For years now when my Mechanical music friends, mentors, collogues, and myself get together for meetings and other events there is a subject that always comes up. That is the effect eBay is having on them and the antique world. This conversation on antiques always starts out the same way. They start talking about how good the prices for antiques were in the early 1990’s. From about 1989 to early 1997 antique prices where the best ever seen. Then the year 1997 came along. This is when the antique market would be changed forever. The launch of eBay was also the death of the common antique market.
Before eBay everything was rarer, harder to find, and in more demand. You only had a few options to buy antiques pre eBay. You could go to your local antique store, auction house, or private sales. With eBay you now have the world at your fingertips; you could see what ever grandma was hiding in her attic. This made the common antique less valuable. For example a Victor VI (6) pre eBay sold for approximately $750 (USD) fully restored, post eBay you can find a Victor VI (6) for right around $350 (USD). This also created a floor in the market instead of only finding one or two of a certain antique now you could find hundreds or even thousands in some cases.
The effects of eBay mainly apply to the common antique market. The rare or one of a kind antique market has been virtually untouched by eBay. The reason is that it is a waste of time and money to list them on eBay. With so many reproductions and scams out there it is hard to find the bidders. Most people do not trust paying large amounts of money (over $1000 (USD)) for an item they have to wait to receive. They also can not inspect or authenticate the antique. This has kept the main venues, auction houses and private sells to sell these antiques. This side of the antique market always seems to fair well no matter what is going on in the world around it.
eBay also opened the antique market up to an influx of reproductions, fakes and scams. There have always been reproductions of antiques. Most trendy antiques went into reproduction as soon as they hit the market. Marbles are the leader in the reproduction market. They are the most reproduced antique out there. It is also one of the hardest antiques to authenticate. The eBay reproduction and scam issues are leading many sellers and buyers to find other places to sell there antiques. We are seeing the more traditional ways of selling antiques coming back, Auction houses, antique store fronts, private sales, and other online choices that are out there (this is very few).
I have been an antique broker and personal property appraiser for sometime now and I have always chosen traditional methods for buying and selling over eBay. When you buy on eBay you never truly know what will be in the box when you open it.
eBay’s effects on the antique market have not all been negative. We now have some of the world’s hidden treasures at our fingertips. Many items that have been hidden away or only available in one part of the world are now available anywhere in the world.Â It has made it far less time consuming to clean out your garage with out having to waste an entire weekend having a garage sale. eBay has made it more affordable to start collecting. For the young collector of antiques out there, it has made it a lot easier and cost effective to get those starter antiques.
eBay at best has a bad search engine and frustrating customer service . Until someone can make a more reliable product to give eBay a run for its money, it will be like a mother in law that comes for a week and just does not seem to leave.