There are many avenues to sell your antiques and collectibles; private sells, auction houses, eBay, antique brokers etc. In this article I have compared between the auction house and eBay. I have presented the pros and cons of both the Auction house and eBay.
Who will see your antiques or collectibles?
In an auction house your antique or collectible will be seen by buyers that are there specifically for that type of item. Most auction houses advertise world wide through there mailing list, brokers, internet based auction proxy such as live auctioneers, live auctions, and proxy bid to name a few (They advertise on your behalf for your product too). In the case of a specialty auction those buyers will be there for only those type of items (e.g. a clock auction will bring in clock collectors and buyers). eBay has a worldwide viewer base that is there for just about anything. The viewers have to search for your items going through 100â€™s of thousands of misplaced items using an inefficient search engine that tend to return results that have nothing to do with what you are looking for. eBay may have millions of viewers but the chances of the right buyers seeing your item are slim.
Finding the right price for your antiques or collectibles.
When you use an auction house to sell your antique(s) or collectible(s), you have a much better chance of getting the full value for your antique(s) or collectible(s). Most auction houses have on staff appraisers that specialize in a specific field (e.g. mechanical music instruments, clocks, glassware, comic books etc). If they do not have a specialist on staff they usually have a phone book full of appraisers that can help them. These appraisers watch the market like the stock brokers watch the stock market and they know the trends well. If you choose to use eBay you have to either guess at the value or just put your item up and hope it brings the value you think it is worth. Unless you consult with an appraiser like myself or do tons of research you will not truly know the value of your item. With an ever changing market it can be difficult to find an accurate comparable without subscribing to a service that provides market research for the past 3-5 years. These services can be quite expensive. Going by the prices on eBay will not help you either since most of the people there are in the same boat as you.
Cost of an Auction house vs. eBay.
An Auction house charges a commission for selling items through the Auction House, this is called the sellers premium (read my article on how to choose a good auction house to sell items that I wrote a few weeks ago to find out more). The average sellerâ€™s premium is 10-35%. In most cases the higher the value ofÂ your antique or collectibleÂ the lower the percentage. This commission can always be negotiated. Using an auction house may cost more but you are getting far better quality and in the long run much less hassle and stress. eBayâ€™s cost is not so laid out anymore. They have a fee of about $4.00 to $6.00 just to list your item and almost 6 % sellerâ€™s premium when the item is sold. If your items are not sold you then have to pay the fee to re list the item. Eventually you end up paying about the same price as an auction house just to have your antique or collectible listed on eBay with mix matched socks from Korea.
Shipping and Handling
Once your items are in the hands of an auction house you donâ€™t have to do anything else but wait for your items to sell. You donâ€™t have to worry about arranging shipping, packing the items, taking it anywhere to be shipped, returns, and any damage that might occur. While your antique or collectible is in the hands of the auction house it should be insured. With eBay you have to pack and ship the item, make sure you charge enough for shipping which never seem to happen no matter how many postage calculator you use. They all seem to give you a different amount.Â Trying to pack your item properly so they are not damaged in transit is almost impossible. Then you have to deal with customers emailing you all the time saying their item is not there yet even thou you gave them the tracking number.
The time frame for your antique or collectible to sell.
An auction house can take anywhere from about one week to six months to sell your item. This all depends on the auction house’s calendar and if your item needs to be in a specialty auction. When using eBay the average time to sell an item is seven days. This of course is if you do not need to relist your item. There is about a 60 % chance you will have to relist your item and pay the fees again.
My advise is always try to consult with a professional first either an appraiser, auction house, or antique broker regardless if you are selling one item, a collection, or estate. You donâ€™t want to find out the artwork you sold on eBay for $500.00 was worth 2 million.
I have been selling antiques on eBay as well as through local auction house in Cambridge for the past couple of months as a full time profession and am dead keen on the pros and cons of the two. The bulk of my stocks consist of small items such as 18-19th century porcelains, little oils/wc paintings, decorative objects that on average, cost just under £100 apiece. Occasionally I do take in specialist items such as antique Chinese paintings and Islamic miniatures if opportunity arises. It has been my aim to rake in a net profit margin of at least 30% of the actual purchase cost for every single item I sell (e.g. £100 purchase price, resell for £160. After deducting eBay listing + commission + paypal fees of £20; the net profit is £40 or thereabout). To date, 85% of my eBay customers are of foreign origin.
The three main issues that I find most frustrating with selling on eBay are:
1. Lost/damaged items from overseas delivery. 5% of my stocks delivered outside the UK went missing despite “International Sign-For” or “Registered post”. Once an item is damaged/disappeared/impounded by foreign custom, one is most unlikely to recover the full actual losses as Royal Mail /Parcel Force/DHL insurance schemes do not extend to the price range of the items I normally deal with. Asking buyers to subsidise the insurance premium will only put off many potential bargain hunters or end up with lousy score on “postage and handling costs” on one’s eBay feedback board. In short, the losses now not only include the purchase cost but also eBay, paypal and postage fees – like it or otherwise.
2. Dodgy buyers that make forced return using “item as not described” as excuse. I even had two buyers that (I suspect) chipped/smashed my vases on purpose to demand a 100% refund. Again, the losses now extend from actual purchase cost to eBay, paypal as well as postage fees. One is under the threat of receiving a negative feedback from the disgruntled customer too if one does not oblige immediately.
3. The frustrating amount of time one has to spend on computer communicating/explaining to buyers on problems and issues that in most instances ignored or misunderstood.
In my experience, selling through my local auction house is much more relaxing and trouble free so long as fixed reserves are put on one’s stocks. Since shifting to auction house, I have (much, much) more time on stock-hunting and looking for “sleepers” as well as enjoying life, basically.
There are, however, occasions where eBay is clearly superior to local auction house, here is an example:
1. I have the good fortune of scooping a collection of unique Oriental paintings which, unfortunately, received no interests from bidders in my local auction house. When the same stock was put up for sale on eBay under the right section, the collection was sold for over 5000% of my original purchase cost. The buyer, needless to say, was an Oriental eBayer/ collector. The profit actually cushioned my overhead and expenses for the following three months. In short, eBay could be much more efficient in “targeting” and thus allow a killing to be made IF one has a stock that is so desired by a rich collector at the other corner of the earth.