Yep, that is the big question for many antiques & collectibles sellers, especially as of late. Big declines in sales, questionable and outright insane tactics by eBay to "clean house" of "bad" sellers seems to be hurting most sellers, rather than the actual "bad sellers."
Just like eBay's "Best Match" search having little to do with the "best match" for your search, the "bad sellers" are those sellers who are not making eBay as much money as they would like, it seems. eBay's policies, programs, rules, regulations, etc, etc seem to be weeding out medium and small sellers. It seems time and time again that they protect outright fraudsters that happen to have produce high $ sales. Here is an interesting bit of proof, right on their own website....check it out before the big wigs at eBay figure out it is there! For those of you who don't figure you have the time to read this fellow's excellent information (on tomahawks), here is the main quote about his personal experience that incriminates eBay...the underlined part is the "eye roller" (and I quote):
I turned one of these obvious fakes (being sold as from 1800's) in to eBay last week & to a AACA (Ancient Artifact Collectors Association) which eBay has appointed as their sole authenticators of all things Indian even though they specialize in stone age items. One of the board of directors contacted me asking how to tell fakes from reproductions (she didn't know?). I told her of the one being faked right now on ebay & that I had reported it but they never removed it. The director came back LOL saying to me that she reported it again for me but that eBay said the seller was too big with multiple accounts to risk insulting them by ending their auction early so they would not take action so as not to rub them the wrong way. The funny part was this AACA director had contacted me first, after reading this guide, to ask me which auctions she should end early as fakes because she didn't know historic items too well! Oh my. So much for our dream team 'authenticators' for eBay, the AACA, eh? Don't get me wrong, I'm sure they help out in the stone age category somehow, but I have moccasins older than the AACA & come to think of it they need replacing too. Don't expect ebay to care or the AACA to know any better. They don't.
HOLY CRAP! And the sad thing is, this is one of the many things you can find online that incriminates eBay. But, seems they are getting so bold that they don't even care that the evidence is visable shown on their own website!
Then there are the buyers who are protected by eBay so well that they can rip a seller off, leave them low DSRs, and a negative feedback and stick around to do it to all the sellers they deal with.
And I can go on and on and on and on....But, I heard recently that blog readers want to read about happy, positive things, and that the negative blogs tend to get low readership....so, should I continue in a "Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy" mode?
Sorry, not today. This is serious business. Many antiques sellers are needing a decent place to sell! We are pissed off and we aren't going to take it anymore!
Personally, I have checked out many sites that were recommended to me, and even spent membership money on some of them.
All yielded little.
Now, I have to admit, my criteria is strict. I am a picker by heart and trade, so I want to TURN MERCHANDISE OVER. I hate sitting on things for long...even though I have tons of stuff that I need to sell, I do WANT to sell it, wholesale or even below wholesale if you are buying enough!
I always tell potential customers, "The prices get cheaper the more you take!"
And they think I am joking....but, I am SERIOUS. You take a heaping truckload, and man-o-man, will I give you some darn cheap prices! Heck, I'll start throwing stuff in! FREE! No, the mint condition Lalique vase isn't free, but see that $80 piece of McCoy there with that tiny nick in the edge, the one I have priced at $35? TAKE IT, PLEASE!
Thus, my criteria for a good antiques/collectibles sales site is this:
(1) AUCTION SITE....no "store" sites....As interesting as "eBay Stores" is...it really sucks, and has screwed up the auction aspect. Who wants to bid on anything when they can buy it from someones store? Forget the "buy-it-now" features. AUCTION TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER. Lets be realistic, this is what creates prices and helps drive the market. There are way too many items available on eBay as "buy-it-now" for $10 that are $50 items in price guides, in stores, etc. There might only be 2 available for $25, but when you list your piece for auction starting at $9.99, and 2 of the three potential bidders decide to use the "buy-it-now" on some other guy's listings, you loose the 2 guys who will bid your item up....so you have ONE bidder...who buys your AUCTION item for $9.99....and you have just paid more in fees to list it than the "store" items.
(2) Easy to sign up to.
(3) NO high double, triple or quadruple digit MEMBERSHIP FEES. $20? Fine, but, hey, maybe give it back to me in the first 20 bucks worth of fees I rack up. A commission taken off of sales and/or listings fees is to be expected. And related to this....NO ADS FOR NON-RELEVANT CRAP. I don't want my auctions becoming close to invisible because of advertisements diverting buyer's attention.
(4) EASE OF USE. Comes with LISTING SOFTWARE that is easy to use. Remember "Mr Lister" on eBay? And have you ever used "Mr Poster" from Auctiva? Heaven! Mr Lister on steroids! Sadly they are not really supporting it as much as they should...though they are quietly updating it and such....maybe something to do with the fact that Auctiva, despite catering to eBay, was bought bu ALLIBABA.COM...a force that eBay will have a tough time beating if they decide they actually want a serious piece of the auction pie...
(5) Site traffic from all over the world, leaning heavy on traffic from US, UK, CANADA, JAPAN, AUSTRALIA, etc...
(6) FAR more than 10,000 auctions on at any given time. I have visited way too many "up and coming" antiques/collectibles auction and sales sites that have 50, 100, 400, 1000 listings, and that is it. I visit them ONCE....maybe twice if I forget I was there 6 months previous. C'mon, if you have 30 users you can have 1000 auctions going easily....heck, 100 users and you are at 10,000...and that is NOTHING when it comes to content on such a site. Oh, and who really wants to look at pages and pages and pages of clipped vintage magazine ads up for auction at 99 cents each?
(7) LOW number of or (preferably) NO repros, nor modern junk, nor crafts, nor brand new art...should I go on?
(8) Properly organized categories and sub-categories. Even eBay has failed at this...which I can not figure out....How can they miss so many significant sub-categories and still have sub-categories that maybe one item a month gets listed in?
You know how many sites meet this pretty simple set of criteria?
NONE. ZERO. ZIP. NADA.
Why not? do I have to be the one to create such a site? To me these are COMMON SENSE things.
I wish I could...but I am darn busy as it is....and I am not a web designer. I NEED a web designer (or a group of web designers) to join me in the quest to create such a site. I have tried getting some together locally, but due to circumstances in their lives, things just haven't congealed to get anything started, and likely won't. I do have a couple key things in mind (that I will not reveal here, sorry) which will make it a unique site. They are actually common sense things, too...but, they seem to be SO obvious that everyone has missed implementing them.
But, I have lots of ideas and no large sums of cash, nor time to implement most of those ideas. I have to eat...so I have to make money, thus I bust my butt doing so. A vicious circle....and, please do not send me any pyramid schemes, get rich quick propositions, or Amway/Avon/Watkins type business inquiries. I am in the junk biz, preferably OLD junk, and yo wont; be swaying me to get selling soap, perfume, spices or any other product....Now, if you have some NOS 1970s or older stuff from your little enterprise, THEN call me...we'll talk!
So, how do I make money if I am not selling on eBay? Antiques shows are apparently dismal in most of Canada, and much of the US. I have heard reports of decent sales in certain parts of the US and elsewhere, but they aren't shows I will be able to attend anytime soon. Antiques sales in Western Canada seems dismal. A recent one, being held by a new promoter, had room for 300 vendors, only had 90 booked, but then only 30 had paid...so they got about 30 vendors when it came show time. Friends returning from that show quoted me sales of $2000 - $4000...not good, considering you can toss aside $2000 for replenishing the inventory you sold, then take off you table and travel expenses, and forget about paying yourself for your time, because there will be next to nothing left once you pay for fuel, hotel, your booth space, food, and incidentals....and if you consider wear and tear on your vehicle or the vehicle rental, you will be pretty much back to zero.
Sure if it is a local show, yo have no hotel, you have to be in that city anyway, etc, etc, it might be worth doing...maybe you can offset your travel costs, have a working vacation, etc.
But is it viable?
Ok, so how about setting up an antique auction?
I struck out 4 times. The biggest loss was one due to circumstances beyond my control. Damn terrorists flying planes into buildings on the weekend of my 2 day live auction of all my inventory, as well as 3/4 of my personal collection accumulated over 12 years that I trucked in a 50 foot, jam packed semi trailer to 2 provinces away....
Projected take after expenses: minimum $100,000, on a bad day (or so I thought!) if everything went for low wholesale prices...
Actual take after expenses, commission, etc: $14,000
And add to that that the auctioneer was not what he made himself out to be....but, that whole event really is a blog (or 3) for another day.
So lets scratch eBay auctions & real auctions....plus, so far there is not an Internet auction site that I have found to my liking.
I am getting a website done. I actually had one done already, just had to load inventory to it and have it transferred to my own domain...but the web developer disappeared (only dealt with her online), and I can no longer get access to it. No one answers the phone, either. Been trying for a few years to pay for it and get it going...I put lots of time into back and fort communications (etc) over its development.
I am assuming there has been some sort of tragedy in her life, as her sites are not being maintained. It was BEAUTIFUL, too... *sigh*.
Yes, I do have a shop...but, it is pretty close to WINTER now in this part of the country, and sales drop off even in the city.....here in this part of the rural countryside they pretty much grind to a halt even if you are open...and at this point I dot; even have heat in the two small buildings we do have built....let alone having to clear snow down the 100 feet of dirt road that leads to the store area through the brush. I suppose I could park a snowmobile by the fence for customers' use ....hmmm...winter antiques shopping on a snowmobile...maybe I could start a trend?
So, I don't know how I can really make any decent cash without sluggin' away on eBay for the moment.
Selling via eBay has been extra discouraging over the last year, so it sure is not enjoyable like it used to be. If I were to quit, getting back in the eBay saddle again, say, after 6 months or a year, would be like learning everything all over again. I am judging by my own experiences with eBay....How can a site be easy to use when they change things constantly?
I have other things "in the works", but nothing that is creating cash at this moment. We do have the Bed & Breakfast, but the money from it tends to pay bills incurred for renos, heat, mortgage, taxes, etc, etc.
The problem is, we gotta eat, too....
So, I still really don't know the answer to the question. That fact shows in the number of auctions I post, too. Yes, I am discouraged. I used to post 50 to 100 auctions a week during the winter months, and do it easily, over the past 8 years. Now if I get 30 done I am really doing well...and with the below 50% sell thru rates I have been experiencing, that isn't going to cut it. SO much I do figure is worth posting I then find out just isn't selling...or is selling for far less than I can get locally....or even less than I can wholesale the items for to another dealer..as long as they don't plan to sell it on eBay! Gather 20 items to sell on eBay, research them, set aside 15 that aren't selling worth a darn on eBay.
An answer to the big question still eludes me.