Ebay Results (Part II)

I have to thank those of you that took part in our survey from our last topic on Ebay. The response was overwhelming. I had planned on putting everyone's comments in this article, but there were so many, that I had to be more selective. The results of the actual survey questions absolutely knocked me off my chair! Extremely surprising to me.

I hesitated in writing that previous article on Ebay, because I didn't understand the nature of ebay at the time I guess. My reasoning for the article was to try to determine what affect ebay has and will have on my business. I hesitated to even write the article mainly because I thought maybe I would lead customers away from me, and over to ebay. That is not going to be the case at all I have found out.

The first question was, are you aware of ebay?

Yes 99%
No 1%

This floored me! I would have never guessed that high of a percentage would have heard of ebay, but it makes more sense now. At any rate, my theory of telling the secret of ebay to seal my doom, was incorrect because everyone already knew. And it gets better.

Have you ever used ebay?

Yes 80%
No 20%

I found this statistic to be more surprising that the first question. So that means there is an 80% chance that you have used ebay.

How was your experience on ebay?

Fantastic 34%
Very Nice 58%
Not so great 6%
Terrible 2%

Have you heard of fraud on ebay?

Yes 10%
No 90%

Which do you prefer?

Train City 34%
ebay 7%
Both 59%

Well that is nice to hear, but it is probably not a very fair question to ask on my train site. I am sure if the question was asked on ebay the answer would be mainly: ‘What's a Train City?"

Now for the comments. Thank you once again for everyone who participate, and especially to those of you who left comments. We did receive some very interesting comments. And here are the most interesting that I could get to. (There were so many, I am sure I missed many due to lack of time.)


'Many times you are dealing with sellers who are antique people rather than train people. Grading can be a serious problem, and the disclaimers regarding operating condition are downright scarry! I consider EBAY to be a curiosity-good whenever I have time to spare, but it is no substitution for reputable train dealers such as yourself.'
Mike O'Meara, Newcastle Wa

'I think the grading issue is most important. I see ads like this "like new except both marker lights are broken off" As you know that might grade a good. I have gotten the best buys by contacting a seller after a unsuccessful reserve auction. One other point please. I personally like to buy LN or MINT in the boxes. This is a rare find on eBay. My best chance for this type of item is my LCCA club. The best item on Ebay was to take my train money and buy stock on opening day. Man if it keeps going I might buy Train City. Just Kidding'

[I wish you weren't kidding!! I hate the train business.....NOT!!]

'With regard to "fraud" in the above comment, I am referring to grossly improper grading. I won't use Ebay.'


'I think the volume of people on e-bay bidding on a item, especially Lionel, Lionel Ho, have driven the prices through the roof, I can explain how an item in the price guide, almost always goes for at least 10-30 % higher on e-bay. It's like they want it no matter how much they have to pay for it !!! Yet they will pay it there, but not at a train show or store where they can see the item up close, before they purchase it !!! It's just amazing to me, and don't get me wrong, I have been guilty of this very thing myself. It must be just like having a gambling problem, or the likes.'

'Again, your prices are too high for the merchandise you sell. i consider your items average condition, similar to that on ebay. i have purchased over 50 items via ebay without a problem. in fact, the sellers are very concerned about their feedback status and will work hard to make me happy with the transaction. all in all though - if you would just get your prices down - i would again purchase from you.'


'I would think you would be a big fan of eBay's existence since it has driven second-hand and even new, retail prices upwards.'

'I agree prices on eBay have risen. There are some good buys occasionally. I find eBay useful for doing research to find out what a train piece might go for. With the capabilities of accompanying pictures, it is definitely education to browse the eBay ads. I have found Train City to be very reputable and trustworthy. I usually look there when I am seriously considering a purchase. Some things at Train City I think are a bit high also.'

'I have bought and sold hundreds of items on eBay with no problems at all. As more people are bidding, prices seem to be a lot higher. I now sell more and buy less. I agree that the "sniping" complaints are ridiculous. Some people just don't understand the rules!'

[The two comments about my prices being high are surprising. My other survey findings are that over 95% of the people that completed that feel that my prices are fair.]


'Has been good as a seller, but it does take time to list, pack,etc. Buying has been good, but I hate the reserves. Sellers should have to open with lowest bid they'd take...Two years ago there were infrequent reserve auctions. '

'With the tremendous competition I haven't really found many bargains on Ebay. I feel I have found more bargains at Train City. However, if there is a piece that has been particularly hard to find and one is willing to pay a premium price for it then Ebay serves that purpose. A very large inventory and changing daily. I have and expect to continue to by from Train City by factor of 10 to 1.'

'I have made over 80 purchases from ebay sellers. No problems, yet! I've snipped and have been snipped, its part of the game. But I agree, there is a great opportunity for scam artists here.'

'Your reputation was demonstrated to me when we first dealt. I cannot/would not expect the same consideration form an ebay seller. Though I check ebay for bargains, I've yet to catch any, and I prefer to deal with established people like yourself.'

Competition Factor

'One aspect of Ebay is the "fun of the hunt," which I believe many people enjoy. On the other hand, I found a 145 Gateman in VG+ condition on your site for $29.00, when these pieces were going for 30% or higher on eBay. In most cases, Train City has a better deal on train pieces. There are, however, many reputable sellers on eBay, and these sellers seem to do very well. For you, I think the inventory management would be tough because of your web site.'

[I agree, and I got dragged into the hunt. It is like the other bidders become your competition, and you want to win the race. This one auction had me thinking 'at any cost'. Thank goodness I lost.]

Bad Experiences

'Re: One Bad experience. First contact with seller was small sale and item was exactly as described. Second sale on high $ engine, seller was vague on condition. Based on first experience, I trusted seller. BIG Mistake! Engine was rusty & inoperable. Seller refused refund. High $ repairs now underway.

Items purchased from Train City always as good or better than described. Hang in there Charles.'

[OK, I will, thanks!]


'To date, there are four or five people I purchase from on ebay and of course from you--the advantage ebay has is that with they're pictures, one can see what he is buying, or download and print a copy of what the item is supposed to look like--I have done this several times before I bought some things from you--just wanted to see what they are( right now I am trying to buy some s-gauge rolling stock, and I use the pictures on the ebay to get an idea of what I want then I search your files--I did this before I bought the FRONTIERSMAN SET from you, and now am planning to pick up the Franklin 88 you have)thanks, and I think that there is room for the both of you.'
Dennis Shaw


'You hit the nail right on the head, as for escalating e-mail bids as more learn about the option. Second, i would agree that your prices are very fair in comparison to some things i have seen on e-bay. I do view the e-bay as a neat source for learning more about trains. Things do come up with pictures that you can only see once in a blue moon. Price is not the object but knowledge is. Last, i share the sentiments of the person scooped at the last moment but such is life and trains will come around the curve(or scroll of e-bay) again.'


Comments: I have been buying and selling on ebay for close to two years. Initially, it was almost a 100% positive experience, the items I sold, sold easily and almost always reached their (fair) reserve prices. In buying, I have always been careful to never bid more than I believe I would want to pay. This approach used to net me about 50% of all items I was trying to buy. Over the last year or so, ebay has grown so much that I believe it has greatly diminished the "fun" factors in both buying and selling. There are sooo many train related items up for auction at any time, with many "sub categories", that it is bewildering. When selling, bidders have become much more selective and your items can easily get lost in the thousands of items at auction. I have also noted that the attitude of bidders has become more aggressive, and it is just less fun. Now I doubt if I get 10% of the items I bid on, but the reason is more unrealistic reserve prices than other people outbidding me.

I have a few suggestions, 1. When bidding, beware of descriptions which start out like "I don't know anything about trains" or "I have no way of testing this engine". I have found that these people are usually playing dumb to mask some flaw in the items they are selling. 2. Keep your price guide handy when bidding. I always use it to help me bid, and don't forget that in 99% of the cases that the buyer has to pay for shipping, and sellers prefer money orders which adds more to the buyers expense. 3. A picture is worth 1000 words. If you are going to sell on ebay. a digital camera is a great investment. It verifies your description and almost always gets higher bids.'

'I buy and sell on E bay, I make sure I list the item as it is, I would refund money to a customer if the customer was not happy (less shipping), I have bought on E bay and must add that if the item is not described well and the photo is poor or far away, Beware! the seller may not be disclosing all the details as you will find out when you receive the item ( learned The hard way). If you are buying ask questions before the bid, Check the sellers feedback, If you e mail a question and the seller gives an incomplete around the bush answer forget it. It is like anything else in life, Beware of what you do and use your thought process before you run with emotions on bidding.

I am not sure, and is is next to impossible to prove, but I think that i have been the victim of shill bidding. I have had 2 deadbeats out of 100s of sales had several times I have ended up with shoddy goods from sellers who refused to refund. I have noticed that if there is even one negative post against someone that you need to ask lots of questions of the seller before bidding. Most sellers are honest, some are unethical and don't get caught often enough for their ratings to suffer much so they continue their practices with impunity' -Jim

'I believe it to be a very good forum to present and purchase items that are not available in one's own locale but caution must be used. I have bought and sold (mostly HO train items) on eBay but I have a couple of rules I follow.

1) Know what the item is and worth to me and only bid that amount.
2) if it can be obtained at a local shop or mail order I seek out that option first.
3) If it smell like a rotten deal - It most likely is.
4) If in doubt I ask questions first then decide to bid or not.
Pretty simple but very reliable for me.'
Mark Gaeth

'It is possible to get good deals from Ebay if you are up-to-date on current train items. For instance, I just bought the original Century Club Boxcar #(29204) for just $150. I haven't seen one for under $400 ANYWHERE. And, if you are selling, put in the description that you have the right to refuse any bid from a person who has any negative feedback. If you are a buyer, try to either pay be credit card if possible'

'Before Ebay was "discovered", I picked up several Postwar Lionel items at below book value. At this point I rarely look at Ebay. There is far too much current production Lionel that I can buy mail order for a lower price. Also, the prices for Postwar tend to be higher than what I pay at train shows in the Boston area.

I once bought a 1952 Lionel catalog on Ebay. When I received the item it turned out to be a 1952 cover over a 1956 catalog. I emailed the seller that I wanted to return the item, or get a partial refund. The seller refused on the grounds that it "was only an $8 item".

I also bought a 250W ZW on Ebay for a fair price (not a bargain, but not bad). The ZW had some problems including a bad whistle controller and a throttle that would not shut off (it output 6 volts in the off position). The seller, a TCA member, accepted it back with no questions asked.

Another Ebay risk is that people with multiple ISP accounts drive up prices of their own items. I know for a fact that this happens. In general, I am much more comfortable buying a Postwar item that I can see in person. Unless its a real bargain, I would rather not take the "risk" of using Ebay.

If I do buy on Ebay, I prefer to buy from a TCA member, since you have some recourse. Its also a good idea to buy from sellers that agree to take back an item if it is not as advertised'

[Last, but not least, my favorite.]

'If you like it, use it. If you don't like it, don't use it and stop whining'

[I don't know if that was meant for me and my ebay article, or people in general. But I will take this guys sound advice as you will see later in this article.]


'It's great to see the items listed and the prices paid to get a feel for the market. I think I would hop on a low priced item ( less than $100) that I liked at the right price. However, unless I knew the TCA number and trusted the seller, I doubt I would buy anything over $100 via exaction'

'Sent money on a dutch auction win (eBay); seller never sent item and didn't reply to email. Seller was kicked off eBay, other winners in the auction pursued legal action against the seller. This was in a computer category; I've never had a problem in railroading categories or plastic model category. And this is in hundreds of transactions'

[And this says a lot about us train guys. I have been in business for a long time, and have never had a bad check that wasn't satisfied. I think I've only had 3 bad checks in all those years. I sincerely believe that people involved with trains for some reason are just very nice, honest people.]

'On ebay I have found good deals, bad deals and so-so deals. There is a learning curve on ebay. I have found out that the key is know the price you can get a similar item from say Train City and use that to fight the emotional buying urge. I feel much more comfortable buying at Train City, the only thing Train City can't offer is the thrill of the chase, the competition. What Train City has to offer is an on going business, confidence that things would be made right, confidence in the rating of the item and generally peace of mind. There is always a place for all different forms of competitive business.In my consumer electronics store our motto is taking pride in sales, service and satisfaction. That ebay will never be able to offer.'

And Finally

'Charles, with traincity (or other established reputable dealers), you are more apt to be confident in the grading and condition of an item than an item on ebay.

Suggestion, maybe have your computer look at items that have been on the market for a while and select them for a bid?'
Jim Paulino

I'd like to thank the last gentleman for giving me that suggestion. Being of humble mind, I hadn't thought of that myself, and I decided to go over there to ebay myself and try buying and selling some items myself. On my first attempt at buying, I found an item that I really wanted. And that is where I can relate to those people who have the competition factor.

Bidding is easy. Almost to easy. I did learn that the best thing to do when you bid is to just bid what you feel is a fair price on your first bid, then let it go. If you win, you win, if not, it wasn't meant to be. This is the best advice on how not to over pay due to your competitive nature!

And then there is the selling. Over the past week I entered 11 auctions. Nine of them are over, and I was shocked at some of the prices I received. On the negative, it took me maybe 15 minutes to enter each auction, and there is a lot of paper work to do when the auction is completed, etc. But I am glad that I had purchased a digital camera back when, as I feel a picture is essential on ebay. Although impossible on my site, as I have over 1200 items on at any given time.

But for instance, I found an old Marx Service Station toy in the back room. I took a picture of it, and uploaded it so people could identify it. I thought maybe 25 bucks. When it immediately bid up at 65.00, I was amazed. Even more so when it hit $100.00. And then $200.00, where it stayed for a while. Evidently there was some heavy last minute bidding, because it ended at $455.00. The winner was a great guy, actually a toy dealer with over 500 merits to his name. He paid via credit card, and it worked out great!

The trains went almost as well, although started out fairly slowly. (Of course I started the 18005 Hudson at $5.00.) When it stayed at $20.00 for an hour or so I started to wonder, but I had protected myself with a reserve bid, so I didn't worry to much. But I will avoid reserves in the future, or they will be low enough to be easily obtained, so that I won't get a bad reputation for high reserves in the future.

I listed two items on ebay that were also available on my list. (I had multiples on one, the other of course I pulled from my list, so it wasn't available.) In one case I realized a substantially higher price than was listed on my site. The other realized a substantially lower price in my regular list, but higher than in our mover's section.

All in all it has been a great experience for me so far. A new way to 'force' sales when things get slow. But don't worry, I have no intention of selling fresh inventory on ebay. Only items that have been sitting around for longer than I want, duplicates, or unique items that I would like to establish a price for.

Ironically since I started listing items on ebay, the hits for my web page have gone up substantially. I don't know if that is because of this interesting subject of ebay, or possibly the links that I used that take the bidder back to our site from ebay in our auctions. But whatever it is, I like it.

There are good and bad elements to each and every media for selling out there. I truly enjoyed ebay, and do plan on using it mainly for selling in the future. I still believe at some point in the future the potential is very good for corruption, and probably the most important thing you can practice on ebay is caution. Remember if you have a problem on ebay, the only person that can get you out of that problem is yourself or your lawyer. Other than ejecting a seller or buyer, ebay's hand's are tied. So use as much caution as you can, but at the same time have fun. And visit our site every once in a while, will you? You never know what you will find here either!!!

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Revised 1/17/99