ebay is the Way?

March 14, 2010

I wrote in a previous post about the decline of the venerable Melbourne antique centres during the early naughties and I think one of the strongest reasons for this decline is related to eBay.

And why not? ebay is a global forum for sellers to compete on prices, it gives the buyer instant gratification (been looking all over town for that Georgian miniature and nothing has come up for years? Check eBay, it’ll be there) and that collector’s bug can be squashed with the push of a button.

So is it right that when you walk into a store and see a piece that you know has an extra digit on the price tag when you’ve just seen it for nothing online? Of course it is, that’s the seller’s prerogative. You don’t have to buy from a shop or eBay, you’re a grown person, you can do what you want.

But consider this; the piece on eBay is being judged by four or five dimly lit pictures and the price is too good to be true. A physical shop will often open the cabinet and let you handle the piece, letting you scrutinise it for yourself.

So, you’ve gotten the piece from eBay and the enamel work is chipped off? Who could have told by those shoddy pictures? Well, best leave positive feedback, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Whereas in a store, if it has that poor finish, best to put it back and keep looking, that magnificent piece will pop up sooner or later.

The other benefit that I had from no internet when I started collecting is learning from the pieces in front of me and from the dealers themselves. Most dealers were more happy to stop and have a chat or let me play with their pieces so I could discover more about them. With nothing but eBay, internet and emails at hand, most of the information is second-hand and loaded with subjectivity. Even when I’m trying to be objective in my writing, there’s plenty of room for error and no one is infallible.

So what does it all come down to? Love that piece? Think it looks amazing and would like to have it for no other reason? Congratulations, you’ve just made an emotional bond with something that will change your life. Buy it from anywhere, discover it, enjoy it and then it’s a lot easier to learn more about it, unlocking an entire world of knowledge for you.

Oh, but if you see me bidding on eBay, stay away, that piece is mine!

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