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The eBay Effect

by Jacob Grossi, 2009


We all know the collecting world was turned on it's ear with advent of the internet. You can't get very far into this conversation without getting into eBay and it profound effects on the collectibles markets. The following seeks to explore some of the factors and effects.


Market Creation


Ebay essentially created a fourth market. The others being retail, genre specific collectibles conventions, and top auction houses such as Sotheby's and Christie's. All of the markets have different price structures, cultures and styles of doing business. Ebays presention and culture ten to feed into an outcome of both lowest common denominator and sold to the highest bidder.


Leveling the field


What ebay has done to the collectibles market is largely a leveling of the playing field. You no longer have to be a dealer to sell for a reasonable price. As scholars and analysts of our particular fields, we have also been able to develop a much broader view of rarity, desirability and value, particularly in relation to how, where and to whom we are selling and buying from.


Exposure of Rare and common items.


eBay has exposed many items as common which were long though to be rare. When anyone can easily show their cards it exposes alot of cracks in the previous generation's ideology. In the vintage record business, I've seen the Goldmine books list a record in the 100's of dollars, only to punch it into ebay and see multiple copies available at $50 or $60. Likewise, we see many items were not considered to be very rare or desirable, such as oddball CD soundtracks, building a solid market and going for decent money.


Timing is everything.


The prices eBay fetches are not an end all be all indiction of value, but rather what available buyers in ebays marketplace are willing to pay that particular week. It's often said that the definition of value is the price reached between what a buyer is willing to sell for and a seller is willing to pay. On eBay, it also figures in on which buyers have the time or resources to be looking that week. The values reached on eBay are eBay values which often do not mirror the values of the exact same pieces in other markets. I've personally had the experience of having an item sit on ebay for a year with little or know interest, than a major auction purchases the item and sells it for 400% of my price with multiple interested buyers.


Technical Skills Matter


Those with the most listings on eBay tend to get the best exposure through natural cross promotion of those items. It is a technical challenge to maintain a large database of listings on eBay. The selling tools, rules, and other factors are constantly changing. Often when these changes take effect there is a period of on the fly beta testing and debugging that, at least for sellers with 1000's of different items, brings all but the most patient and or technically savvy sellers to their knees.


Location, Location, Location.


In the old days, your geographical location mattered, whether buying or selling. While this does still have some effect particularly in buying at below market, eBay greatly reduces the weight of this factor. On eBay, it's the location of a listing factored in by eBay's search results through your searchable titles, cross-promotions and how much you are willing to pay for exposure in those search results. As far as buying, obviously you can be just about anywhere, though some geographical constraints still exist in shipping heavy or high dollar items to foreign countries.


Perception of value


The transparency of eBay has a definate effect on the buyers perception of value. When collectors see an item listed repeatedly they begin to feel the item is not rare. If it's one seller with multiple copies of the same item, the item indeed may still be rare, even though it appears to always be available. When that sellers stock runs out or pulls their listing, the ready availability of that item completely disappears from the marketplace. The majority of collectibles sold are not constantly recycled back into the marketplace, but rather are held in permanent collections for long periods of time.


In beginning to explore the eBay effect on paper, so to speak, one quickly realizes the extent to which this single entity has had such an incredible effect on collecting as a whole. There are many, many intricacies. I chose to stay away from the ever so prevalent criticisms of eBay as a whole and try to focus on the positives, of which there are many. View our ebay listings.




Merchandise vs. Memorabilia

by Jacob Grossi, 2008,

Merchandise vs. Memorabilia

LIMITED EDITION COLLECTORS ITEM! Special note: If it says "Limited Edition" on it, chances are it's merchandise...not memorabilia. Merchandise is produced with sales as it's primary purpose. Memorabilia on the other hand generally had some other primary purpose. 

In the world of concert posters some good examples of memorabilia are punk flyers, telephone pole posters, early mimeograph handouts, one-color flyers. Extending out from concert posters you might get into ticket stubs, stage used set lists, performer or venue contracts, menus from famous clubs, clothing and instruments...though preferably not the scourge of high end collectibles, the ever-prevelent "signed guitar".

The whole signed guitar thing just strikes a nerve. I picture some CEO drooling as Mick Jagger signs another japanese Squire "stratocaster" he can sell to some schmuck for 2500. Signed photos, same thing. The whole "signed and numbered" concert poster hits a similar chord. Artist prints 400, venue gets 25, band gets 25, artist sells rest. Merchandise folks, not memorabilia. Not to dog the whole silkscreen movement. There are guys out there printing and pasting up most of the run to advertise the shows. But after years in the business, I can tell you it's the exception, not the rule. That little 23/500 in the corner just screams LIMITED EDITION! COLLECT ALL FOUR! I'm not saying they don't have value, it's well documented that they do, I'm just saying they personally don't do much for me.

The posters I like best are the ones where it looks like the bassist drew it out in his living room 3 days before the show then walked around in the rain posting them. I have posted thousands of flyers and telephone pole posters for various, so I could get in the show for free, but more subconsciously so I could take down the old ones and add them to my collection. I also like tickets, used or unused. I'm  really digging newspaper ads as well. I'd gotten rather burned out on the sixties images, seeing them time and time again. The newspaper ads have a grittiness to them I really like, and I'm enjoying documenting images for events I previously didn't even know went down, because I was stuck on it being a poster and for many of the best events, no poster was produced.

Recycle, or, produce and decide.