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Online Auctions For Fun & Profit

By Michael Benolkin

Most of you have heard of the various online auction houses like eBay and Yahoo. No doubt some of you have heard too much about them already. If so, I'll apologize now, because I'd like to talk about them a little more. For purposes of this editorial, I am going to focus my comments on eBay, but these thoughts apply to all online houses:

1. You can have some serious fun out there! You'll find that many of your friends and acquaintances are also buying and selling online as well. The advantage of areas like eBay is that you have access to virtually the entire planet to find those rare items for your next project or to find that hobby shops are now liquidating their 'sale' items online.

2. You can find some incredible forehead slappers out there! Since the idea behind eBay is that sellers start their bidding at some price, say $1.00, bidding can escalate to unbelievable proportions. I regularly see items selling above $50.00 that are still on the store shelves for $12.00. This can be somewhat entertaining, to say the least.

3. On the otherhand, you'll find some incredible bargains out there if you're patient. I've purchased items for a fraction of their original cost and keep wondering why nobody else wanted them. Many times, a given item such as the Aurora 1/72 737 will fetch some hefty prices, but occasionally one will get through rather inexpensively. The trick is to be patient and watchful.

4. When buying online, the average person should decide what a given item is worth to him/her. Place a bid for that amount and see what happens. eBay will bid on your behalf against all comers until the bidding exceeds your maximum amount. If you do get outbid, walk away. Wait for the next opportunity. Don't get caught in 'bidder's fever' and wind up spending twice (or more) than the item is worth.

5. If you are the competitive sort, and you plan accordingly, you can become an eBay Sniper. This is someone who monitors the bidding of an item that he/she is interested in. Using the "Watch Item" option under "My eBay" will help you keep track of up to 20 items you might be interested in. When an item is about to close, you need to decide what the most you will spend on this item is and stick to it. When the countdown clock approaches one minute before closing, submit your maximum bid. Don't be surprised if you lose however. I have found that for the 'items of interest' out there, most of the bidding occurs in the last 60 seconds of the auction! Nonetheless, bidding in the last seconds will limit the number of rebuttals that may happen. While some eBay shoppers hate snipers, I find it an interesting online sport.

6. Before you bid, do your homework. Make sure that the seller is reputable (check their rating for past problems), bid on items that have accompanying photos (see what you're getting), and make sure that you know what the item is worth and stay below that cost. Remember that you should factor in shipping costs with the total price.

While online auctions will never replace a good hobby flea market, these sites will give you 24/7 access to the world's marketplace. I'm still in disbelief after some chap tried to auction off a Juliet-class Russian submarine on eBay with an opening price of $1,600,000 (no, I didn't bid on it - sailing it from Florida to Indiana was too much of a challenge…). You never know what you'll find out there!

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