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Buying and Selling Successfully on eBay, Part One

Getting Started

by Deborah Gray

You have a passion for collecting Depression Era glass, but you just don't have the time to scour garage sales and flea markets. Clearing out your attic or basement of those items, once regarded as treasures but now as shopping missteps, has become an imperative. You've heard that online auctions are a great place to sell those carefully accumulated, but less-than-wanted items; to find almost anything under the sun to buy; it's been said that online auctions have become the world's biggest swap meet and 'tag' sale rolled into one. Finally, you've read that frauds have taken place during online auctions and you're a little reluctant to get involved.

Well, both statements are true. Online auctions are a great way to buy and sell from the comfort of your computer, although, if you sell, you'll also get very familiar with the post office. And auctions are a place where it is possible to be cheated or scammed. However, you should be able to protect yourself with a reasonable amount of precautions. I have been buying and selling on eBay for over four years and in that time, the worst thing that has happened to me was the high bidder on one of my auctions ran out of money and backed out.

One tool that eBay employs to protect its members is the feedback system. Notice that each member's User ID has a number next to it in parentheses indicating how many people have left feedback on this person. You can read this feedback by clicking on the number. Of course, this system could work against you in the beginning; many eBay members are reluctant to sell to or buy from someone who doesn't yet have any feedback recorded. I'll tell you a little later how to alleviate their fears.

How I Got Hooked on eBay

A few years ago I moved to a new house, and in the process came across some collectible plates that I no longer wanted. Knowing that they were worth something, I decided to investigate eBay, a site I had never visited. When I logged onto the site, collector's plates similar to mine were receiving bids as high as $40. I immediately registered and put one of my plates up for sale. Over the next few days, bid after bid pushed the price of the plate up, and a week later I had a winner in my auction at $38. I had turned something that was just taking space up in my home into cash. My husband was so excited at my success that he looked around for something to sell. We sold some plates he had received as a gift, but never used, for over $300.00.

Since then I have been an avid eBayer, both buying and selling, and I recommend the experience. This series of articles, four in all, will lead you through the eBay world outlining methods to protect yourself  from scams while buying and selling . Although I recommend taking the eBay tutorials, they don't include tips and procedures for informing the novice how things really work on eBay. You'll see links here, which will open a new browser window pointing to the section on eBay that I'm talking about in that part of the article. Opening the two windows will make it easier to follow along. 

eBay isn't the only online auction, but it's the one that draws the largest audience of buyers and sellers. I've sold and bid on both Yahoo! and's auction sites, but for sheer volume of transactions, eBay is the current champion. Over 2,000 categories and between 2.5 and 3 million items are up for auction every day. Generally this benefits you more as a seller, since you have more bidders competing for your merchandise, but it also helps when you're looking for a specific item as a buyer. 

Getting Started

The first thing that you'll need to do on eBay is to register. If you're not registered, you can browse but you can't place any bids or sell an item. A valid email address is needed in order to register and communicate with other eBay members. If you don't have a private email address of your own, you can get one free from Yahoo! or from other sites. If you do register on eBay, the next step is to create a User ID. Try to find one that's easy to type; even if you're only a moderate eBay user, you'll be typing your User ID fairly frequently, and may be typing it seconds before an auction closes to place a bid. Do not use your email address; this will almost certainly result in your email address being flooded with spam (unwanted and unsolicited ads). 

Next, consider creating an About Me page on eBay. When you've created this page, a little "Me" logo will appear next to your name, and members can view your 'About Me' page by clicking on the logo. In this way, you can tell the eBay community a little about yourself, and posting your picture will go a long way toward alleviating members' fears. On mine, I  have told people to feel free to contact me with any questions. 

If you're going to be selling items,  begin thinking about how you will post online images of the items you're going to sell. My favorite way is to scan either the items themselves or photos of them. You will get a high quality image and will not need an expensive digital camera. In addition, the software with a scanner will allow you to manipulate the image to the right size. The eBay tutorials detail more information about handling images.

Finally, begin browsing eBay's categories to view what kind of items are for sale. Almost everything under the sun is up for auction on eBay, but browsing will give you an idea of what people are willing to pay for particular items as well. Follow a few auctions to their finish to watch the process completed.

In the next article, we'll cover the subject of buying on eBay, so think about what you might want to bid on; trading on eBay is doing business with literally the entire world. Focus on something you may have been searching for, something a bit unusual and harder to find and make this more of an adventure. Someone could very well be selling it on eBay.


Part Two >>


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