Profile: Yearning for Learning

Collector pursues love of research through eBay.

by staff writer
- Mar 09, 2009

An avid collector for more than 30 years, Jackie Nixon craves the knowledge she gleans from thoroughly researching each piece she acquires. The learning, she says, is worth more than the value of the item itself.

So when Nixon eventually turned to eBay as a way to thin out her collections of Early American Pattern Glass, antiques and rare books, her motivation was information, not profit.

"Every now and then, I pull out a box from my basement, research it to the fullest and then sell it because at that point, I'm done with it," says Nixon. "It's a hobby. The money I make is not significant, but the education is."

Still, Nixon admits, there's a certain satisfaction in turning seemingly ordinary yard sale finds into top-dollar sales.

"I once bought a $5 butter dish at a local auction. It was milk glass. It wasn't very eye-appealing, but it had an old look to it," she muses. "A few years passed and I could never find any information about it.

"Well, I had been told that if you don't know what something is, list it on eBay and someone will either tell you what it is, or bids will start adding up and you'll know you have something valuable," Nixon recalls. "So I started it out at $9.99. That butter dish sold for close to $400.

"I later learned from the buyer that it was an original piece from an extremely rare pattern," she adds. "So that turned out to be one of my better purchases."

eBay 'university'

That inspiring experience—along with the not-so-pleasant discovery that a coveted first-print book she'd purchased on eBay was fraudulent—helped to feed Nixon's hunger for history about the items she buys and sells.

My most prominent asset with eBay is the guides I've written

And she generously shares what she learns with others. Her eBay Guides on buying first-print Harry Potter books, how to authenticate rare books and packing and shipping techniques are heavily viewed and highly rated by eBay users.

"My most valuable contribution to eBay is the guides I've written," she says. "In my opinion, [eBay Guides] was an ingenious idea. For those of us who want to learn more, the education is there for the taking.

"Recently the number of fraudulent Harry Potter books on eBay has dropped because a friend and I have pushed that issue to the forefront and made it a point to share the information we have," Nixon notes. "And the prices are going up again, so we think we're doing a good thing."

Though researching and listing items could easily become an all-consuming task, Nixon tries to limit her eBay time to a couple of hours a day. Her first love and top priority, she says, is taking care of her family. Additionally, she stays quite busy as an independent home consultant for Longaberger® baskets.

"I go in a lot of directions; I'm a bit random at times," she laughs. "I just follow my heart and do what I feel is right."

Book smart

Nixon's penchant for deeper understanding recently coincided with personal tragedy to send her down another path—providing historical manufacturers' catalogs to attorneys involved in asbestos-contamination litigation.

After losing her father to lung cancer, Nixon fought in court to prove an asbestos connection. Using her favorite tool—research—she found the evidence she needed in a pile of old product catalogs. From then on, Nixon decided to apply this newfound knowledge and her online selling resources to help others who've been affected by exposure to the material.

Nixon says researching and listing the catalogs accounts for half her time on eBay and about 25 percent of her sales.

Eventually, she hopes to build the catalog listings into a dedicated line of business with their own Web site. With that in mind, she's named her Auctiva storefront "Asbestos Avenue."

The store initially showcases an eclectic mix of collectibles and books, but as that inventory is depleted, the product catalogs will move to the forefront, she reasons.

[Selling on eBay] turned out to be more profitable than I thought it would be, but it's been a lot of fun and a great education

Free education

Nixon started using Auctiva's eBay listing tools almost three years ago, primarily for the convenience and time savings they afford. But she was pleasantly surprised by how much money she could save as well.

"I love the fact that I can save my work at will," Nixon says. "I can load my pictures, and if the phone rings—which happens quite often—I can save it and come back at any point and know it will be there. With eBay, I would have to pay for that feature.

The eBay image hosting has also saved her quite a bit of money, she adds. "Sometimes I will use six to 10 images in a listing, and that can add up when you have 40 or 50 auctions a month.

"I didn't open my Web site to make money; I did it to part with some of the things I no longer want or need. It turned out to be more profitable than I thought it would be, but it's been a lot of fun and a great education," she says. "When I have spare time and there's nothing on my agenda, it's almost obsessive to go downstairs and take my pictures and list something that I've enjoyed and can share with somebody else."

Visit Asbestos Avenue.

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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