Amazon Faces Challenge in Dealing in Collectibles
By Ina Steiner
Amazon.com has launched the Sports Collectibles Store on its marketplace offering more than two million collectibles from major sports leagues and sporting events. This is a big step for the online marketplace, which had all but abandoned its auction platform by the mid-2000s, leaving third-party marketplace sellers to use the "Everything Else" category if they wanted to list unique items.
Thursday's announcement did not generate much discussion on seller boards, perhaps in part because many of them were excluded from selling in the category. Amazon offers its A-to-z Guarantee protection on purchases, so merchants must get pre-approval before selling in the new collectibles store.
According to the application for selling in the Sports Collectibles category, sellers must sell on Amazon as a Pro Merchant and must have an order defect rate is lower than 0.75%. All of the sellers' products must be authentic. Counterfeit, replica or and knock-off products are prohibited on Amazon.com; also, the majority of selection must have been authenticated or graded by one or more of the authentication companies or official licensees on its list.
Last May, EcommerceBytes asked readers if Amazon could become a platform for collectibles, and many sellers expressed skepticism whether Amazon could succeed in offering collectibles on its marketplace.
Theo Chen of AutographsForSale.com told EcommerceBytes on Thursday that he no longer sells on the Amazon Marketplace because it was "so flooded with fakes," and because third party sellers cannot include in their description any language that refers to the product as unique. "In my business of autographs, uniqueness is one of the reasons why people buy from me. I have 8500+ different autographed items."
Chen explained, "It doesn't take much imagination to realize that this policy is ripe for abuse by dishonest competitors. If I list a unique autographed item for $500 using my images and description, literally ANYONE can CLAIM to sell the same item for a lower price EVEN if it is literally impossible for another seller to own this same item."
Jerry Lynch of AuctionHelper said, "No one other than full retail sellers will be able to work with a 20% fee. eBay/PayPal fees at 10% minus a TRS discount of 20% already eliminates a large percentage of sportscard products from the site." Lynch as been involved in the sports card industry for two decades and was the highest volume seller in that category on eBay in its early days. "You will see a lot of things for sale" on Amazon's new collectibles store, he said, "but most of it will be sellers listing items that they don't own and can buy anywhere else at a lower price."
The new store is clearly Amazon's attempt to offer customers authenticated collectibles. Depending on how the sports category fares, it's possible the company may move into other areas of collectibles, such as coins, which can also be authenticated.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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