These are the days for online sales
by Peggy Whiteneck
As COVID-19 continues to rock our regular world, adaptive changes are becoming more common – including in the world of antiques and collectibles. Online auctions can compensate for the loss of sales opportunities on the ground, whether that loss is due to closure (temporary or otherwise) of live venues or the loss of customers who are choosing to stay home rather than risk infection. Here, for example, is a list of some of the Facebook groups offering auctions and straight sales:
- Antiques and Collectibles for Sale (482,000 members)
- Antiques and Collectibles for Sale or Wanted (31,000 members)
- Fenton Art Glass (several sales groups with several thousands of members)
- Mid-Century Modern Furniture for Sale (25,000 members)
- Vintage Clothing and Accessories (24,000 members)
- Antique and Vintage Silver for Sale (4,700 members)
- Vintage Clothing and Accessories (24,100 members)
- The Vintage Marketplace (34,400 members)
- Cast Iron Cookware Buy-Sell-Trade (29,000 members)
- Buy and Sell Vintage Toys (15,600 members)
- Vintage Sterling Silver Gems (Buy, Sell, and Trades) (6,700 members)
Online auction seller
Quickly researched sample list of sales and buying opportunities on Facebook
Taking advantage of these opportunities can be both fun and frustrating. Here are some of the things to watch for.
- Reputation of the Seller. When dealing with mailed sales from any of these groups, you’ll want to be sure you can trust the seller to deliver your purchased item as described and as mailed to arrive in one piece. I’m a member of two of the Fenton Facebook groups, but of the hundreds of sellers in these groups, there are three that I know I can trust to pack items safely for mailing. Online interest groups often have heart-rending posts from buyers about items that arrived unsafely packaged and in smithereens. For eBay sellers, there is also a system for buyers to rate a seller, and the reputation is worth paying attention to before buying.
- Accurate Item Description. Just as with dealers in antiques and collectibles on the ground, there is a range of seller expertise on any given item from professional to rank amateur. And just as with live sales, there are varying levels of seller interest in describing their items accurately. Applying maker names to items that aren’t is a common problem, so buyers need to be on their guard.
- Shipping Cost. If you’re not picking up the item yourself, you’ll need to be mindful of this often “hidden” cost. The few sellers from whom I buy all have reasonable shipping costs. Mind the size and weight: too big or heavy may be better bought or picked up at an in-person venue.
- Making Sure Your Computer Can Handle the Load. Sellers and buyers both need to be sure their equipment can handle clear images of items being sold. They also need to be sure they can stay online for auction bidding and not get kicked off because their hard- or software is too outdated to handle the job.
- Time Limits on Facebook Auctions. Having to reboot an auction and getting all bidders back online again is a lengthy hassle for a seller. Don’t waste time with small talk about your pets and the weather. Find out as much as you can about the items you’re selling and talk about that.
- Asking Questions. If the seller doesn’t offer enough of a description for you to buy or make an informed bid, ask questions. Is the item marked and how? What is the actual color? (Photos can be misleading.) In an online auction, it is usually possible to post questions even amid brisk bidding. The best eBay posts include multiple photos, including the mark, which tends to change over time and can often be used to date items, at least within a range of years.
Peggy Whiteneck is a writer, collector, and dealer living in East Randolph, VT. If you would like to suggest a subject that she can address in her column, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.