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EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2880 - August 29, 2012 - ISSN 1539-5065    1 of 3

GM of Emerging Verticals Talks about eBay Collectibles Biz

By Ina Steiner
August 29, 2012

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There's a renewed focus on the collectibles business at eBay, according to Gene Cook, the company's General Manager of Emerging Verticals. It's a top area of focus for his team, and they have been holding special auction events in categories such as Coins, Sports Memorabilia and Hummel. "We've dialed up our focus on going to shows," he said, which provides eBay with a way to engage directly with sellers as well as it also drive broader buyer awareness.

Free Listings in Sports Collectibles through End of 2012
eBay kicked of a new promotion this month that allows sellers list items for free in the Sports Memorabilia, Cards & Fan Shop categories through the end of the year.

The Sports Memorabilia category has been growing extremely well and is one of eBay's biggest performers, Cook said, which is largely driven by a strong customer base and existing selection. eBay is using the promotion to further build on that strength and to "signal to our buyers and to our sellers in this space just how passionate and committed we are to this category, both now and over the long haul."

So is the free-listing promotion a test? Cook said, "Anything that we do, obviously we're hoping to learn from. This is really something that we're doing focused on in Sports Memorabilia, we think there is a lot of good quality inventory that could be brought on by having this sort of pricing, so we're going to see how that goes."

Cook, who has been at eBay since 2003, said the collectibles space was a personal passion and said he loves engaging with buyers and sellers, including at shows such as the National held recently in Baltimore. He said eBay has built up an incredibly strong business in collectibles and incredibly strong environment where people can buy and sell things they care deeply about.

eBay Top Seller Weighs In
Cook connected EcommerceBytes to Rick Probstein, who is on track to do $7 million in sales on eBay this year. He began selling part-time on eBay 7 years ago and ended up giving up his head-hunting business to sell sports memorabilia full-time on eBay.

Probstein, whose User ID is PROBSTEIN123, said he expects eBay's free-listing promotion in sports collectibles to net him an extra $10,000 this year and said it has encouraged him to list items he might not have listed without the promotion. He's enthusiastic about eBay auctions for his category and cited a recent 10-day auction for a 1986 Michael Jordan rookie PSA 10 card that he had started at 99 cents and ended with a selling price of $11,800.

One of the most helpful things eBay has done that has contributed to his success, he said, is expanding the number of characters in titles, allowing him to add keywords that help buyers find his listings.

Probstein said he has had so much success on eBay that he has rejected Amazon.com's advances since it opened up its sports collectibles store in February. He said Amazon approached him at the recent National Sports Collectors Convention and had made six to seven phone calls to court him.

The biggest reason he chose not to sell on Amazon is that the rates were higher than on eBay, he said. He would also have had to do a lot of work to enter his listings onto the Amazon marketplace.

Did Probstein ever believe that if he went multi-channel, eBay would take any special perks away? "I don't think I get special perks, my fees are the same as every (one) else, my listing don't get moved higher." He said he does get to take part of special events ("event #1 was summer catch in July and event #2 for football in late September"), and gets to speak to eBay management. But, he said of his decision not to list on Amazon, "the rates were higher than eBay...that's the #1 reason."

Social, Best Match and Holiday Shopping Season
eBay's Gene Cook said he is looking at social closely but didn't have anything to share at this point. What other verticals are Cook's team looking at? "Key other categories we're focused on right now are building out our toys business, kind of like we're doing in collectibles. We already have a very strong sporting goods business - but going deeper with that. I'm not really ready to talk about some of the newer things to eBay that we might be taking a look at."

Cook was prohibited from talking about search exposure and eBay's best match search algorithm as he was not part of the product, technology or search team, his PR handler said, and he was not able to discuss what might be coming in the collectibles category during the holiday shopping just yet. But with September 1st just days away, stay tuned.

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 ina@ecommercebytes.com.

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