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general eBay question


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i see people bidding from the start in auctions that last several

days...what is the benefit of that? i have been waiting until the

end, because it didn't seem that those early bids counted for

much...am i missing something?



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Well, it really doesn't matter when you bid. A $100 bid is worht $100 regardless of when it was placed. The only reason for waiting until the very end would be to snipe someone else's auction....id est, to bid above them at the last minute, such that they have no chance to raise their bid. If you're the first bidder, or if bidding for the auction is not competitive, I don't really see anything to gain from waiting.

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Part of it may be old habit. Before eBay had a 'watch this item' function, some members would post a nominal bid just to keep track of the item. Today, I don't see any point in tipping off my interest in an item--unless it's to scare off other bidders with my intimidating eBay reputation. ;-)

Sometimes an early low bid can hold an auction down to realistic levels while the item finds its true market level. Throwing your maximum in very late may secure you the win, but it won't necessarily get you the best price. Also, for what it's worth, the low early bid invites participation, allowing you to monitor the texture of the auction--who's involved, and how knowledgable they are. I've watched shrewd dealers bid up to a reasonable level and drop out, letting suckers lift the price into the stratosphere.

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thanks, guys!

one item i'm currently following was put up yesterday, and the

auction doesn't end for 10 days, but it already has several bids,

it just seemed odd that anyone would bother to bid so soon!

Mark, how do you know who those other bidders are? the ids that

people use seem pretty opaque to me!

i've started bidding on some items (unfortunately, i keep getting

outbid at the end! ), and basically what i've done is to set a

maximum at the what i'm willing to pay, then just waited to see

what happens, but i usually do that in the last few hours...how

does putting in your maximum early help you get it for a lower




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>Mark, how do you know who those other bidders are? the ids that people use seem pretty opaque to me!<

Mostly by watching the behavior of those bidders in other auctions. And sometimes, watching what they sell as well.

To an extent I agree with priya's observation, but sniper bids can put you over what you really wanted to pay--for fear that someone else is about to do the exact same thing. The result is often a pig in a poke that changes hands for near-retail values. That's why you're liable to hear some of our experts here saying they don't buy on eBay.

>how does putting in your maximum early help you get it for a lower price?<

I don't think it does. It just generates an increasing series of proxy bids against other users, until they reach your maximum--whereas a sniper bid is a Hail Mary pass. It could secure the win, but it will be at the outside limit you're willing to pay.

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Be careful of e-bay. I always think of all the violins I've tried

out in shops, and how most of them were not what I wanted. To me,

buying a violin on e-bay is like buying a pig in a poke. It's easy

to get caught up in the excitement of competition... don't!  I

watch and learn. I'm beginning to find out who the dependable and

knowledgeable sellers are. It's a crap shoot. Only if you are

passionate about a violin, and sure of what you're getting could

you justify buying one of these critters. Oh well... there are

folks who are going to take that big chance anyway!

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i think i see what you mean, now! bidding early doesn't mean that

you get a lower price, it just means that you don't overspend! i'm

trying to be pretty objective about the whole thing, setting in my

mind what i'm willing to spend at the onset, then stopping when the

price gets there! i don't know how the sniping thing works, but i

definitely don't want a computer program making a bad decision for

me--i make enough of those on my own!  


yes, i agree about finding something that sounds and plays the way

you like! i too have spent a bunch of time in shops playing violins

trying to find what i liked!

in general, i wonder if buying instruments on eBay is best for

people who know the market value of instruments and aren't

necessarily looking for something to play, but for something to

collect or resale? after all, (even though this seems kinda bizarre

to me personally!), most of the value of violins is related to what

they are rather than how they play and sound!

i personally probably wouldn't buy my main instrument or an

expensive one on eBay unless i flew wherever it was being sold and

tried it out in person...however, i am currently looking for a

second instrument, and there is a seller that i that i trust enough

to take a chance on an inexpensive instrument from him without

actually playing it, so i've been bidding on some of his stuff! (he

just sold one violin and has another for sale that i would consider

if i were looking to replace my main violin...however, i would go

play them first, not because it didn't trust his descriptions, but

for something i'm playing all the time, i would want to absolutely

sure that it played and sounded the way i liked!)


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Cassi, You probably watched the recent 'J.B. Squier' violin change hands via a sniper bid from Australia. I had some thoughts about that. One of them is that American violins, particularly of the Boston School, are increasing in interest worldwide. Despite a history of strong reservations concerning this particular instrument (it had been 'shopped all over' the Northeast for several years) it is plausible that this fiddle could be retailed somewhere outside the U.S. as the real thing. Which, for all we know, it may be. The hammer price was US$3,050, as I recall. A fine example might be retailed by a reputable dealer for perhaps 2.5 times that, so the Australian bid is not that far out of line. The downside is that, if found to be something else, the fiddle has been internationally exposed as mislabeled.

I'd prefer to keep my mistakes quieter than that. It seems that US dealers agree.

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What I don't understand is that most of the early bidders never "win" anything. I too have been following some of the auctions. The early bidders are regular bidders. Maybe they are dealers and they just go through all the listings putting their regular limit prices. They never really win, but maybe the thinking is that they're not going to let someone else get a steal.

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When I buy on eBay, I usually use a snipe program to place my bid with 5 seconds left. I bid the most I am willing to pay, and forget about it. If I win, I get a delightful email with a "squeal of delight" soundclip from the snipe service. I don't get caught up in the excitement and I don't put a bid up for someone else to chase. I think that placing a realistic bid early in an auction, encourages other bidders to continue bidding until they find out the limit of the "left bid". I also do not "leave bids" at the major auction houses. It gives the house the opportunity to start the bidding higher than they might otherwise. I prefer my bid to be a surprise to everyone untl the very end.

Sometimes I bid on items earlier than the very end. It is usually because the item is way underpriced in a real auction, and the seller needs some help. If I win it, great. If I help the seller get better than a miserable price for a nice thing, I don't mind that either. Some sellers just can't get a decent price for the things they have because of low feedback or bad pictures or poor spelling or all those reasons. It doesn't mean the thing they are selling isn't good. I get no pleasure from something good selling for 10 cents on the dollar, unless I am the buyer.

When I am looking to buy an item which requires a bit of expertise, I always look at the underbidders to see who else finds the item worthy. If a expert with experience has bid, it tells me a lot. I also look at the seller's feedback, the experience of the buyers who left feedback, as well as what else the buyers have bought and the relative feedback they left for other sellers. I always check the seller's recent bids and items for sale.

I think that sending an email to the seller for any bit of clarification, gives a bidder a clue as to how responsive they are, and their willingness to share information.

There are still plenty of good deals on eBay. Especially right now. Prices are lower between now and mid August than any other time. Several things have sold recently for much less than they would bring in a better season. As this is also the season for flea markets and fairs and country auctions, there are loads of fresh goodies out there-mostly cheap stuff but occasionally a good find. Just check out the seller. If you are suspicious, ask for a specific photo that isn't shown on the listing. If they cannot produce another photo, just don't bid. They probably do not have the item.


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  • 3 weeks later...

Has anyone noticed the same people bidding all the time and who

also maintain a zero on their feedback scores?  What is that

about?  Do these people simply get their jollies by bidding

simply to raise the value of an auction?  Does this make

them feel important?  On the other hand, are some of these

"zero's" friends of the sellers or the sellers themselves who sign

in with a different eBay account with the intention of meeting

their reserve or jacking up the price?  This is what is called

"shill" bidding and I have to assume that it happens about as much

as phony labels.

eBay is a great place to simply get a violin cheaper than what a

store would charge for the same instrument.  That's

providing it shows up at your door after you pay for it.

As such,  I will only feel comfortable with the

least money I could spend.

Anyway, sometimes I bid early to track an item if my "eBay Watched

Items" gets too crowded.  And it's always a very low bid for

these items.  My logic is that if I want the item, I will

certainly bid again and if I am not too crazy about it, then if I

still win, then I got a great deal.  

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although i can't answer this definitively for all cases, i can tell

you about a couple of cases, and give you my naive rationale...

i have been one of those people, and i know of a couple of others

who were, also...in my case and their cases, we were new to eBay (i

know i personally never really had any interest in eBay before, and

still don't other than to look at one person's violin listings!),

and only signed on because we wanted an inexpensive violin for

our own use, not to sell or anything...

because we were new to eBay, we had no feedback; we each bid on

several violins, and ran them up some before getting nervous about

how much we were spending or reached the limit of our funds...some

of us eventually got violins (it took me three tries, and finally i

just bid more than i was comfortable spending to get the one i

wanted), and i know that now i have 1 whole feedback!

so, based on my motivations and experience, i assume that the

people bidding (and i often see the same ones bidding on different

violins a lot of times) who have no feedback are also looking for a

nice personal violin, but are nervous or short on funds (or are

hoping to get a steal!) and so don't bid high enough to win ...i

have just assumed that when one of these folks bids several times

on the same violin, they are hoping to get it, not trying to run

the price up?

hope this helps!


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  • 3 weeks later...

I won an auction a couple of years ago because of an early bid. It was on a car--not a violin. Opening bid was $110 and I bid $900. With ebay's proxy system, my bid only showed as the $110 opening minimum. Until the very end, I was the ONLY bidder, until a sniper came in in the last few seconds with a bid of $900. Where he came up with that number, I don't know, but I won the auction because of the ebay policy that with a tie bid, the earliest bidder prevails.

One way that a bidder could have lots of bids, but few or no wins would be someone who is buying to resell at a profit. They will then only bid up to what they think is a "wholesale" amount, and then drop out. The violin would then go for a higher price to an end user (player) rather than a dealer. A reseller never wants to pay what something is "worth" because that doesn't leave room for that dirty six-letter word PROFIT.


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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

Cassi, I think we have all been there, new to eBay and very

inexperienced.  I am sure that I ran up some of the winner's

tabs many times before they won the violin, or other item.  I

suppose if it had been a public auction house I would have gotten

some stares of anger by the "more experienced" bidders who would

then seek to chide me for my inexperienced bidding, etc.  At

least until you run up a score or so of feedback, that is.  At

that point you tend to be looked at as a contender, and then you

earn some respect (lol).  

In most cases, I still won't bid early on anything I am serious

about winning.  Why tell anyone else that there's another

person interested?  It could, and probably will, affect the

amount of their final bid.  But now we come to another matter,

the snipe.  I don't know about anyone else, but when I enter a

snipe bid, obviously during the last few seconds, my heart starts

to race and at times, my hands start to shake.  I can almost

feel the beads of sweat forming on my brow.  I suppose I might

be better off with a snipe program.

On the other hand, I suppose if I really, really, really, really

wanted the item - in this case, the violin I have always dreamed of

owning, I might just enter in a high amount to begin with.

 Oh, I wish I were filthy rich!

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