Online auction selling tips for eBay, Delcampe and HipStamp
Philatelic Foreword by Jay Bigalke
In the Aug. 17, 2020, Philatelic Foreword column, I posed a number of questions to Linn’s readers about selling and buying online at the websites of eBay, Delcampe and HipStamp.
The response was great. We received numerous emails with feedback for a couple of months after that column went to press.
After that I struggled to find the best way to provide the information received in a future column.
Reader Andy Simmons of Illinois wrote, “I’m sure I’m not the only reader who wants to buy online, but has absolutely no clue where to even begin.”
That comment and others led me to the decision to present the comments in a manner similar to our Letter’s to Linn’s page that appears in our weekly newspaper.
I have provided headings and edited some content for space. Not all of the many original messages received are included.
This format provides readers a glimpse into what it was like to receive a bunch of interesting tips and more about online selling on these websites.
Each year I buy a few hundred lots from online vendors eBay, Delcampe, Hip Stamp and, occasionally, an auction house. I use a sniping service for eBay. For other sales I typically bid within the last 24 hours. Though I have not carefully monitored my success rate, I would guess it’s somewhere in the realm of 50 percent.
Starting bid and shipping cost usually influence my maximum bid, but desirability of an item and my hunger for it are sometimes a factor. I have had an amount of success when asking a vendor to accept an offer lower than the starting bid, and shipping cost can sometimes be lowered.
I try to read carefully all descriptive elements and shipping details. Vendors on Delcampe are notorious for adding PayPal fees that they do not mention in their terms. Delcampe rules for sellers explicitly forbid this, but vendors tend to ignore or are unaware of that.
Vendors are generally friendly and quick to respond to queries, so I don’t hesitate to ask about item details that are not clearly described and about shipping costs.
Although few shipments have failed to reach me, items from South America, Italy, Eastern Europe and Asia should be sent by registered mail. Some vendors pay for this, some require buyers to pay for it, and sometimes it is optional. PayPal and eBay will cover lost shipments. Delcampe does not, and Delcampe vendors often include a shipping term that specifically denies their liability for lost shipments.
Shipments from South America are slow. During the current pandemic, shipments from numerous other countries are slow. Buyers typically should wait about 30 days before contacting vendors regarding non-arrivals and wait 60 days for submitting an eBay or PayPal claim.
My decision to consider an item is generally based on the image provided by the vendor. I have at times requested additional images of items. I know of at least one vendor who uses mostly stock images. I note also that most vendors who list multiple examples of a single stamp or set will repeat a single image.
Only a few vendors expressly state whether an image is the exact item being sold.
The buyer is responsible for recognizing what is likely fake and should ask the vendor. Even when asking, though, buyers need to filter vendor responses through buyer knowledge.
Buying on Delcampe
I am a thematic collector (for only three species of animals), and I only buy stamps online. I’m not interested in selling because I don’t want to deal with the hassle of packaging, shipping and figuring out the right stamp value to charge depending on the country and all the other logistics involved.
I do all my purchases on Delcampe, but I have been recently also using eBay to complement some of the series I can’t find on the first. The reason I use Delcampe is that it has a vastly superior availability of material compared to any other online store.
As for purchase method, I try to buy the item right away and avoid auctions because I tend to have purchases “burst” (buying several sets at once) so I want to try to minimize the sellers I am buying from (at the right price) to reduce shipping costs (more on it later), so once I decide to buy from a seller I want to be sure to get the items, which auctions do not guarantee.
The second reason is the “stress” related to auction that someone can snipe at the last moment. If I am forced to bid, I try to set a decently high bid limit and set an alarm a few minutes before the auction ends to monitor its result.
As for the importance of seller feedback, everyone had a bad experience that resulted in negative feedback, so I am not looking for 100 percent, but clearly a 50 percent feedback seller is sketchy, and it’s probably better to stay away from them.
Shipping charges do sway my decision making. Living in the United States and with most of the sellers located in Europe, means that shipping costs are high.
I prefer registered shipping because I can track it, but it also depends on how much it costs
I have also collected a series of tips and suggestions to make sure the items arrive in perfect condition without damages in transit, which I always send to the seller right away after I completed a purchase.
A good scan or photo is definitely important. If I’m not satisfied, I usually ask for a better picture, sometimes even of the back, but the request has to be motivated, for example, by previous bad experiences.
Communication is also key given the obvious asynchronous purchase method. Always communicate early and extensively: If you have doubts, ask; if you have questions, ask; if you have preferences for shipment, tell them; if you want to delay payment because you’re still checking out their store, let them know right away, so they don’t get impatient.
General buying and selling tips
I love stamp people. There are so few of us left, that I always want to make the best of every situation, either for them or myself. Here are some things I have run into:
• Selling: Starting price too low — one bid winners. I have tons of mint United Nations stamps that I can’t give away. If I put a penny bid on a lot of them, they sell for a penny. I’m not a $35 shipping type.
• Selling: Can’t even sell for face value.
• Buying: Beware the shipping price and country — if you want it fast or cheap, be cautious. Items from some countries take months to arrive.
• Sellers: Use stamps for postage. I love sending and receiving large packages covered in beautiful U.S. stamps! I save the ones my brother sends me intact, because they are so incredibly awesome. He and I didn’t speak for years, and we’ve just recently gotten back in touch and re-bonded over stamps.
• Buying/Selling: Combined shipping — Makes a huge difference and read the fine print. Most stamp sellers combine shipping, even if it doesn’t say they will.
• Buying: When buying multiple lots from the same seller, wait for the invoice before paying; it’s usually much less than just running to PayPal. If they don’t send an invoice, ask for one. Really great sellers refund the extra amount paid.
• Buying: Contact the sellers and negotiate. If there isn’t a buy-it-now or make offer button, and there aren’t any bids, contact the seller with your price. They may accept it.
• Buying: This is my technique, anyway. If it’s fairly priced … I bid and if I win, great. If it’s low, I bid, then put in a max bid, making the bid count 2 (shows more interest, which could be good or bad). Then I either walk away and hope or try the snipe (myself, not a program) at the last second.
• Selling: Be careful with categories selected. You could lose people if you pick the wrong ones.
• Selling: Watch for typographical mistakes and make sure your listings have all the right words. Don’t try to sell a Scott’s International Album, Volume 1 as Scott’s Int’l or International Vol. 1, things like that.
Read the entire column in the print or digital edition of the Jan. 18 issue of Linn’s.
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