Sunday, December 9, 2012
Tales of an eBay Power Seller
It was a small pamphlet, circa 1932, titled something like, "Should Bird Houses be Built on Golf Courses?" I'd picked it up at a library book sale, along with other vintage bird pamphlets. It wasn't the subject of the pamphlet that caught Jay's eye as he divided his attention between Sunday football and writing descriptions for my eBay auctions, but the printed name of one of the foundation board members on the back of the pamphlet advocating bird houses on golf courses -- Robert E. Jones.
"I think this is Bobby Jones," he commented.
"Mm-mm," I replied. "Put it in parentheses." The strong suit of listing on eBay -- key words. I started the 7-day auction at $9.99. Within a day I'd had an offer of $250.00 if I would remove the pamphlet from auction and sell it directly. Another email came in warning me not to accept any offers to stop the auction, apparently from someone interested in winning the pamphlet. I never stop an auction, considering it unethical. As you know, most bidding occurs in the last couple of minutes of a competitive auction. When the auction ended, the pamphlet had sold for $1,400.00 to someone in Minnesota. It turned out that this very scarce pamphlet (who would have saved it?) was a "completist" item for collectors of Bobby Jones memorabilia. A few days later, we watched a docudrama of Bobby Jones' life and really enjoyed it.
I am an eBay Power Seller. I have been selling used and rare books, "and whatever else the cat drags in," on eBay since 1997, when it was still in its infancy, before Meg Whitman arrived to take it big time. I've met some very interesting people through eBay because I always ask in my automated email thanking them for bidding, "Why did you want this item?" Curiosity is one of my finest personality traits . . . under the right conditions. There was the firefighter in Connecticut who won the vintage memoir of a fireman that had inspired him as a kid to choose that career. And a publication from the 1936 Berlin Olympics that was won by a Canadian, whose father had represented Canada at those games.
There are various methods of finding products to list on eBay. Because I am a late nighter and normally sleep in until 9:00 a. m., the most difficult was getting up at 5:30 on Saturday mornings in the summertime in Laramie to hit the yard sales. But I did it and was usually rewarded. Laramie is a college town, and that means people read. It was like a groggy Easter egg hunt. I found a British publication titled "The Titanic and the Californian," published in Great Britain in the 1960s. First edition in fine dust jacket. Sold to me for $2.00 by a British graduate student (the book had belonged to his dad back in England). On eBay, it sold for $350.00.
One morning I walked into an old house that had been vacated except for a few things in boxes. Leaning over one box, I spied an Alcoholics Anonymous book with dust jacket. I reached down and carefully pulled it out. The dust jacket was perfect, and the publication date inside was 1951. First edition, 16th printing. I didn't really understand what I was holding in my hands, other than that someone years before started going to A.A., but must have stopped. The book was unread. "How much do you want for this?" I asked. "Fifty cents," said the man, who was probably the aging son of that book's first owner. I did a little research, enough to know that I should mention that the dust jacket was original and not a reproduction. The high bidder, at $840.00, was a real estate developer in Chicago, who proudly told me he would be showing it off at his next AA meeting. And that would be fine because I'd placed that beautiful dust jacket in a protective Mylar cover. Condition, condition, condition.
I sold a book on the history of the Hashemite royal family of Jordan to a silversmith in California, who'd spent time in Jordan, instructing King Abdullah in some of the finer points of creating and finishing small silver objects. It seems it is the King's hobby.
I've even met some of my customers. People in Wyoming expect to drive great distances, so it wasn't unusual for a customer from Casper or Cheyenne, or even Nebraska, to make arrangements to drive to Laramie to pick up their winnings. And about a year ago up here in Idaho, the man who won Jay's childhood Lionel train set, drove a few hours from central Washington State to pick it up because he didn't want it damaged in the mail. We had a nice visit. And once a regular customer and his wife from Calgary, Alberta, stayed with us for a couple of day as they toured Wyoming. It's a small world after all.
In the early days of eBay, it called itself an online community. And sometimes it is.
eBay Power Seller