It's long been understood that eBay was built upon and buoyed by the passions of collectors. Whether they sought rare antiques, wistfully regarded playthings from their childhood or just one of those nifty PEZ dispensers, collectors hoisted eBay up on high as the de facto source for uncommon goods.
Since eBay's initial appearance, collectors have refined their tastes for collectible curiosities. Just as a connoisseur of fine wines will develop an increasingly sophisticated palate for that which he craves, collectors have similarly raised their expectations for the sorts of collectibles they'll now accept within their personal cache.
For sellers who deal in collectibles, it becomes necessary to employ a new approach when courting collectors. Here's a look at how this collector's evolution has taken place, how the market for collectibles has changed, and how sellers can be successful and profitable in this maturing market.
A time when seller was king
Back in the 1980s, collecting was a sellers' sport, that is, those who had the goods were easily positioned to demand their price. The buyer, begging for the opportunity to become reunited with a long-lost treasure (read: a nostalgic bauble) had little option but to pay the seller's price lest he be dispatched, crestfallen and unfulfilled.
It was a market tilted to the seller's benefit. With low supply (usually limited to whatever existed locally or could be acquired through the scant few trade papers), buyers hadn't much hope for negotiating a better price.
Enlightened collectors now understand that they can be more selective over the items they'll purchase
Leveling the playing field
When eBay arrived in 1995, supply of collectible goods increased many times over in the course of just a few years, goods now available from a growing national and global collective of sellers. Even though selling prices were initially high in eBay's earliest days, the influx of more sellers with more collectible goods (that is, "supply") brought balance between buyer and seller. And, just as eBay had been touted as a "perfect market," the market dynamics that affect prices and profits continued to shift and adjust.
The buyer—the new 'king'
Today, the collectibles market is hardly recognizable in comparison to that of the 1980s and 1990s. After more than a decade of eBay's presence, it's clear that final selling prices for collectible items are down, as compared to the auction place's first five years. Prices have declined to the point that many sellers have stopped listing high-end collectibles, fearing they won't gain the sorts of profits from years ago.
But wait—wouldn't sellers removing goods from the supply result in selling prices going on the rise again? Usually, yes, until you consider the quality of the collectible goods available at a given time, in comparison to the sorts of goods that have gone across the auction block in years prior. Enlightened collectors now understand that they can be more selective over the items they'll purchase and if they'll decide to wait a little longer for a more worthy investment.
Appealing to the refined collector
Sellers, take heart. Despite the appearance that the collectibles market seems all but dead and gone, the good news is that buyers are still buying collectibles. Understand, though, that these buyers are much more choosey about the goods they'll purchase, for reasons previously noted. So how do you attract a collectibles buyer who brings a more discerning taste to the marketplace? Try these approaches:
Although the days of impassioned bidding wars over less-than-stellar collectibles seem long gone, the collectibles market is still alive and kicking. Take a renewed approach in positioning collectible items, and you'll find the successful recipe for appealing to discerning collectors.
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Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.
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