On-Line Auction Selling Tips
Charles Siegel

I have been auctioning various electric train items on Ebay for around a year now. I have learned some things to do and some things not to do when placing an auction on-line. Iíd like to share my experience with you in hopes of course that you will take advantage of a very strong way of doing business on-line for anyone who wants to sell.

First, donít worry about your lack of knowledge or experience. The process of placing a single item on an auction is pretty simple. Much easier than this article will make it sound. Auction houses such as choochooauctions.com and ebay have made it as simple as possible for you to work through the process of placing an item in an on-line auction. The biggest obstacle that will hold you back from auctioning items, having fun, and making some extra money is procrastination. If you would seriously like to try placing an auction, simply register, then tell yourself you are going to go through the process of auctioning that first item. It wonít take much more than 5 or 10 minutes unless you use a picture. And once you get the first on-line it is a snap from there.

Make sure that you are aware of the rules for the auction house you are using. Most have similar rules that use common sense. But it is best to know what they are so that you donít get yelled at. And that has happened to me!!

Once you have decided to auction an item look it over carefully for any flaws or problems. Grade it as fairly as possible. Under grading is very much preferred to over grading if you plan on placing repeat auctions. Since your item will be received by someone site unseen, you really want them to be pleased. So be very careful about grading and the description. Donít be afraid to mention that little chip on the catwalk or the missing rod. You are not doing anyone any favors including yourself by not grading correctly. This only creates hassles later on and depletes your credibility which is everything when it comes to on-line auctions.

Pictures are very desirable. However donít use a picture in your first auction. This makes the process much slower and more difficult.

Auctions with pictures however will receive much more attention. Many people wonít even look at an auction that doesnít show the picture indicator. But pictures slow down the process drastically. I have a digital camera which is very handy. But once you take the picture you have to download it to the computer, edit it, save it, then upload it to the server. It actually isnít that bad once you get the hang of it, but it does take a while. In addition to a digital camera you can take Polaroidís or developed pictures and scan them, and there are programs that allow you to use a video camera to produce a picture that can be uploaded. I am not very familiar with this process.

In the description make sure you state payment terms, shipping and handling costs and vehicles, sales tax , and any other transaction information so that the buyer will have a clear idea of what to expect after the auctions is over.

I recommend that reserves and minimum bids be kept as low as possible. I donít know that I have placed an auction that the minimum bid was more than $2.00. If you start an auction at to high a minimum bid it is possible you wonít receive any bids at all. Most bidders donít like reserves. Some totally avoid any auction with a reserve. So the higher your minimum bid or reserve the fewer people are going to actually participate in your auction. When an auction starts ridiculously low the natural process of bidding automatically starts and sometimes competition can actually push the price higher than market. The more people you get involved in your auction the better off you are as the competition factor becomes more apparent. Competitive people probably shouldnít bid in auctions, but they do, and that is your secret weapon!

Ebay auctions allows the use of spiking at the end of an auction. Actually what happens is a person waits until there are seconds left in the auction, then places a bid leaving it impossible or improbable for anyone else to bid afterwards. Choochooauctions.com uses the 15 minute rule which may be fairer in that the auction is extended 15 minutes for any last minute bid. Thus giving everyone a chance to put in their last say. At this point I donít have enough experience with the 15 minute rule to say which rule works best to realize the most money for the auction. But there is a distinct possibility in theory only that an auction will realize a higher final bid with the fifteen minute rule.

I recommend strongly if you have an item that you paid to much for, either you be able to accept the fact that you will loose money, or donít place the item for auction. Personally I feel that if I made a mistake by paying to much for an item and find it difficult to sell, that is money just sitting there. And if it just sits there it does me absolutely no good. I canít tell you how many times in my life that I have sold train items at a loss. Obviously I have sold many, many more at a profit or I would be out of business. But if you are in business and make a mistake as I have, I feel it is much better to sell that $100.00 item for $70.00, then buy something else for $70.00 that you can sell for $120.00, and then you are ahead of the game.

I donít use reserves and as I said my minimums are always $2.00. Generally in my auctions it doesnít take very long for interest to be generated just by the fact that it starts out at such a ridiculous bargain.

If you have never run an auction before I recommend you go through the whole process with just one item the first time. And realize that the process of entering the item is only the first step. The fun part is monitoring the auction and watching it go up in value.

When the auction ends make sure you notify the buyer as soon as possible or he could loose interest and forget about it. I use a standard form letter to notify successful bidders. It gives my contact information, describes the item they have won, and I always include the auction number. I specify that payment needs to be received within a certain time. And if I donít hear from them within a reasonable amount of time I send a second notice which does warn that I will give negative feedback if they donít respond within a reasonable time.

Feedback is like gold in the on-line auction business. Just one negative feedback can put question in future bidderís minds, so be very careful. Bend over backwards to make the bidder happy. Not to long ago I placed a Lionel set on Ebay. I had three different sets of the same item, two were new and unused, one was like new with some use. When I placed the auction I accidentally called the set new. But the set that I was placing was actually Like New. Of course when the successful bidder received the set he was upset and emailed me to that affect!! That was an error on my part, but it was simply an error I made, so I made it right with him by exchanging it with a set that was not only new, but sealed in the box. I also refunded his postage. I could have reacted in a much different way, but you are always better off to take a little financial hit when you make mistakes rather than go the other way. Not only didnít I receive negative feedback, but hopefully I gained a customer who will do business with me again.

Once you receive payment donít wait to ship the item unless it is a personal check and you told the person you would have to hold it in that case. Always ship as soon as you have secure payment.

It is very important to pack the item as carefully as possible. I wonít go into detail of how to pack, but make sure it is packed well. People like it when they receive a well packed package. Always insure the package, and state that in your winning bid letter. When I first started auctioning I didnít mention this and it turned out to be my most frequently asked question.

Selling a full collection of trains using an on-line auction will bring you more money than selling to an individual or probably piece by piece at a train show. The only problem with selling a large train collection using on-line auction is the time involved. For a 500 piece collection you would have hundreds of hours into the process. If you have that much time on your hands thatís the way to go. If not consider selling to a professional train dealer like myself. You probably wonít realize as much money, but you will save yourself a lot of time and headaches.

Buying and selling using an on-line auction houses can be a lot of fun if you use your head, organize, and work at it. Many people have actually established businesses by working with on-line auctions.

The biggest thing is have fun, be fair and honest, and focussed in what you want to do. Keep at it and you will reap the profits.

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Submitted 10/27/99