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.
Tue Apr 2 2013 20:25:07

eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections

By: Brian Cohen

Sponsored Link

When selling your collection of comic books, Magic cards or figurines, the first question you will be asking yourself is, "Will I get a better price selling my collection as a whole or if I break them apart?"

Collectors Rejoice! eBay just filed patent application 20130080284, "Systems And Methods Of Offering A Collection For Sale."

If you subscribe to what I will call the "Gestalt theory of selling a collection," you believe that selling the collection as a lot will command a greater selling price than selling each item in your collection individually. But how can you know for sure? A collection is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.

Selling your collection as a lot can be an easier endeavor than painstakingly taking the time to describe and sell each item individually. But accurately describing the items you have for sale can command a greater selling price. However, packing and shipping a lot could potentially be less labor intensive than preparing and shipping each item piecemeal to different buyers.

With more than 190 million items for sale on eBay, it becomes increasingly chaotic for buyers to find items that they are looking for and that you are selling. eBay has been bringing order to the chaos by developing technologies such as "Methods and Systems for Merchandising Products in Bundles in an Online Marketplace" (see "eBays new Bundle of Joy") and through M&A activity such as its acquisition of Pinterest-like shopping site Svpply.com.

So let's take a look at "Systems And Methods Of Offering A Collection For Sale." In the Background of the patent eBay describes the problem:

"In a situation where a collector wishes to liquidate a collection of items, the collector has no way of knowing whether selling the items individually or as a single lot would fetch a higher price. The collection may include one or more items that are worth substantially more than other items in the collection that would fetch a large profit individually but would leave the collector with the remaining items in the collection. Further, for emotional reasons or simply to reduce transaction costs incurred by the collector, the collector may prefer to sell the collection as a whole rather than selling off individual items."

I find "emotional reasons" to be a bit curious. Perhaps this fits under what I basically described as being lazy vs. making an effort in selling your collection.

eBay describes current industry practice:
 
"Current online auction systems and marketplaces allow a collector to list the collection as a whole or as separate listings for each item in the collection. As such, the collector is not able to make an educated decision regarding whether to sell the collection as a whole or as individual items."

More specifically, Heritage Auctions, where 764,500 members auctioned 3,485,158 lots for $857,755,595 (at auction and in private treaty sales) over the past 12 months, offers a registry and inventory management for collections called MyCollection which has been available since 2000.

"Collectors can list their (items) in an easy-to-use, secure and confidential database, and instantly obtain population data, current market values, past auction results, and much, much more about each piece in their collection. Demand ratings show how many fellow ...(collectors)... are looking for a particular ...(item,)... and a convenient 'Sell Now' option allows members to contact Heritage should they want to liquidate one piece or a whole group of ...(items)...."

Collector's Universe "the leader in third-party authentication and grading services for high-value collectibles" also offers Set Registries Programs for coins, Trading Cards & Tickets and Autographs & Memorabilia.

And eBay offers its solution:

"...the seller is allowed to publish a listing describing the collection as whole while simultaneously publishing separate listings describing the respective individual items in the collection. The seller provides a description of each item in the collection and then provides listing settings. The listing settings are set independently for the collection and for the respective items in the collection. The seller may optionally set the listing settings to bias the listing towards selling the collection as a whole...The seller...(can)... make the decision ...(after)... learning more about the value of the respective items in the collection or the value of the collection as a whole...

eBay further explains this bias or preference:

"... The bias price is an amount of money the seller is willing to lose by selling the collection as a whole rather than as individual items...

"...a portion of the bias price, may be determined dynamically based on one or more transactions costs imposed on the seller by selling to more than one buyer instead of selling to just one buyer. An example of the transaction costs include, for example, fees charged by the online marketplace to publish the listing or to accept payment from the buyer, or shipping and handling costs."

What do you think about eBay's latest patent? Would you use this strategy? Let us know below!

About the Author
Brian Cohen has been an active member of the eBay community since May 1998. He currently trades under the member name Bidofthis.com. His first AuctionBytes article was published in May 2002. Brian can be contacted through his website at BidofThis.com where he always has a "little Bid of This and little Bid of That."




Comments (18) | Permalink

Readers Comments

eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections   eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections

This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Wed Apr 3 00:33:51 2013

Since I sell a lot of collectibles, I've found it always better to sell the items individually rather than as a lot. There's always going to be people who need that one item to complete their collection, and are more likely to pay a high price for that one item than they are for that one item mixed with all the other items they already have and are useless to them.

As for eBay's patent, I've read this article several times and I still don't understand what their innovation is. Like everything else eBay does, it's probably just a mechanism for more fees.

eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections   eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections

by: Bloggo This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 3 02:44:44 2013

Jacksparrow - You don't understand what their innovation is because there isn't one.  

eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections   eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Wed Apr 3 08:21:51 2013

I don't understand what the innovation is either, but my guess is that eBay is trying to patent something that has already been around for centuries in order to control and monetize it.

eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections   eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections

This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Wed Apr 3 09:37:03 2013

The process appears to take the obvious and then you will pay for the service.

Just to raise revenue from an "exclusive" serve, regardless of listing or FVF fees.

Selling collectibles is populated by roughly 3 groups:

1. "The inheritors": came into a collection, knows nothing, wants to get rid of it.

2. "The dreamers": has a collection, sees retirement in a Sedona villa from the proceeds.

3. "The realists": Knows what they got, what it is worth roughly.

It seems that this process will work only for the Type 1 seller. Type 2's will be buried with their collection. Type 3's will know how got dispose of the collection all by their lonesomes.

Now where the problem will arise is from the buyers of collections - the dealers - since they will have to contend with "Well, eBay's selling tool told me it is worth $$$, and you only are offering me $". Now dealers will have to spend more time in negotiations.

It MAY be a good research tool, but will it be worth the price?

eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections   eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections

by: cherrypieandroses This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 3 10:11:17 2013

Parts of the human DNA have been patented even though the patent holders didn't create life.  This seems as stupid.

eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections   eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections

This user has validated their user name. by: permacrisis

Wed Apr 3 10:11:22 2013

Any "auction" corporation that won't present its items in a Time Ending Soonest search sort isn't interested in helping you get the most for those items, anyway.

eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections   eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections

This user has validated their user name. by: permacrisis

Wed Apr 3 10:14:55 2013

And, like the others have mentioned, anytime I see the words 'eBay' and 'patent' used together in the same sentence, I immediately think "Barrier to entry".

eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections   eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections

by: BillDASH This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Wed Apr 3 13:02:59 2013

As a holder of several patents myself, I have a hard time understanding the merits of this application. As we have seen with our business, a common quandry is for collectors (or their families) is how to liquidate their collection(s).  The most immediate issue is the accurate inventory of all of the items in the collection. Without this, there is a lot more additional risk for both the buyers and the sellers, reducing the eventual proceeds from the sale(s).

I don't see how a ''non-curated'' database like eBay can realistically innovate at this root issue, whereas a specialized, expert-community-based system like DASH can and does. Today, action figure collectors and model train collectors inventory almost 1 million of their own collectible items on our platform. They can easily evaluate the ''value'' of both individual items as well as their collection as a whole. Fusing this with our integrated, open marketplace gives collectors informed, practical, and accessible options far beyond the purported claims of some high-paid patent attorneys.

eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections   eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections

by: retiredcatlady This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 3 13:29:04 2013

It's like they are trying to patent breathing

eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections   eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections

by: Puamelia This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 3 23:13:25 2013

I used to buy entire collections to split up and sell at good profit on my own website. 'Nuff said.

eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections   eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Thu Apr 4 00:43:50 2013

I have been on "both" sides of this quandry--ie Sell as a whole to get it moved--and sometimes the "emotional" aspect is that the items are a constant reminder of either a loss or the need for money when one would rather take ones time about assessing the true value of the individual items vs the "loss" a seller might be willing to take to execute an estate or to get things quite literally out of ones sight.

Now--I can also say that doing ones homework pays off on these things--I saw someone "inherit" a collection that museums had vied for and because this person had paid NO attention to the owner of these items (a family member of mine) during the 7 YEARS the items had been discussed as to rarity;  value;  possible tax issues;  and even tho this person had estimates from Sothebys and other top "Real World" auction houses from their reps who had BEEN IN THE HOUSE looking at these things--he STILL sold the entire collection to a local "dealer" for a FRACTION--perhaps 1% of the value--because he--didn't pay attention and failed to do his due diligence--ie--homework.

So--by being greedy for the lure of easy money--yes that IS an Eagles referance---he lost thousands of dollars.  

I knew this--and could not stop it.

I managed to barter my unique knowledge of these pieces to the "local dealer" and managed to get several of the pieces back.  But--now the true value--of the collection and it's provenance--was destroyed.  

Now--for something like a comic book collection--where there might be--say--Superman AND Batman;  or whoever collectible comic book might feature--the provenance might not even be an issue.  But for some items--carefuly curated--this is a HUGE issue.  

Is this "Patentable"?  I suspect--not.  

Why ebay would even TRY--is beyond me.  But I do suspect that once again ebay will TRY and force this on a seller OR make them pay the price to sell one way or the other--if you have a collection you WANT to sell in toto--then you will be forced to pay MORE than you would to sell in parcels.  And vice versa.  

The lure of easy money has a very strong appeal.

eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections   eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections

This user has validated their user name. by: Ed Gadfly

Thu Apr 4 01:34:06 2013

eBay should patent ''Best Match,'' ''Turbo Lister'' and ''Customer Advocate'' as well.  

Perhaps there is more money to be made from suing people for ''patent infringement'' because of the way they sell their collectibles than to be earned putting pictures and prices of stuff on the Internet and letting everyone find it.

eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections   eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections

by: JackieBlue This user has validated their user name.

Thu Apr 4 12:08:54 2013

Individual sales, if you can wait for the time, will always perform better than a lot.  This is a classic long tail business example.  The market is much larger for individual items than a collection.  I collect coins (personally, not to sell) and it is much harder for me to find a specific coin in the condition I want than to buy a lot of coins and take a risk.  As a consumer, I'm willing to pay premium when I find it.

eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections   eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections

by: nothingnew This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Fri Apr 5 07:10:01 2013

It tipo me several days for This to sink in, is ebay trying to get more control? why is the pat.office even considering this?

eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections   eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections

This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Fri Apr 5 08:18:27 2013

@JackieBlue -

Agreed on the value of a single piece vs a collection.

Speaking for myself, there is always the fine line of "doing the right thing" and keeping a collection intact. After all, taken as a collection, it is unique.

The devil on the other shoulder (see "Animal House" btw) says when a piece or two will pay for the collection and then some, what's the harm in piecing it out? Yes, you are left with the dregs after the top items get dispersed, so you now have to deal with or literally throw out what is left.

And, what is left is usually negatively valued - I don't know if eBay will dare to mention that in their "appraisal".

Peace.

eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections   eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections

This user has validated their user name. by: bitbybit

Fri Apr 5 17:15:14 2013

Seems to me there is a tie-in with ebays promoting collections in social networking. See Ina's article ''eBay to Launch New Social Features''.
When I think of a collection I think of stamps, coins, figurines etc. Ebay is looking for collections like the Martha Stewart type spring collections and retail as in new. Maybe ebay is trying to patent everything in life that can be considered collectible. Retiredcatlady has it right about patenting breathing. Ebay wants to control all aspects of your life. Ebay may think they are king of everything but reality is they are master of none.

eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections   eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections

This user has validated their user name. by: Don Wagner
Web Site

Fri Apr 5 20:51:39 2013

I am always on the lookout for collections for sale for one price. It's the best way to get a bargain, even when openly bidding against other knowledgeable collectors.

A truly huge auction house near here decided to put things in lots of 6 or 8 items per lot, stating they would rather deal with a single lot of 6 items for a $1,000 minimum than mess with 6 separate lots that might go for $200 each.

I knew it would be a complete fiasco, so I went to the auction and cleaned up. I would buy a lot of 8 items for $800, sell 7 of the items in my shop for for $600, and keep a nice $500 prize item for my collection.

This auction house forgot a fundamental rule - buyers don't give a fig about what sellers want. Collectors tend to be eccentric - especially the ones who are willing and able to pay insane prices - and one of those eccentricities is that many collectors would NEVER buy something that they didn't need for their collection, just to get something that they did need. They have a strong psychological need to be above such things.
 

eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections   eBay Files Patent Application for Selling Collections

by: the-timekeepers This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 15 09:15:38 2013

eBay's new Global Shipping Program.

I have had problems shipping to China. I finally resolved a problem and I think I found the culprit. First, Items must go Express Second, do not use the eBay shipping service for international. Most problems arise when the address is printed in Chinese characters that eBay & PayPal have recently allowed. The label is printed and the local post takes it but if there is a problem, the post will not help, because any insurance claims must be done in English. EBay (of course) will not help because the labels are done with a third party vendor (Pitney Bowes) and any attempts to resolve the problem is met with inane replies....Like how's the weather? EBay doesn't even know the Pitney Bowes customer service number. What eBay does do, is promptly refund the buyers money ( the new eBay problem solving procedure).

To avoid problems:

1. Ship items with the registered address in English only. If the Chinese buyer sends an email with the address in English be sure that it is verified by PayPal. (in writing)

2. Never use the eBay or PayPal shipping service for international. Go to the USPS site and use the USPS click and ship, then manually copy and paste the tracking number on the eBay item. (Or address the label by hand and go to the post office.) Only ship Express and insure the package. If you are shipping a low value item you can ship Priority mail as long as it is insured.

3. Never ship USPS flat rate on international items (eventually it will come back to bite you).

Where most sellers have problems, they ship to China via some economy method without insurance and use the eBay shipping service because it's easy and fast. Which is true as long as you don't have a problem.

Any way you ship, make sure you cover yourself by insuring, packaging well with the address and return information in English only.

Remember, EBay and PayPal are only interested in making money, they are not interested in the sellers problems,  customer service is trained to respond using pre set talking points just like politicians. In short, you are on your own. My problem with china was only resolved because I wouldn't give up and kept at it through the USPS customer service and the postal inspector in Washington. I was able to locate, and have the item returned only because I used Express and the item was insured. I then discovered the Chinese buyer did not pick up the package because of the duty tax. The tracking indicated that the package was in Chicago. It wasn't.....it was in China. All because the address was printed in Chinese characters.



Login is required to post comments.
To sign in to leave a comment using your AB Verify User Name, fill in the form below. If you have not yet signed up for AB Verify, or if you'd like more information, go to the Registration Page
.

Login for AB Verify
Be sure and use your email address and password to log in.

 
Email:
Password:
 
 Forgot Your Password?
 Even though you are signed in with the AuctionBytes Blog, you will have to sign in to the EcommerceBytes blog. But you can sign in with your existing AB Verify info.