I know exactly when I signed up for EBay; 1997. Mom died in March and we had all her treasures to deal with. The family glass! Cut, leaded, crystal… We had boxes of it.
By summer we made all the grandchildren look it over and not one of them wanted it. A mighty elegant house would be required to flaunt it, not to mention the responsibility. We had it appraised, we donated it to a public mansion, we all breathed a sigh of relief.
So easily done. What about that row of Grandma Rolf’s Roseville pottery, lined up atop a kitchen cupboard. This was less easily done. I had two resources to learn value. The fledgling dial up internet search engines, Dogpile, WebCrawler, HotBot. And Nina, the mistress of an antique barn. Not a shop, a barn. She was my go to when I was stumped.
The Roseville sold for a fair price, and arrived at its destinations intact, in spite of my ignorance of proper packaging. I received four fine feedbacks. Heady stuff. Nina asked me to move some Roseville that had gathered dust too long at The Barn. We came to some agreement and I sold it for a decent price.
My lack of shipping skill caught up with me; a piece broke in shipping. I formulated my returns policy: Full refund; simply tell me what happened. I didn’t need pictures, don’t return it. My brother would like that one (if it breaks in half, you get to keep both pieces). More positive feedback, and a quantum leap in shipping carefully, still with recycled boxes from the dumpsters of the shops in town.
My friend Carol asked me to sell some of her antiques and collectables she was tired of. We made a deal, I think fifteen percent of the sales price. Another eye opener. A small return for researching, photos, listing fees, packing, schlepping to the post office. It was a favor, not a money maker.
By the end of the second year EBay and I were close buddies, especially in the two or three months each year I did no shows. Thrift store finds kept me supplied, on the whole, and I had my turquoise star for over a hundred positive feedbacks. All positive!
Probably about 2000 we painted some walls in the house and I had to take down the Indian “tray” that had been nailed up for years. Oh, what about all this stuff from our grandparent’s great trip west in 1936. I started with that “tray” and some pottery. What a week. Consecutive emails from bidders who would be “out of town” or otherwise unable to attend the end of the auction, could they make an offer now?
Our turn of the other century Apache winnowing basket sold for a lot of money. The buyers were so excited, we included the tape we’d made of the movies of “The great trip west.” I stopped short, trying to make a large enough carton from recycled boxes. These folks paid a lot of money for this, Joanne. Have some class, buy a decent carton.
I methodically sold off the rest of the rugs, baskets, pottery. I can still see one email that came for the listing of a big basket we’d used all through my girls childhoods for wet mittens and caps. It was used more carelessly here, the rim was disintegrating, the rows separating. “I can’t believe your family used an Olla water basket for family junk for more than a century!” Ah, well. I figured it was all travelling to homes that would understand and appreciate it.
|Very similar Olla basket|
I retired weaving in 2003 and took up township business in 2004. I still dabbled in EBay a bit, but had nothing significant to sell, except for Bob’s train. Bob was a dealer at Nina’s barn, and had a train he’d picked up at a garage sale. I think it was the Lionel Western Pacific. Played with, then put away in it boxes. He thought he had something, could we try EBay. A new lesson. Learn more than you ever want to know about some things, like scarce trains.
All those train guys were livid at my inadequate description and knowledge. I did my best. I revised my description to cover every square inch. I overlooked one missing step, for which the buyer forgave me, after another tongue lashing. He paid more than three thousand dollars, of which I got one third, less expense, which included a hundred dollar refund for the damn step. I played the dumb grandma card a lot to get through that one.
Then Nina decided to retire and close down the barn. Would I help? I’d see what I could do. We turned out to be one helluva team. Nina knew her merchandise and knew how to give out crash antique knowledge. She also staged beautifully. About every ten days I’d go by the barn and load up my van with some category, learn enough to write thorough descriptions. Like clockwork, she staged, I listed, answered questions, banked the money, packed and shipped. And, kept immaculate records, because Nina still had to settle with folks who let her close down their space in the barn.
It probably took us four months to clear that barn down to cobwebs. We just kept on keeping on. I think once her husband asked her when we would settle up and Nina said let her alone, she was busy. “What if Joanne dies?” “I know her sister.” This deal was fifty fifty after all expenses, which did not include refunds I made for my stupidity, and never told Nina about. I paid my taxes for the next year from my half.
I pretty much quit EBay after that. The fees always escalated and the rules changed weekly. EBay instituted a secondary rating system; the buyer could rank the seller one to five stars for various performance areas, including speed of delivery. That one did it for me. I’m not in charge of the postal system. I personally earned a red star for over 1,000 positive feedbacks (and no negatives!); I printed it out, hung it on the wall and said The End.