invaluable. Prices are higher there and margins too. So most sellers of old stuff are not on Ebay anymore. Many of the midsize and small A&C sellers moved away to other venues or created own sites. What remains is a skeleton of A&C sellers.
Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?   Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?
by: Digmen1 This user has validated their user name.
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Thu Apr 19 18:59:16 2012
The thing is with the changing market no one will ever know the real answer.
I am sure that antiques will always sell.
Collectibles may change as the population changes, but that is over a long time.
As regards sales on ebay etc, if less people are selling their antiques on ebay, then they are being sold via many other avenues.
Antique shops, booths, other auction sites, standalone sites etc.
If ebay had not made things so hard, the sellers would have stayed on ebay and got higher prices as a result, now the market is divided.
Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?   Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?
This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie
       
Thu Apr 19 19:04:24 2012
@Digmen1: I think the popularity of all the ''Auction Hunter'' and ''Pawn Star'' type of shows is a good indicator that people still LOVE to hunt for and find interesting antiques and OOAK items. Everyone likes a good deal, but we also see how the thrill of bidding for that ''MUST HAVE'' item will run the prices up to much more than anyone expected.

Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?   Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?
by: Another Coin This user has validated their user name.
       
Thu Apr 19 23:40:53 2012
Most antiques & collectibles did quite well in the auction format. I believe eBay purposely stifles auctions. If a seller is lucky to get a bid, eBay, IMO, turns the visibility faucet off. This is one reason bidding wars are few and far between. Antiques & Collectibles are NOT dying a natural death but are being killed off or suffocated by eBay in lieu of their chosen Diamonds and Chinese mass marketing. Ebay is destroying their foundation, what built eBay. Without this stable foundation eBay's long term success is poor. They can use whatever smoke & mirrors they want but destroying the root kills the flower. Okay I'm getting a little carried away here but I think you get my point.
Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?   Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?
by: comet This user has validated their user name.
       
Fri Apr 20 00:56:51 2012
I started on ebay with A&C items almost exclusively.  For several years this was pretty much ALL I did there.  

Somewhere along the line I "added" used high end sportwear and bags and etc.  and I am very glad I did---since A&C has wandered off.

I have sold a few---a VERY FEW--A&C items over the past year or so but mostly these things ---which would have flown out of here AFTER bidding wars----sit and gather dust.  And I really DON'T think that my "eye" has changed for these things!  A few weeks ago I listed something with a higher but decent price and it sold on the BIN (Auction plus BIN offered) immed so I do know there ARE people out there LOOKING.  

I DO feel thos that as I think it was ANNIE mentioned that ebay feels we "clutter" up their precious baby site with our ridiculous trash and make it look like a "Flea Market"---well I for one LOVE Flea Markets of any variety at any time!  

I never bought much of this sort of stuff there but then again I am not a collector either.  Well not in any serious gotta-have-it sorta way.  But I did love wandering around and seeing the cool things others had listed.  

IT's a shame ebay can't see the old growth forest for the jonny-come-lately saplings.  
Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?   Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?
by: Another Coin This user has validated their user name.
       
Fri Apr 20 01:14:27 2012
To me what looks like clutter is all the Chinese cheap mass duplicates. Weeding through to find anything of interest or even what you are actually looking for is frustrating. There is no such thing as "browsing" on eBay anymore. Ads are also cluttering up the site.
Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?   Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?
by: LSP This user has validated their user name.
       
Fri Apr 20 02:36:42 2012
One of the reasons the collectibles market may be declining is because many new, mass produced collectibles ended up being a flash in the pan. Take Beanie Babies, for example. Some people invested a lot of money on them and then the value bottomed out.  

Antiques, however, seem to be doing well on Ebay right now after a long slump. I've noticed that buyers are investing in really high quality antiques. They will also pay high dollar for trendy vintage items to decorate with. Country Living Magazine is a good source for the latest trends.
Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?   Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?
by: elystoys This user has validated their user name.
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Fri Apr 20 06:47:29 2012
14 day returns and free shipping HURT my old toy and train sales, yet I've found NO marketplace that performs anywhere near as well as ebay for these items.  I'm selling more stuff for higher prices currently, including items that in previous years did not sell at all.
Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?   Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?
This user has validated their user name. by: Tula
       
Fri Apr 20 09:15:09 2012
Certain areas of antiques and collectibles are still doing all right, though I must say that overall activity has dropped significantly. I, too, used to see bidding wars over items that are now lucky to see a single bid. I think the poor economy in the last few years has played a part, along with eBay making it harder and more expensive for sellers to bring product to the site. Add in higher shipping expenses, increased fraud, less visibility in search, and increased competition from fakes and it's been a huge hit to the sellers. Many have become fed up and moved elsewhere, fragmenting the market, as Digmen1 mentioned. It's too bad because it used to be a lot of fun listing cool vintage items and watching the frantic bidding wars.
Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?   Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?
by: LynnN This user has validated their user name.
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Fri Apr 20 10:11:09 2012
I am in the UK and concentrate mostly on a specific type of OOP toy and also sell some music memorabilia. So although I sell to collectors I list under Toys & Games and Music rather than Collectibles. I don't know if that makes a difference but my sales have been reasonably stable over the past few years. Of course, 'stable' means that whilst sales haven't declined, they haven't risen by any significant amount either.
If my fairy godmother came to grant me three business wishes, top of the list would be for one of the online ''giants'' to create an auction site for collectibles, just like the eBay of old. As has already been mentioned in previous comments, the success of TV shows prove that ''flea market shopping'' is as popular as it ever was and if a high profile company with a big budget stepped in with a new ''old eBay'', we could kiss eBay goodbye and let them get on with becoming the new Amazon. Good luck to them with that!!  
Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?   Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?
by: Shawn This user has validated their user name.
       
Fri Apr 20 10:21:02 2012
I'm mainly a buyer, and imo antiques and collectibles clearly are on the decline on ebay. It's very unfortunate. As a collector, ebay was like a fantasy land to me. I could not believe the beautiful items that I found for my collection! I still shop ebay daily, but the number of interesting items has dropped, and the exciting auctions have all but disappeared. Prices are much lower, too.

I blame ebay for much of the decline, but I have different thoughts as to how and why ebay is letting A&C fail.

For years, before the big feedback changes, I bought many, many items that were not as described. It just was the way it was to get good stuff. Many sellers weren't professionals who knew (or cared) to look closely at my vintage porcelain and determine if truly was cracked, chipped or repaired.  But ebay claims were iffy then, and they would be accompanied by bad feedback for me for having the audacity to complain, so I sucked it up as part of doing business on ebay. But I got sick of it, and so did a lot of other buyers, so ebay changed the feedback. And then the sellers got mad (in some cases, rightfully so).

Then ebay changed the feedback and increased the buyer protections, so I started buying again -- and you know what? I still get many items that are not as described because there still are many sellers who don't know how to look at something closely. They don't understand that the big crack dramatically cuts the value of their vase.

But now ebay will cover these problems. Surely, that must be costly. Why would ebay want to suck up those losses repeatedly? And I'm still back to sucking up some of the losses too, because sellers will blackball me for noting that my purchases were SNAD.

A&C is hard. I keep looking for those treasures, but pitfalls abound.  
Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?   Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?
by: The Danni App This user has validated their user name.
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Fri Apr 20 10:55:38 2012
I believe what has happened is sellers are not utilizing the right format for the items they sell.  Not all collectibles should be in auction format and many times not all antiques.  The buyer has changed, they are no longer willing to wait out a 7 day auction to get the item unless it is something either extremely unique or rare, started for a quarter of the value, or they happen upon it in the last day or even minutes of the auction format.
I have had to convert my business over to 99% fixed price - and with that I do quite well still, in fact better than ever.
It's all about adapting to an ever changing market place... whether it be eBay, Etsy or other site, change is going to happen.
Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?   Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?
by: Another Coin This user has validated their user name.
       
Fri Apr 20 14:08:33 2012
How do you determine price for OOAK, rare and hard to find antiques & collectibles? I find it difficult to place a fixed price on such items. Ebay was great for letting the market determine the price in auctions. Now with all of eBay's game playing, economy, visibility issues, unfair playing field and such, starting auctions low is a scary premise. I know there are research & appraisal companies like Worthpoint and What's It Worth but it gets costly. With fixed price, sellers have to list a lot and the sell thru rate IMO is a low percentage. Really miss the good ol days on eBay.  
Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?   Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?
by: Carol This user has validated their user name.
       
Fri Apr 20 14:27:45 2012
In the late 1990s Ebay started a fundamental change in the antiques and collectibles market by giving buyers a worldwide ''store'' in which to shop.  Things that might be rare locally were easy to find on ebay at greatly reduced prices.

The aging of the population and changes in taste away from shabby chic (which encouraged use of antiques) further depressed the sale of antiques and collectibles.

It is still possible to do well with LIGHT WEIGHT antiques and collectibles if you price properly, maintain a good reputation, etc., but I don't expect ever to see the prices we charged in our brick and mortar store in the 1990s.  

The huge increase in the actual cost of shipping has been the final blow for many inexpensive HEAVY collectibles.  I have donated great glass and china pieces to Goodwill because customers simply won't pay what it costs to ship a 2 or 3-pound package to a distant location.

There's nothing to be gained by bemoaning the changes in values of antiques and collectibles.  It's far more beneficial to accept that we can't change the market and find new-old things to sell.  
Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?   Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?
by: Dragonlord This user has validated their user name.
       
Fri Apr 20 18:08:17 2012
Antiques and Collectibles will always have a market but just not as much on Ebay.  Ebay is slowing killing itself with all of their changes and they are loosing both sellers and buyers.  We used to love to sell our A&C on Ebay and also shop for items as well. However, those were in the good old days before Ebay got so full of itself and now it just runs out of the top and spills over and has tainted everything.  I believe that most of the A&C dealers have moved to other sites like GoAntiques, Worthpoint, Trocadero, Tais, etc. or have established their own web sites.  We have done both and are selling well with better profits than we had on Ebay.  

Anonymous Annie's and Digmen 1's comments are correct and the market for A&C has just changed with the change in the age of the population and collectors.  The old time collectors are getting old and selling off their collections and the younger age are not into the serious collecting that their parents age group did in the past.  Todays customers are into a more minimalistic lifestyle and do not collect just for the sake of collecting.  If dealers do not change with the times and accept that A&C will never be like they were in the 1980's and 1990's then they will fall by the wayside.  The internet has had a great impact on the A&C market and will continue to in the future.  Yes, some of it has been bad, like prices going down but a lot more has been good, like being able to sell internationally and reach a far greater market that we were able to in the the 1970's.  We have been doing this for over 40 years and have seen a lot of changes come and go during that time.  Ebay is one of them and it has come, impacted the market, changed it but it will also go and for a lot of us it will not be soon enough for it to vanish into the sunset.  It did a lot of good but it is also is doing a lot of damage and it needs to vanish and be replaced by something better for all of us.
Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?   Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?
This user has validated their user name. by: permacrisis
       
Sat Apr 21 20:14:39 2012
Here's a little experimiment: restart Yahoo Auctions. If it starts the A/C market bangin' away again, there's your answer.

I can tell you that the flesh and blood and Craigslist aspects of A/C are doing well, as are all the collectibles-based reality shows.

Dying, no. Bastardized, marginalized and suppressed by ebay's Best Match?
OH yeah.  
Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?   Are Antiques and Collectibles Dying on eBay?
This user has validated their user name. by: permacrisis
       
Sat Apr 21 20:23:05 2012
As to Tula's comment about the economy, I think the poor economy was a Godsend to Donahoe as it provided him with a camouflage under which to thwart high GMV without it being revealed for the tampering that it is.

If you ask me, Best Match is "auction interference" and auction interference is a felony.

I think things are happening the way Anonymous Annie says, and they keep the category only to prevent it from blossoming elsewhere.
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