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EBay reserve prices


martin swan
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In my eBay listings I often set a reserve price and then give an indication in the listing of what the reserve is. I can't see any reason to keep the reserve confidential, but other sellers seem to feel differently, and I've never seen anyone else disclose their reserve price, even in vague terms.

I can understand people bidding under the reserve in the hope that the seller will relent and send a 2nd chance offer if the reserve isn't met (I have occasionally done this), but even in that situation it would be helpful to the buyer to know what the reserve is, and to pitch their highest bid accordingly.

In auction houses there's a general understanding that the reserve price is roughly equivalent to the low estimate, so everyone knows more or less where they are. Of the estimate is 1,000 to 1,500 it generally won't sell for 900.

There just doesn't seem to be any advantage to a secret reserve - does anyone have a view on this?

Martin Swan VIolins

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I've run a few auctions, been to auction school. It is my understanding that psychologically an auction proceeds on the expectation or illusion of a bargain, with each bid validating the next bidder's bid ("If it's worth that much, then certainly it's worth 5% more".) and driving the final price higher than the bidders would have considered a real bargain before they started bidding.

A reserve is usually well above where most bidders would consider a real bargain, and so doesn't tempt anyone to get into the bidding. Without low bidders, you don't have that escalating confirmation of value, and so you get a lot less action. I think that well-presented items with broad appeal bring better prices when offered without reserve. I'll only use a reserve with items of clearly defined value, and only narrow appeal, since there's a chance that there won't be enough interested bidders to drive the price to a decent level.

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Hi, thanks for that - you make a very good case for selling without reserves.

But if someone does choose to sell with a reserve (because for instance the item is worth a good deal more than eBay bargain-hunters are generally prepared to bid), is there any particular reason to conceal how much the reserve is? Auction houses always give a general indication of the reserve price by giving a low estimate figure ..... seems to work for them.

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It's funny, at live auctions, when there is no reserve, to see the auctioneer call for an opening bid of $1,000, and then keep dropping because nobody will start (sometimes going as low as $10), when the hammer price winds up well over the initial $1,000.

I think that's what Nonado is talking about with ebay reserves. "Wow, 47 bids. This item must be HOT!!!" laugh.gif

BTW, Martin, I finally looked at your website... I think I'd better call you Mr. Swan from now on. First started to listen to you in the 90's. cool.gif

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In my view "eBay violins" is not a free market ... actually I don't think the violin trade as a whole is a free market because that would imply transparency of information!

EBay is a marketplace where the value of violins is depressed on one side by the spectacular level of dishonesty and general roguery amongst sellers, and on the other side by the acute outbreak of Tarisio fever (or "violinist's dengue") suffered by the buyers.

As a result, prices fetched for good items are generally less than 50% of the prices reached by auction houses - I have been known to buy the odd Pfretzschner bow on eBay myself, so I can attest to that.

Buyers don't like reserves because these reserves imply that the seller might actually know the value of what they're selling. This undermines the whole "cash in the attic" myth on which most of the buying & selling operates (grubby old gut strings, poor photos, neck grafts, incorrect terminology, fake labels and so on). Of course the "cash in the attic" sellers impose hidden reserves by bidding up their own items, so the "no reserve" concept is generally a myth too.

At major auctions, almost everything has a reserve (broadly equal to the low estimate), and although the bidding has to go down low to kick things off, most often the item doesn't sell if it doesn't get near to the low estimate.

ps. Addie - I take it you want to call me Mr. Swan because you saw a photo of me and realized how old I was?

pps. how do I do the green quote thing?

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When selling on ebay I prefer not to set a reserve, but simply to start the bidding at the lowest price I would be willing to accept. This is thus my 'reserve'. I have sold items starting at £20 and at £2,000. Everything is then perfectly clear to potential buyers, who don't have to waste their time making unsuccessful below-reserve bids.

I can't see any point in starting the bidding at £1 and setting a reserve of £1,000. That's just irritating. Nor can I see any point in setting a reserve an giving an 'indication'. I prefer to keep things simple and up-front.

Andrew

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ps. Addie - I take it you want to call me Mr. Swan because you saw a photo of me and realized how old I was?

pps. how do I do the green quote thing?

Re: pps, see pic. Use that reply button, and you get a full quote. Otherwise, paste and use the bbs code (quote) your quoted text here (/quote) but using [ instead of ( OR, use the quote button in the toolbar and paste in your quote. See second pic.

Re ps, because I have been listening to your music for almost 20 years. cool.gif

I have to admit, the first time I was introduced to Mouth Music (at a party--I had just played a piobaireachd on the GHB) I was expecting puirt a beul à la Alan Lomax. laugh.gif After I discovered Afropop, you sounded much better.

post-35343-0-52564900-1306082301_thumb.jpg

post-35343-0-15524600-1306082546_thumb.jpg

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When selling on ebay I prefer not to set a reserve, but simply to start the bidding at the lowest price I would be willing to accept. This is thus my 'reserve'. I have sold items starting at £20 and at £2,000. Everything is then perfectly clear to potential buyers, who don't have to waste their time making unsuccessful below-reserve bids.

I can't see any point in starting the bidding at £1 and setting a reserve of £1,000. That's just irritating. Nor can I see any point in setting a reserve an giving an 'indication'. I prefer to keep things simple and up-front.

Andrew

Are you selling violins? Your strategy really doesn't work for me, but I only sell violins .....

For instance, let's say I have a nice Geronimo Barnabetti with a retail value of around £2000, and which I want to sell for at least £500. If I list it with a start price of £1 and no reserve, I will get around 600 visits, 50 watchers, and a sale at about £400 on a good day. If I list it with a low start price and a declared reserve of £500, I'll get around 350 visits, 30 watchers, and a sale at about £600 and sometimes more. If I list it with a start price of £500 or £600, I get about 100 visits and 7 or 8 watchers - one time out of two it will sell for the start price, never more.

I wish I understood the psychology of this.

When I'm buying, I ignore all of this stuff - the things I want tend to have high reserves or high start prices (always a lot less than the thing's worth), and there's never any competition.

ps. Addie, thanks for the tip, next time I will try "multi-quote" .... you still piping?

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Are you selling violins? Your strategy really doesn't work for me, but I only sell violins .....

Actually I rarely sell anything nowadays - the strategy I outlined was what I use(d) when I do/did have something to sell. I can't argue with your experience and buyers' behaviour certainly is weird. I just like to keep things simple and have everything in plain view.

Andrew

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Not piping. Was into the competition scene for many years, but had to give up after a neck injury.

I love all of the early fiddle-related collections you can get online now, Skene ms., Bremner, etc. etc.

I wonder if another reason for reserves is that the sellers know they have something good, but don't really have a feel for the market?

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I've sold a few violins on ebay, and with a few exceptions, have been very badly burned. On very few I did get 1/4 of the value. I have recently listed a violin 3 times so far, with a reserve well below market value on a known maker's work. I just don't want to get burned again. I generally put a lot of time and diligent work into my restorations, and would like to end up with more than -$5 to + ten cents the hour. Maybe I should try stating clearly the reserve price. A simple google search brings up numerous examples with prices from that shop, but I guess that's too complicated.

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I think it might be worth trying it - let people know what your reserve is (approximately) and maybe even link to the pricing sources you mention.

I have the same experience as you - being knowledgeable and selling without a reserve is guaranteed to get you a low price. I have come to the conclusion that sellers who do well without reserves are using other tricks!

But I don't think you can ever expect to get more than about 30% of retail value on eBay, even for something beautifully set up, guaranteed, and returnable - the percentage seems much better for bows, oddly ...

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When selling on ebay I prefer not to set a reserve, but simply to start the bidding at the lowest price I would be willing to accept. This is thus my 'reserve'. I have sold items starting at £20 and at £2,000. Everything is then perfectly clear to potential buyers, who don't have to waste their time making unsuccessful below-reserve bids.

I can't see any point in starting the bidding at £1 and setting a reserve of £1,000. That's just irritating. Nor can I see any point in setting a reserve an giving an 'indication'. I prefer to keep things simple and up-front.

Andrew

This is what I do too. I think of it as transparency. ;)

Stay Tuned.

Mike

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