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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The red star

    
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.

26 comments:

  1. Oh wow, you are an EBay pro. I've always looked but never listed or purchased - yet.

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  2. P.s. I would have loved some of those Indian artifacts though probably could never afford the price.

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  3. Your posts are always so interesting, Joanne.

    I never got into eBay as it seemed like a lot of trouble and who the heck would want my junk anyway. My son, though, has sold quite a bit and done well. He now uses Craig's List which is more convenient, but I think somewhat sketchy.

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  4. My maternal grandmother was from Roseville... Pottery, coal mines and glassware. Nothing left but memories now. Never been on e-bay... the stuff Grandma had probably went in the trash. It's funny what is now quite valuable, isn't it?

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  5. wow! native artifacts, Roseville pottery. too bad the younger generations weren't interested.

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  6. One missing step from the train?
    I tried the ebay selling but not as early in the game as you did. I sold less than a tenth of what you did. Not everything sells even for low prices. I don't trust Craigslist.
    The oddest thing I put up there was a small rock my nephew found that had the shape of Wisconsin. No takers.

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    1. I caught and described the rest of the missing parts; I missed the missing step.

      EBay changed even in the ten years I was involved. People quit helping newbies; EBay squeezed everyone. Nothing stays the same.

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    2. You almost ran with that missing step, didn't you. Missing step to Clarksville...

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  7. Wow, you did great with EBay! Good for you too with the run you had and the success with all those red stars!! WTG with that! I sold a lot on EBay when we moved from Montana back to California 7 years ago, but in going through hubby's parents' estate, although I knew there were "valuable" things here, I had heard that EBay had changed a lot of policies and I was a bit shy to reenter the market again, so I'm sure a lot of stuff we sold at garage sales ended up on EBay with people that knew what they were doing.

    What I did have great success with and would do it again if I had the time was sell books on Amazon.com. Would go to garage sales, buy books cheap, list them on Amazon and sold quite a bit that way.

    betty

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    1. Two or three years ago one daughter asked me to try eBay again; she wanted to stop storing all the western jewelry (boleros and turquoise) she inherited from my mother-in-law. It all was late fifties, early sixties stuff. My mother-in-law had impeccable taste, but it all sold for minimal amounts of money and the buyers just weren't nice.

      A shame.

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  8. We sold my daughters piano and violin on ebay she put the add on and they picked them up at my place so no packing involved, we tried a few other things but no one wanted them so they are still sitting in the shed.
    Merle..........

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  9. You are a true dynamo - and I am not surprised you got all that positive feedback. You don't do anything by halves do you?

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  10. Fabulous ! I am amazed at your skills Joanne.
    Husband buys bits for boats on Ebay for terrific value.
    I bought a Sari once for a Bollywood evening. I wore the Sari with a T Shirt under & a friend had the tiny cropped top as it was way too small for me !

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  11. I have sold a few things on e-Bay -- but quite some time ago -- trains for my husband. He was happy with the price he got and that the postage to New Zealand was not included in the price! It was very tempting to go further, but having read about your adventures, glad I decided not to do it! Like everything else on the Internet, time has turned it all into a big hassle. Thank goodness for the 'Grandma' excuse, eh? ;-)

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  12. I've used Kijiji...it's free unless you want to upgrade your ad but it is basically a garage sale on line...not intended for priceless objects.

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  13. I'm not a fan of e-bay, I signed up there when searching for a hard to find movie which I eventually found through a different site that my daughter found for me. I still get emails from e-bay asking me to buy or sell, but I've seen the system and am not happy with it. There seems to be a lot of bidding pushing the prices up, usually to much higher than I could afford. I probably should unsubscribe.
    I think you did very well with them, especially with helping Nina close the barn. You certainly earned that red star.

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  14. You were getting to be an expert! You have a lot of different skills!

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  15. oh what a great story, never knew there was that much trouble with ebay, always meant to try it but never have. Now wondering if my Gary's train is worth anything.

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  16. I have never used ebay...I'm a dinosaur.
    Jane x

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  17. Gutsy ol' gal, you are! Reminds me of a calendar we saved for years just for the laugh. Hill Billies--Grandma out fist fighting a bear. The caption read, "She don't want no bullet holes in him." For me to do eBay would be like duking it out with a bear.

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  18. Wow, you were an Ebay expert. I have never gone that route. If we want a tax deduction, I always donate to charity. And that's it. As good as cash.

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  19. Hari Om
    I know folk who have used it but can honestly say I have not been near ebay - a native distrust which I cannot quite place. Perhaps like that of the lamb when the wolves are near...

    YAM xx

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  20. What a wonderful summary of what had to be countless hours spent. And you have re-affirmed and solidified my vow never to get tangled up with eBay :)

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  21. That was exhausting to imagine, Joanne! I will not use eBay to hawk my wares. I have so much I need to sell, and you have saved me some hard experiences.

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  22. Dear Joanne, as "Susan Kane" says, all you described doing in your posting seems exhausting to me. So much patience and research and packing, etc., etc., etc. So much to learn over the years. I'm glad that you were such a success at this and who knows when you will need all this experience and information again. Your venture into selling is truly amazing to me. Inspiring. Peace.

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  23. I used to like ebaying, but these days you get almost no money and it seems a huge hassle for what you get. I am talking of the British site. Many of the people on the British site (at least)seem to be companies selling on ebay - as opposed, I suppose, to selling from regular shops.

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