We’ve finally gotten back on eBay. It would be foolish to miss the Christmas buying season. We have many seasonal items we’ve been saving, both vintage and new, and we have really been remiss on selling a friend’s rare books so we’re making a big listing push this week and next.
Doing so, as you know, will free up space and put money is our friend’s and our pockets. win-win!
Pricing of Items:
eBay allows us to sell in an auction format as well as in a Buy It Now (BIN) format. If you sell rare items, or items that is not in demand by the mass buying public, selling in the auction format works best. This is true for rare books and many of the seasonal items we’re selling from my grandparents’ home.
When selling popular items such as electronics, it’s easy to know the current value, whether used or new. For example, a DVD movie that recently came out currently selling new for $18 would probably bring as much as $16 if the used one we’re selling is in pristine condition. A few scratches would drop the price accordingly.
The challenge comes in selling rare items. Also, many times we sell an item, such as an out-of-print book, that might not be considered rare in price but that is difficult to locate for the few people who may be interested in that subject. A line of Bantam paperbacks came out in the 60s and 70s called Doc Savage and those are not necessarily rare because only a few go for $20 or more, but they are no longer in print and although there are not millions of potential buyers there are loyal buyers.
The Starting Bid:
When you want to list in an auction format, the starting bid is crucial. If you start your bid near the item’s value, you will get very few bidders. eBayers want a deal and the only thing they seem to love more than a deal is a bidding war. Get several buyers bidding against each other early and items often go for a little more than they’re really worth. (Bidders feel invested!)
This is why many wise auction sellers begin bidding at one penny, or perhaps 99-cents. We just listed a Pizzelle Italian cookie maker today. It’s worth at least $175 and maybe as much as $300. They always sell when listed as long as they work. So I wanted to get several people invested early and I began the bidding at one penny. This is sure to draw one or two bidders at least into the foray early in the auction’s 7-day life.
If we have a used book that has sold in the past anywhere from $3 to $12, but never gets many bidders at any price, the beginning bid needs to be far closer to what we would settle for if we only get one bid. So we often start used and rare books at $2.97. If we only get $2.97, that wasn’t really worth the time to list it, especially if we’re selling it for someone else, but if we price it much higher we may not get any bids. There may be others on eBay offering it less or the higher price just makes people wait until a lower one comes along.
The Ultimate Rarity:
Like our Pizzelle cookie maker, if you know for sure that you have a rare item that is in demand, you want to start the bidding low. A few years ago, we had a signed, limited, numbered edition of a book that was extremely valuable and we knew it. So we immediately, without hesitation, began the bidding at one penny. Within seconds people began bidding. Seven days later it sold for $11,400.
Starting auctions at one penny certainly should not frighten you. “But what if it sells for just the penny?” It won’t if you do a little homework and/or use some common sense on which items you begin at a penny. The goal of penny auctions is to generate lots of interest early in the auction’s 7-day cycle.
1-Cent or 99-Cents?
I actually broke my own rule this week. Speaking of Doc Savage, I have a couple of items related to a 1975 Doc Savage movie for sale this week. They are hard to find but they won’t generate a huge amount of money. I suspect we’ll eventually get about 8 bidders bidding against each other and the final price for each will only be $12-15 or so.
I listed them for a 99-cent starting bid. I got no takers for the first day and a half. My thought was, “These should sell for more than $10 but just in case only one person bids, at least we’ll have 99-cents and not just a penny.”
I was violating my own practices doing that. After a day and a half, I lowered both starting bids to a penny and sure enough, at least one of them is getting bids with multiple bidders working against each other. I knew they would sell, and I felt very certain they’d go for more than 99-cents, but I wasn’t following correct strategy for getting bidders going early. Lesson rememebered. As I said, it’s been a while since we sold much on eBay (last year actually) and I chalk that error in judgment up to being a little rusty.
Plus, What Difference does 99-Cents or 1-Cent Make?
Another way to see that 99-cents is just making a bidding war that much harder to start is this logic: Does it really matter if something actually sells for a penny or 99-cents? Either way, it was a waste of your time to list it. After eBay expenses you get nothing either way. So don’t go up to a 99-cent starting bid, but start at a penny, if you do some research and know an item should sell at some price above $8-12 and if several bidders will probably want it.
Speaking of a Penny:
If you’re still a holdout on the starting penny bid and don’t want to risk selling something for one cent even if you know it should bring far more, let me make three observations:
- An auction that has at least one bid is more likely to get another bid than an auction with no bids. This is a universal truth of eBay that most sellers forget. When buyers do a search and find several listings with the item they want, their eyes tend to fall on the items with a bid! It’s the nature of crowds. Instinctively they see bids on some items and not on others and even if those items are bid up higher than the items with no bids, buyers are far more likely to look at the items with bids and bid on them. They unconsciously think there must be something wrong with the items without bids even if nothing’s wrong with those items. Often buyers miss lower-priced opportunities but as sellers we need to rememeber this universal law of buying.
- When the entire world has a seven days to bid on your items, the chance that the free market of eBay buyers letting a deal remain for a penny is exceedingly slim. All wise eBayers offer most items they sell internationally. For example, if someone in Japanese wins something we sell, we’re just as thrilled as if someone in our state wins. International buyers widen your bidding audience and can greatly increase bidding. Although we don’t always offer everything to non-USA bidders (such as extremely fragile and heavy items or items that Customs would raise fits with like food or battery-containing items), we probably offer 80% or more of the things we sell to all buyers everywhere. Shipping internationally is no big deal and if the fear of shipping overseas has stopped you in the past you need to get over it and make more money by listing internationally on eBay. eBay’s postage-paid mailing labels and online custom forms make everything ultra simple.
- In the twelve years of selling, with more than 8,000 eBay auctions behind us, not one time did an item that we began at a penny sell for a penny! Not. One. Time. I chalk this up to instinct that we’ve acquired over the years of selling as well as research that we do before we begin listing something at one penny. So our record means you can safely list something for a penny assuming you understand what I’ve written above.
Does this mean nothing we ever list for a penny will sell for a penny? No. Who knows, maybe this week will be the first exception. And perhaps the very first thing you offer for a penny sells for that one penny. But the odds are not likely that will happen often if ever.