Online Antiques-Mall Turns Auctioneer on eBay Live Auctions
By Ina Steiner
Online antiques-mall GoAntiques.com is now holding virtual-only auctions on eBay Live Auctions, a premier part of the eBay.com site where, according to eBay, "you can now bid real time on live auctions happening on the floor of some of the world's greatest auction houses!"
Ken Buhler started GoAntiques in 1999, and it acquired Antique Networking in February 2001. Jim Kamnikar, current president of GoAntiques, said the company serves 1,030 dealers from 24 countries. Those dealers put merchandise for sale on GoAntiques in a fixed-price model. They have the option to launch auctions on eBay.com, and now, those dealers can participate in eBay Live Auctions as well.
The first GoAntiques auction on eBay Live Auctions was a test on March 29. The next auction is set for April 5. Bidders can place bids on either the GoAntiques site (http://www.goantiques.com) or the eBay Live Auctions site (http://www.ebayliveauctions.com).
What makes these auctions different from most other auctions on eBay Live Auctions is that there are no "real-life" auctions. Typically an auction house will hold an auction in their showroom with live bidding and may choose to Webcast the event on eBay Live Auctions. In the case of GoAntiques, its merchants retain the inventory and the bidding all takes place on the Internet.
Merchants submit photos and descriptions to GoAntiques, but keep the inventory. Two staff members at GoAntiques vet the items, in some cases rejecting them or asking for better photos or descriptions. A licensed auctioneer at GoAntiques sets estimated prices based on information provided by the merchants.
Out of GoAntiques' 1,030 dealers, only 334 of them have ever launched auctions to the regular eBay.com Web site. Kamnikar believes his dealers may prefer the live auctions over regular eBay.com because the dealers pay no listing fees and no reserve-price fees for eBay Live Auctions. (They pay eBay a flat-fee commission of 5%, no matter what the selling price, as long as it meets reserve.) The cost basically shifts from sellers to buyers, who pay GoAntiques a 15% Buyers Premium on top of the final hammer price. (GoAntiques must pay eBay a fee for every catalog auction it runs.)
GoAntiques dealers ship items to winning bidders after the auction close. Buyers have 48 hours to return the merchandise for a full refund.
National Auctioneers Association President-Elect Mike Jones said the general practice of traditional auctions is "as is, where is, without warranty or guarantee." Upon learning that in the case of GoAntiques auctions on eBay Live Auctions, the auctioneer never handles the items, Jones' initial reaction was, "Why would an auctioneer take an item without seeing it?" When told the buyer had 48 hours to return the item, Jones said in that case, "I don't see what the complaint is. That's as good as you can do." It all comes down to the credibility of the auctioneer, and the integrity of who is conducting an auction, he said, adding that the National Auctioneers Association has guidelines for ethics and professionalism.
Kamnikar said GoAntiques' reputation is on the line with eBay Live Auctions: buyers leave feedback for GoAntiques after a transaction, not for the individual merchants. "We at GoAntiques have policed transactions between buyers and sellers," explained Kamnikar.
GoAntiques dealers must sign terms and agreements with strict conditions and Kamnikar pointed to the fact that in all the years GoAntiques has been in business, only one seller has had to be removed from their system.
GoAntiques will be advertising the auctions in 24 trade publications beginning in June. They will be holding three sales in April and eight sales in May; only GoAntiques dealers may participate in those eBay Live Auctions.
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to email@example.com.
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