By David Schwager for CoinWeek …..
Plenty of people love it and plenty of people hate it, but we can all agree that eBay is a major part of the coin market. The service provides opportunities for everyone from casual collectors to huge dealers to sell their items. Whether you are thinking about selling or have sold on eBay for years, here are 11 things you may not know. Most of these apply whether you sell coins or anything else.
1. You never need to have an auction
eBay is often described as an auction site, but most items sell at fixed prices. Auctioneers have always been a major part of antiques and collectibles, and an auction lets the market decide what your coins are worth. Most sellers, however, set fixed prices for their items and wait for buyers willing to pay these amounts. As a compromise, you can list an item as Or Best Offer, in which a buyer can pay the asking price or make an offer for the seller to accept or decline.
2. People routinely buy four-figure coins on eBay
eBay provides a good way to sell your low-value material that dealers don’t want. It can also provide a venue for your more valuable coins. Looking at 90-day completed sales for Morgan dollars, which trade at a wide range of prices, finds 2,200 sales at $1,000 or more. Even if some of these are groups of coins, this means that eBay sells four-figure Morgans at the rate of about 20 per day. Although I mostly trade in affordable items, I have bought and sold $1,000+ notes and coins on eBay.
3. If you are a long-time buyer, you have a head start as a seller
When people ask me for advice on getting started in eBay sales, the first question I ask is whether they buy on eBay. I advise them to start selling only after they become familiar with the platform through buying. eBay customers use the same accounts for buying and selling. If you buy on eBay or are considering selling, you already have:
- An established account
- A feedback score (the number of completed transactions with positive ratings from the other party)
- A PayPal account where you can receive money
All of these help your initial sales. Many people will not buy from a new account with low or zero feedback. If you’ve been buying for years and have a feedback score of 200, for example, you will look to buyers the same as an experienced seller.
4. You won’t get paid right away at first
The reason is customer protection. When you start selling, eBay does not know whether you will reliably ship the purchased goods. In case you don’t, eBay waits a few days before paying you for the sale. They also limit the value and number of listings for new sellers. Eventually, these limits go away and you receive payment as soon as the buyer pays. It’s not publicized, but you can call eBay and ask to have the limits raised earlier.
5. You won’t get ripped off
There are plenty of reasons not to sell on eBay. But one of the biggest unfounded fears is the concern that buyers will take your goods without paying. Because you ship only after the buyer pays, this is not an issue.
eBay’s detractors bring up the rare but possible scenarios in which buyers claim they never received packages (although postal service tracking mitigates against this) or manipulate returns and refunds. These can happen, but they happen not because they are part of eBay but because they are part of business. If you open a construction company or a law practice or a restaurant, you will have occasional customer issues. A small business selling collectibles online is no different. Most people are not thieves, and collectors go on eBay to buy coins, not to steal them.
6. Almost everyone is a pleasure to work with
As you already know if you buy through eBay, most transactions are impersonal. As a seller, you get an email advising you of the sale, print the label, and drop the package in the mail. You don’t even need to read the name on the label to do your job perfectly.
When you do occasionally exchange messages with a customer, it usually goes well, with both people remaining courteous and reasonable (yes, there are exceptions.) Most people I meet in real life are courteous and reasonable, so it makes sense that the people you meet on eBay, especially fellow coin people, are usually the same way.
7. You can sell to foreign buyers by mailing your coins to Kentucky
Foreign collectors come to eBay looking for material from their own countries. When I sold my collection of French coins, for example, many of them went home to France. They went home through the Global Shipping Program.
You handle the sale the same as for a US customer, but mail the parcel to eBay’s warehouse in Kentucky. eBay adds customs forms, handles any other paperwork, and sends the package to the international buyer, all without your involvement.
8. You don’t have to go to the post office every time you sell something
If you live in the country and drive 12 miles to the nearest mail drop, eBay sales are probably not for you.
Most of us, however, have ways to make mailing easier.
For example, instead of going to a post office to buy postage, eBay lets you print US Postal Service mailing labels at home for your sales. The cost, usually discounted from post office retail prices, is deducted from your PayPal account.
(Pro tip: buy a low-end black-and-white laser printer. The low cost per print compared to inkjet pays for itself.)
You can also avoid a trip to the post office to drop off many packages. Small packages, containing small things like coins, can go in a street mailbox near your home or in the outgoing mail slot in your office building, apartment building, or similar. If the mail carrier routinely picks up packages at your business or workplace, you may be able to leave your eBay sales for pick up at the same time.
9. Off-brand holders are OK
Only items certified by eBay’s six approved grading services can include numeric grades in listings. These are ANACS, ICG, NGC, PCGS, PCGS Currency, and PMG. Some sellers interpret this to mean that they cannot mention other services or that they must crop the grading service name and grade out of photos. This is not necessary.
You are welcome to sell a coin in, for example, a SEGS MS-63 holder. You can include a photo of the holder showing the SEGS name and the MS-63 grade and can include SEGS in the title and description. eBay only requires that you:
- Choose the “uncertified” instead of “certified” option when making the listing, and
- Do not include MS-63 in the title or description.
10. It’s a lot of work
I spoke with an eBay representative at a recent Long Beach Coin Expo who, wanting to know how to help his customers, asked what kept me from selling even more. The answer was time. Between researching, pricing, photographing, listing, and shipping, a typical sale takes 45 to 60 minutes. Selling a collection or running an eBay business takes time. Consider what other activity you are willing to give up to get the time to sell.
Also, the time commitment means that you need to consider whether a sale is worth the effort. Spending an hour to earn $100 is definitely worth your time and spending an hour to earn $2 is definitely not. Decide on a dollar figure between these two numbers and pass on opportunities below this threshold.
11. eBay gives you free shipping supplies
At some point, you may sell enough to justify paying for an eBay store. In exchange for a monthly payment, you receive lower fees and other benefits. One of the lesser-known benefits is a $25 credit each three months on eBay-branded shipping supplies such as boxes, envelopes, and tape. They no longer publicize this credit and it takes some searching to find it. Once you do find the code, use it to buy 100 small padded envelopes that are perfect for coins for $26, or only $1 after the $25 discount.
To understand the coin market, you need to both buy and occasionally sell coins. The more you know about eBay and other sales avenues, the better equipped you are as you pursue our hobby.