I am numismatist and I had the opportunity of returning to my hobby after a break of a few years. This time I had eBay to help me out to fill in the holes in my collection. I noticed some peculiar patterns in bidding, and the way that the items ended up having a high or a low fetch on the price. I categorized these under ‘sellers’ and ‘buyers’ sections. Each section throws some light on the way we could bid/sell an item. The ideas are very simple but can easily miss our attention when required.

For the sellers:

  • The main aim of the sellers should be to get the bidders compete each other. The final price is not the most important thing. If more than a few buyers get serious about a particular item , it fetches a good price automatically. The buyers see competition and try to bid each other out thus pushing the price higher. Sometimes this leads to a better price than expected.
  • Having the option of PayPal on the bid fetches a far more greater bid on the item. It gives a sense of security and fast payments (obviously at a small cost). I have seen most items go at approximately 50%-60% lower value than the best offers on similar items because they did not carry PayPal as an option.
  • Time duration and the end time of the auction are a very important parameters in getting a good price. I found this to be neglected in most of the auctions. Weekday working hours are a bad time to end the bid. Weekend nights and weekend early mornings are equally bad. Most people don’t want to get up early morning on a Saturday to check whats on eBay.(the only people who do that would be bidders who are desperate to get hold of the item).This is a lose lose situation for the seller. Time zone is the next important thing. 10:00 AM in Eastern would mean 7:00 AM in Pacific. Now you don’t want to lose 1/4 of your potential customers , do you?
  • Never ever give a short description on the item you are selling. One liners on the description are a turn off. The more you describe your item the more confident the buyer is. Don’t ramble on your seller ratings , or your history. (the buyers are smart enough to see that). Instead, spend the space to describe/display the item.
  • Good communication, specially close to the end of an auction, can buy you some points.
  • If you are not sure about how much competition you are going to see for an item, set a reserve or a start price for your bid. Don’t get too ambitious and place a very low price with no reserve. Note: too high a start price/reserve could be discouraging for the bidders

For the buyers:

  • Make sure you search for the item in the title as well as the description.(see the check box below the search text box)
  • Look for the auctions that end at odd times or that have a small life time. (see seller section above for reasons)
  • Search for spelling mistakes in the listings. You can use this search tool. Don’t rely on this too much.(smart sellers are careful when selling)
  • Try bidding on items that have PayPal as a payment option. Money orders and checks take longer time and are not too secure.(you could find less competition on the items without PayPal option though; Power sellers would be a safe option to consider in this case)
  • Many sellers write stories on how they found a collector’s item. Try looking for descriptions on other items that the seller has listed. See similarities?? Its just another trick that the sellers use to make you believe that you are bidding on something really rare and pricey. I read one such description with the seller mentioning that he found a load of old rare coins in an old house that he recently purchased. The description on one of the other items he was selling told about the inheritance he received from his Uncle (bunch of rare nickels). The third one described about a chest of ‘rare’ coins that he found in the auction of a junkyard. What is he??? Sounds like another Tomb Raider movie to me.
  • If a seller is auctioning off an item for someone else, chances are that you might be getting a really good price.(especially if the seller is not aware of the price and if the start price is low). Check the sellers history before you go for the bid. It might be yet another fairy tale.
  • If you are getting a very good item at a very good price with the auction selling off at a price much lower than the market price, LOOK AGAIN. Two happy clicks to be the highest bidder might turn out to be a lifetime regret. For example, search in eBay for “Ballistic Roll coin” (without the quotes and with “search title and description” checked marked) Look through the listings (search for completed auctions if you want more results) and then read the message at this link
  • Be aware of the actual cost and the amount you are willing to pay before you get into the ring. Bidding spree is very common and I have seen bidders pay far more than what the buy it now price offers.

Thats all for now.

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