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Learning the Ropes


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Hi guys!

I'm not on the market for cello right now, but if my daughter keeps

up her passion for the instrument, I plan to be sometime around

next summer.

I was surfing around ebay when I found this auctions:



Rare~ Outstanding Old Italian Cello with Fright Case

Hm ... So why is a rare old italian cello with real,

hyperchondrially certified "fright case" stuck at $1000 one day

before it closes!? Scam, right? I don't need to know just yet,

but that is the kind of question I would like to be able answer

quite easily next summer!

What my normal ebay instincts tell me here is the following:


- Seller wants cash by wire to a former eastern block country.

I'venever bought instruments over ebay, but in *normal* ebay

language that's like walking into a bank with a ski mask and a

showing the guard your pretty, new bazooka.

- Seller has no address, no me page, no explanation of where he

gets his stuff.

- Seller has a grand total of 10 positive feedbacks.


- OTOH, 10 people *do* seem to have bought his stuff and left

positive feedback. Of course, they could all be shills, but if so,

they were done quite carefully.

Anyway, I'm learning the ropes here. What would you people do with

an auction like this - simply ignore or pursue further - i.e.

contact the seller with further questions, contact other buyers,

ask about escrow, etc.? What other things do you people look at in

an auction like this?

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Buying on Ebay can be tricky even for seasoned bidders. I have found one wonderful violin on Ebay, as well as several that turned out not so well, which were given glowing descriptions by the sellers. You'll hear this repeated a lot, but its very true; buy locally from a respected shop AFTER you have seen and HEARD the instrument in person;take an experienced player with you if you can, and get their opinion as well. Instruments from Ebay are notorious for needing setup; your local shop will have already taken care of that, and will often allow for tradeup when the time comes. In time, with knowledge, you might then begin to explore Ebay, but for now I would buy from a respected shop.

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Hmm. That was an interesting auction to watch.

- I notice first that I may have been a general PITA by asking

questions about an auction while it is still running. The seller

would hardly mind having people linking to his sale, but potential

buyers might not appreciate the extra interest. If I ticked anyone

off, my apologies.

- I see that sniping is as alive and well for string instruments as

for anything else on ebay - though that is hardly a surprise.

- What I also notice is that the former-eastern-block + wire

transfer thing is not an automatic indicator of fraud in this

field. (In others it is.) People were quite clearly bidding

seriously on the auction. OTOH, I wonder what sort of bids the same

auction would draw if placed in the US, in the UK or in a top draw

EU country. More, I would guess!

- Obviously, older instruments are going to be a crap shoot. The

may turn out great or they may turn out to be a big disappointment.

I exchanged a couple emails with a gentleman who had won an earlier

auction from the same seller. He was very, very pleased with his

purchase - but someone else might end up with an entirely different


All in all, very informative. I hope to learn more over the next

few months ...

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Originally posted by:

are more honest in the 'top draw EU' countries or in the US or in

the UK (thought the UK was a EU country but never mind)?

No, of course not. People are people, and I'm not saying the

"morality  gene" gets lost on the wrong side of the

tracks. But you can't be stupid either. There are two

important principles that make some trans-national transactions

safer than others:

1) It is positive if you speak the seller's native language and can

be sure that communication should - at least in principle - be


2) It is positive if - in the event that a bad situation develops -

you can contact the local police and be able to expect them to

cooperate and be interested in fighting cyber-crime.

I've never actually lost money on an online scam (knock wood -

because I take risks!) but I have bid on quite a few scams and have

helped out several people who *did* get burned.

This has lead to some excellent conversations with people in police

stations in Amsterdam and some village in the UK. OTOH, my attempts

to contact the authorities in Bucharest and a village in Thailand

didn't work out very well at all. (In the Thai case quite simply

because I didn't even know how to look - the authorities might have

been great for all I know.) For that matter, my attempts to

get some help from the carbinieri in Napoli when a friend of mind

"bought" some hi-end electronics were very frustrating. (I mention

the last bit very sadly since I lived in Sicily for 10 years as a

child and studied for three years in Rome.)

I love Eastern Europe, I love the people and I even lived a

couple years in Hungary (yes, there too) as a kid. But many

business transactions with the - OK: NEWER members of the EU -

require a higher level of caution, ESPECIALLY private ones carried

out over the internet.

As for the UK and the EU - err - I think I've got myself into

enough hot water as it is without opening that one!

Peace, man - and merry Christmas,


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