Sherry Lefevre knows a thing or two about shopping on eBay.
The author recently wrote "The Heirloom House," which documents how she furnished her Massachusetts home by shopping on the auction site. And now that her home is filled with eBay finds, Lefevre is sharing what she learned through the process.
Regardless of what you're shopping for, these tips are good to have in mind as you embark on your own eBay quest.
1. Educate yourself about the objects you’re looking for. Your education can begin on eBay itself. Don’t get too excited about the first little antique thing-a-ma-bob you see. Copy and paste the key words you find in its listing and see if you can find similar ones listed (as I did the corn planter). If there are too many and if they are identical, well . . . at the very least, you’ve learned something about their rarity — an indicator of value. Now exit eBay and do some online research. Find trustworthy antique dealers, who list similar objects; find antique encyclopedias and chapters in antique books; Google your way to finding entries on, say “How to identify a fake corn planter.” Nine times out often your Google search will not be in vain.
2. Never pay very much for the first item you buy on eBay.You’ll learn a lot from your first purchase, but you don’t want the lesson to be painful. Here’s a weird example of what I mean. One of my earliest purchases was an old mechanical toy. The description read “it really works!" When it arrived, I tried it and it didn’t work. So I emailed the seller. He emailed back, “I never said it worked,the box did.” He had simply transcribed the claim written on the side of the box. Should I have shot back, like the teacher that I am, “BUT YOU DIDN’T USE QUOTATION MARKS!” Hmmmm. I had paid too much for a broken mechanical toy and my pride was hurt.
But I decided to swallow it as a lesson learned. In the future, I would send a question before purchasing something that “works.” My question would be,“Who says?”
3. Until you become very familiar with the type of object you are purchasing, bid what you would pay for the item, even if it were a fake. In other words, if you like how it looks, you might want to own it, even if it’s not authentically old, or by a famous designer — as long as you didn’t pay too much. Take "antique oriental rugs” for example. Over time, I purchased about a dozen of them for my house. They are lovely. Usually they were described as dating from the 1930s or earlier. Additionally, they are allegedly from Iran, or Afghanistan, sometimes Turkey. Frankly, I don’t care if they were made much more recently, or if they were made in India. I never paid more than $300 for them and they are beautiful. IKEA or Pottery Barn couldn’t match them at twice the cost.
Excerpted with permission from The Heirloom House: How eBay and I Decorated and Furnished My Nantucket Home by Sherry Lefevre. Copyright 2015, Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.