Recently, a friend asked me to help her brother sell his collection on Lladro glass figurines on eBay. These are expensive glass collectibles and I knew nothing about them – but I don’t have to. The principles for selling expensive collectibles on eBay are the same, regardless of what is being sold.
Obviously, like any eBay auction, the seller must have a powerful listing with great pictures. This is always true regardless of what the merchandise is. Expensive collectibles offer splendid opportunities, but also need special precautions.
1. Price: decide the lowest amount you will accept for each figurine and set that price as a reserve. Then make your opening bid absurdly low – yes, absurdly.
Example: if you will accept $1,000 – make your opening bid $25. There is no risk in this, because you don’t have to sell unless the bidding reaches $1000, but the low price attracts buyers, (assuming there is demand, of course).
Looking at completed eBay auctions allows us to track prices, Again and again we learn that starting the price where the seller hopes it will end is not a wise tactic.
For instance, a seller wants to get $750 for his figurine. An opening bid of $750 won’t attract nearly as many buyers as an opening bid of $25 and – surprisingly – the lower bid almost always gets higher prices. There is some psychology at work with the cheap price. It may not make logical sense, but it’s the reality of life on eBay.
2. Devote space in your auction listing explaining how you will pack your item to ensure safe transit. This is critically important because in the back of every buyer’s mind is the dread of receiving a package that rattles. A collectibles buyer will inevitably be thinking of the hassle she will have to go through – and the possible loss of purchase price – if her item is broken. She needs to know that the seller has carefully considered this issue and has a solution.
3. For the protection of both of you, insist that the buyer pay for appropriate insurance. Don’t allow this to be an option. You definitely do not want the liability of a broken collectible that costs hundreds of dollars. In fact, if a customer objects to paying for insurance, this might possibly be a red flag. A genuine collector is very eager to add to her collection and wants her figurine to be protected.
4. We can safely assume that every Internet buyer has heard stories of fraud on eBay and elsewhere on the Net. Therefore, anything you can do to prove the authenticity of your collectible is well worth your time. Is there a marking on the bottom? Do you have the original box or other container? Does it have a label? Is there a certificate of authenticity or an appraisal by a respected organization? If the answer to any of these is “yes”, then be certain to emphasize your authenticity in your auction. Taking pictures of your proof is especially effective.
5. I don’t suggest offering a guarantee except in the most general way – that is, you, the seller, are telling the truth about the product. Anyone bidding on a collectible is knowledgeable and therefore they know what they’re buying so there should be no reason for a return. If someone expresses dissatisfaction and mails your merchandise back, there is every likelihood of it being broken. You do not want the hassle of trying to collect on broken merchandise or putting yourself into a litigious situation with someone who refuses to believe that the collectible was broken via return shipping.
Also, you don’t want to take a loss on your eBay fees, which might be substantial if the price is high.
6. With a really expensive item, always offer the option of an escrow service – at the buyer’s expense, of course. They may not take want this service, but make certain they have the option. You, of course, know that your merchandise is legitimate, but the buyer isn’t so certain. eBay recommends an escrow service that is available to all members.
7. If you’re willing to ship worldwide, you need to take special steps to protect yourself. In the US we have AVS (Address Verification System) which offers some protection. A very large portion of the fraud suffered by buyers occurs outside the United States and you are justified in protecting yourself. Losing the purchase price on a $5 item isn’t such a big deal – but a $1,000 collectible absolutely does matter.
Your bank can advise you on the time it will take to verify foreign funds. Be certain to let any prospective buyer know in your auction that there will be a delay if they are outside of your country. Do not let your merchandise out of your hands until you are sure!
If you follow these ‘rules’, the chances of selling your expensive collectibles at the highest possible prices will be greatly increased.