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Points to Consider Before You Bid on eBay
Is it really a bargain? Is it a reproduction? Does the condition of this particular item impact how much you should bid? Considering points such as these before you bid makes a lot of sense. But where to begin? These tips will help you take the guesswork out of buying antiques and collectibles on eBay by making wise decisions before you ever enter a bid.
1. Estimating eBay Price Points
When deciding how much to bid when you've located that perfect item on eBay, perusing past auction results can give you an idea about how high you'll need to go to actually win. Conducting a completed item search is a great place to start. To do this:
Click the advanced search link in the top right corner of any eBay.com page.
Enter the appropriate keywords in the search field.
Check the completed listings only box.
Click the search button.
If prompted, enter your eBay user ID and password
2. Values in Other Venues
Is the antique or collectible you want to bid on really a bargain on eBay? Can you buy the item for less elsewhere? It's good to have this information available before you consider how much to bid. To find out, you can look around the Net for similar pieces. Search large online malls such as rubylane.com and TIAS.com as a starting point. Doing Yahoo! and Google searches may also yeild results in other types of online shops that will be useful in your price point evaluation.
3. Consider Condition
After thoroughly reading the description and examining photos provided, consider how condition issues noted should influence the amount you bid (or whether you bid at all). Consider condition issues through descriptions and photos the same way you would if you were holding the piece in person. Would you buy this item in this condition at an antique show? Is the damage repairable? Do you see a condition problem in the photo not mentioned in the description? Query the seller if you're not sure.
4. Ask Pertinent Questions
If you have concerns about a piece, ask the seller via e-mail. Maybe you see something in the photo that doesn't look quite right or suspect a missing piece. Maybe you're familiar with common condition problems associated with this type of item like chips on the lips of glass pitchers and or handles that are prone to crack at the base. Even if the item description says that the piece is in excellent condition, the seller may have overlooked something. It never hurts to ask.
5. Look Up Unfamiliar Marks
Does the seller note any marks in the listing not reflected in the item title? If the seller hasn't done his or her own research, a mark mentioned may provide clues to how much an item is really worth. Sometimes an auction seller overestimates value, other times they underestimate. You have an opportunity to do some sleuthing prior to bidding that might help you get a steal of a deal or pass up a stinker based on additional information provided in the listing that other bidders may not notice.
6. Is the Item a Reproduction?
This is another area where closely looking at the photos provided by the seller will provide a multitude of clues. What reproduction signals would you look for if you picked the piece up in an antique mall? Look for those same characteristics in the photographs. If you can't quite tell, e-mail the seller and ask for a better photo. Look the items up in your resource materials and online before bidding. And, if you need to, ask an expert friend to view the auction to offer their opinion.
7. Assess the Seller's Reputation
A seller can be offering the most beautiful item in the world, but a less than stellar reputation might make you think twice about bidding. Click on the feedback number to see what others have to say. Take note of how many negative feedback comments the seller has received recently. Read the item description for clues too. Is the seller making unreasonable or restrictive demands before you even bid? Do they shun returns in all instances? Look at their About Me page (if they have one) for clues about character too.
Most estate sales are run by professional liquidation companies these days. The prices on the first day of the sale are more often than not set in stone. Prices are usually reduced the second or third day, depending on the length of the sale, and usually in increments of 25% (although some will go half price the second day of a two-day sale).
If discount policies arenít clearly posted, donít be shy about asking one of the estate sale workers when prices will be reduced. The number of items left for discounting on the second or third day depends on how reasonable the prices were marked in the first place. If merchandise seems to be flying off the shelves on day one, don't count on the piece you have your eye on to be waiting for you once discounts kick in later. As they say, buy now or cry later.
Estate Sales Conducted by Families
Occasionally youíll run across an estate sale being conducted by a family. Although merchandise may be offered throughout the house, these sales are more like garage sales. Youíll usually have more leeway bargaining here, even on the first day of the sale. Make an offer just as you would at a true garage sale.
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