Specializing in postcards and antique photographs

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mary Dolly Allen Collins - Old Cabinet Photo

Someone wrote a fair amount of information about the woman in this picture.  I've edited the picture a bit for this post, but you can see the whole thing on our eBay store.  Just go to the store & do a search on Mary Dolly Allen.

This is an early cabinet photo, possibly as early as the 1850s, certainly no later than the 1860s.  Its always possible we could be mistaken about the date, but we're getting a lot of experience with these things, and that's what we believe.  It is not in great shape.  There is a lot of foxing - little spots you can especially see on the front, and someone has trimmed this up greatly, and unevenly.

On the front, written in pencil, is "Mary Dolly Allen, married Collins. "

On back, also in pencil is the following information: "Think this is great-grandmother Archambeault's mother when young.  Mary Dolly Allen, married a Collins, lived in VT.  Came to Utica on a farm.  Great-grandmother was Harriet Jane Collins."

I don't know when this information was written down, and there is always the possibility that it is wrong. It is a lot more information than we usually get on these pictures. We did a tiny bit of research and we believe Mary Dolly Allen Collins died in January 1886, but we didnt really take it much further. 

But this is the way she looked 150-160 years ago, when she was younger and stronger and her death was still in the distance. 

I wonder how many decades it has been since anyone said her name aloud or thought about her.  I'm sure she'd be extremely surprised to know that I somehow ended up with her picture.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Little US Automotive History

This picture is an interesting little snapshot of people on (and in) an old car.  The people's clothing look very 1920's to me.

And it's not just any old car - this is an early Pontiac.  The writing on back says "Pontiac, Chief of the Sixes, Oakland Tampa Co., Tampa, Fla.

Pontiac orginated as the Oakland Car Company in Pontiac, Michigan in 1907, and was bought by General Motors in 1909.  Oakland introduced the Pontiac model in 1926, and as it was powered by a six cylinder engine, they dubbed it "Chief of the Sixes".   The car was popular, and the Oakland name was phased out in favor of Pontiac.

Click on the title to go to the listing, if you're interested.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Yet another loose end.

It must be something in the postal waters.  As quickly as one is cleared up, another one takes it place.  A couple of posts ago I wrote about a postcard which was returned to me - the post office could not deliver it to the address given.  After multiple attempts to contact the buyer, with no response, we opened a case to cancel the transaction.  The buyer agreed.  Which meant that they logged on and responded to our case, but would not respond to our request to verify their address.  So we cancelled the transaction, refunded their money, put them on our blocked buyer list, relisted the item. 

So, what should happen a couple of days after this?  Another card return ANK - "attempted not known", this one from a buyer in North Dakota.  Same thing going on, he's not responding to our attempts to contact him. The address we mailed to is a confirmed address in PayPal.  This is a bit stranger though, he went ahead left positive feed back and good DSRs.  I know he exists, but other than that  I don't know what's going on.

In both cases the envelope did not appear to be opened, but the packaging did - the tape was torn, very neatly & I'm positive I didn't put it in that way.  But why go to the trouble to expertly open and reseal an envelope, then leave torn tape on the inside?  Am I freaking out? 

And we still have the buyer who bought and paid for a card then told us not to deliver it until he contacted us again.  That was over 2 weeks ago I think.  Haven't heard from him.

This is just plain odd.  I don't like it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Cabinet Photo of a Woman From Perry NY

This is a cabinet photo of a youngish woman who was probably from Perry NY, or a farm nearby. The photographer's name was Crocker, and based on graphics etc, we believe this dates to the 1880s-1890s.

The subject of this photo looks very human.  I think that is why I like it.

Click on the title to go to the listing, if you're interested.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Loose Ends

I dont like loose ends, and there are a couple I'm dealing with at the moment. 

The first is a buyer who bought and paid for a couple of postcards.  I got them in the mail that very day, but then a few days later it ended up right back in my mail box.  The post office returned them with a yellow sticker on the envelope saying they could not forward them to another address.

Weird.  So I've attempted to contact her to verify her address, and I've received no reply.  I can understand a person being hesitant to give out their address to someone, but I'm doing it all thru eBay (so I have an "official" eBay record of it), and I don't really know any better way to do it.  This has been going on since June 24th.  So I sent her another message today and told her I'd refund her money in a couple of days if I don't hear from her.  

My only other choice is to mail the card again, on the assumption the PO screwed up.   A couple of times the machines have read the return address & and an envelope has ended up back in my mailbox, but that wasn't the case this time.

The other loose end - recently someone bought a snapshot, paid for it, then told me not to send it for a week or so "until he knows where he's going to be".   Ok, he's moving or something, I can understand that.  But I really want to mail these things out.

The worst that could happen?  2 negatives, and low DSR ratings, potentially costing some money.  That probably won't happen.  We'll see. 

People are such untidy creatures.  Almost nothing is straight forward when you're dealing with people.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Early 20th Century German Postcard

This is an early 20th Century German postcard we have for sale - it is actually part of a lot of 2, combined with another similar (but not quite the same) postcard.

Actually I can't date this exactly, but it has the looks of an early 20th century card.  It also has the look of a hand tinted card.  There is a sheen around the edges that makes me think of a gelatin-silver photograph, but I don't know for sure.

It's a pretty card, with a little rhyme in German and I remember enough German to understand what it means.  It does not rhyme in English.

Click on the title to go to the listing if you're interested.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hearts & Heads Early 20th Century Postcard

This is kind of a strange early 20th century postcard - not really sure how to list it, or what to call it, but I'm sure it must be appealing to someone out there.  It is embossed and gilded, and a little strange with a heart shaped back ground and people with heart shaped heads singing in what appears to be snow, but maybe not.  I mean who whould think of such a thing.

Anyway,  click on the title to go to the listing if you're interested.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Our eBay business doing good in June. Why?

By June 20th, maybe even earlier, we already had more sales than we had in the entire month of  May.  That translates to $$, of course.  But the question is, why?  Is it just a random fluctuation, or are we doing something to help things along?  Hard to say.

We are doing some things differently.  Until recently we started every new item off as an auction, with the vast majority being moved to the store as a "buy it now" (BIN) if it didn't sell.  We used auctions to drive traffic to our store.  In March eBay converted the store inventory item type to fixed price (a different item type), which - understatement coming - changed the game a bit.  Suddenly, there were millions upon millions of extra items as part of the core search.  All those store inventory items which were not part of the core search, suddenly were.  Some people, according to the forums, are finding their items are buried behind hundreds of other similar items, making it very unlikely that they'd be found buy a buyer searching for them.

Well that's interesting.  eBay's default search is something called "Best Match".  Although it's possible to guess some of the logic that goes into the algorithm to determine Best Match search position, for the most part it is a mystery.   It's possible to change the default search - I regularly change it to lowest price or ending soonest, depending, but most people, maybe as many as 80% or more, do not.  They may not realize they can, or even care.  Anyway, search position is very important.

So these are some of our ideas and some things we've been doing.   I don't know if they make a difference or not.  June's been good, but who knows about July?

1.  We don't sell anything sold by the "superstores".  We're just two people, we can't compete and don't want to compete with a big business.  If "Buy" ever gets in to postcards and antique photos, I guess we're screwed.

2.  We've been making our titles more relevant.  We can see reports and find out which keywords are used most often to access our listings, and we're making sure those keywords are there.

3.  The only sort order we can control is the "lowest price + shipping" one, so I make sure our items are competitive price wise, should someone else be selling the same thing.

4.  We've been updating our item specifics - making them as detailed as possible.  Supposedly this will help in search.

5.  We list all our fixed price items as "good to cancel" because it saves a lot of work.  But for the last few weeks we've been manually ending some older items which were about to roll over to the next month & relisting them (checking the title & item specifics of course).  This gives it a new item id, eBay sees it as a completely new item, and I think completely new items will do better in "Best Match" than an item that has been sitting around for a few months.

6.  More and more we're offering Free Shipping on individual postcards.   I don't know, maybe it's psychological.  A $2.99  postcard with free shipping costs more than a  $0.99 postcard with $1.25 shipping.  But it has been drilled into my head by eBay powers that be among others that buyers want free shipping.  So free shipping it is, when it is economically feasible, because I suspect they may know what they're talking about.  I am a little cynical about it though - eBay does not collect fees on shipping charges, so an increase in price and free shipping benefits them.

7.  Although we still start most of our listings off as auctions, we're listing more directly to fixed price.  I suspect this is what the corporation wants us to do.  

So, June is doing much better than May.  Our best month of 2010 to this point has been January, and it's quite possible June will be better - we'll have to see.  The big question is why.  Is it a random thing? Or is it because of some of the changes we're making?  I wish I knew.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

CDV Photo - A Girl In White

I relisted this photo as an auction today.  It has been around for awhile, first as an auction, then store inventory, then fixed price (no more store inventory).  It was ending shortly, so I thought I'd try it as an auction again and give it some more life. 

I think it is an interesting expressive photo.  The girl, looks to be early teens, is in profile, looking slightly down.  Her arms are folded, and there is a ring on the 3rd finger of her left hand. 

There is no writing on the photo - no identification, no photographer information, nothing to tell you who this person was or where she came from.   Based on the way the physical cdv looks though, we think it is from the 1880s-90s era. 

It's one of those photos I look at and wonder about.

Click on the title to go to the listing in our eBay store.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sometimes I wish I'd gotten that MBA.....

Just before I received my Bachelors in History from good ol' Morehead State University in Kentucky, I was invited by the business school to study for an MBA.  I scoffed at it.  I had reason to - I had passed the GRE & been accepted to the graduate school in History & awarded a graduate assistantship, which at the time meant a stately sum of $240 a month, a very small (and shared) office, and you got to be gophers for the profs, all the while working towards a masters. 

Sometimes I wished I'd taken up the business school's offer, because I have to tell you, the nuts and bolts of crunching numbers business style confuses me.  In this piddly little eBay business we have going, all I can really say is we're not losing money.  But that's about it.

Here's some stuff I do know.

I can tell you, from 2007 until May of this year how much of every dollar earned went toward fees and expenses.  In 2007 it was 44 cents.  In both 2008 & 2009 it was 63 cents.  And so far in 2010 (due to eBay's lowest fees ever) it is 70 cents.  Is that good or bad?   Looked at another way, in 2007 we kept 56% of everything we earned, 37% the next two years, and so far this year 30%.

Another way I looked at it was the amount of money spent on inventory vs the amount of money we ended up with at the end of the year.  I came up with my own little ratio - $$ spent on inventory divided by $$ left over after expenses, and I came up with these numbers:  2007 - .65, 2008 - .43, 2009 - .36 & so far in 2010 - .39.

IS THIS GOOD OR NOT? I don't know.  Somebody tell me.

A large corporation will look you in the eye (they're people now, the supreme court said so) and tell you that they lost money because they didn't make as much as they did during the same period a year ago.  I'm not that sophisticated - I feel that if my income exceeded my expenses, I made money.  If I didn't make as much as I did the previous month, or the previous month a year ago, that doesn't mean I lost money.  I just didn't make as much.  I won't use that as an excuse to layoff Patti Anne.

So I'm going to leave it at that.   If we earn more money than we spend to keep the business going, we made money.  Simple.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Our eBay day

Today was the first of the month after a 3 day weekend, so it was a busy eBay day.  I had several items to package up & ship off, I had to start up a new spreadsheet for June, and figure out final final totals for May, in addition to the normal listings and eBay related housework type activities we do every day. 

May was officially our worst month of 2010, beating out February for that honor by a healthy margin.  This was caused by a combination of eBay's "lowest fees ever" costing us $75-80 a month more than before, and moderately lower sales.   It's not as if we didn't have any sales - we sold things and received money for items every day of the month. And we did make a profit for the month. But sales were down.

There are a lot of unhappy sellers on eBay right now.  I keep up with various eBay discussion boards, auctionbytes.com and other news items about eBay.  Sometimes I learn something, but most of the time it is people posting who are very upset about something. 

Sometimes they have a point - eBay customer service is terrible to the point of non-existent.  If you have a problem and you can't figure it out, you're pretty well SOL.   That's my biggest beef anyway.  Other times it devolves into the same people complaining about the same things. 

Some sellers say their sales have dwindled to almost nothing since the change in the fee structure and especially change to eBay search on March 31st.  We actually did a little better in April than in March, even with the higher fees.  May was a different story, however.

Up to this point, and I consider it unfortunate, we haven't found anything that works as well as eBay.  We've tried other sites, and will continue to try other sites, but so far our sales on non-eBay sites are beyond dismal.  We've kicked around the idea of developing our own website, but so far it's not go out of the kick around stage.

I personally am not as upset about things eBay-wise as some people I've "heard tell" of.  I do have some cynicism tho, and I do fear that their direction is to become an outlet for huge fixed priced online box stores, who sell the same old boring crap you can buy anywhere.  I fear at some point they will actively try to rid their site of sellers like us.  I guess when I think about it objectively, I can't blame them.  It's all about money.  The pittance our little business provides them in fees, the pittance that would be so important to us if we could keep a bit more of it, is nothing to a large corporation.  They can make a lot more money from a huge online box store that sells the same stuff every other huge box store sells.   I'm sure the mega-store "Buy", (buy.com off-eBay), provides eBay more in fees in a day, than we do in a year.  Probably more in a few minutes than we do in a year.   Who would turn that down?

But even if the goal is to gravitate toward these large sellers, what does a large corporation gain from making things more difficult for hundreds of thousands of small sellers?  Money from small sellers adds up, collectively.  So, I don't understand, and I'm not entirely sure that is what they are doing.  A lot of people are absolutely convinced that's what they are doing though. 

Anyway, until they make it impossible for us to make a profit, I guess we'll keep selling.  It's been a long time since we actually lost money in a month.  Hopefully June will be better.

Friday, May 28, 2010

William Jennings Bryan Cabinet Photo - 1896 (?)

We've listed a Cabinet Photo of William Jennings Bryan & family.  It's actually a montage of sorts of him, his wife and children.

William Jennings Bryan ran for President 3 times, 1896, 1900 and I think 1908, loosing each time.  Based on pictures we've seen of him online, and the apparent ages of his youngest children in this photo, we think this is from the 1896 period.  It was most likely promotional material for the 1896 presidential campaign. 

If that's the case, then there were probably a lot of these printed.  But it's the only one we've seen, and certainly the only one we've got. 

Besides being famous for not winning Presidential elections, he was considered one of the best orators of his day.  In 1925 Bryan argued for the prosecution in the "Scopes Trial", in which Tennessee biology teacher John Scopes was charged with violating state law by teaching evolution.   Bryan won the case but the verdict was overturned on a later appeal.  A week after the trial was over, Bryan died in his sleep.

So, an honest to goodness period cabinet photo of a honest to goodness famous person.  Cool.  

Click on the title to go to the listing if you're interested.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Some more repsonses to eBay's rate changes

We mostly sell vintage postcards and photographs, primarily on eBay.

Our sales have remained steady (up to now) since eBay's March 30th changes, and that apparently puts us ahead of a lot of other sellers.   We're selling at roughly the same rate after the change as before. 

However, eBay's lowest fee structure in history has caused the fees we pay eBay to increase by about $75.00 a month minimum, (imagine that) so we're making that much less than we did.  Because of our level of selling we were pretty much forced to upgrade our store subscription; also they did away with the store inventory format and are calling everything fixed price.  And while it's true the fixed price fee for a "premium" store is much less than before, it is still higher than the old Store Inventory Format, which is how we used to list our non-auction store inventory.   We pay eBay more money in fees, with no extra benefit that we can see.

So we've decided on a few other things to do - I have no idea if it will work or not.  Everything is a work in progress

1st - we've tried some other venues in addition to eBay that haven't worked for us, so we're pulling out of those sites, and relisting the better inventory on eBay again

2nd - we continue to investigate other selling venues; right now we're giving Bonanzle every chance to work for us, but so far it has been disappointing. 

3rd - we've kicked around the idea of creating our own store website, but we aren't really sure if that will work or not.  We can do it, we have the ability, but all the considerations involved, plus driving traffic to it, seems a daunting task.  It still may happen, and if it does it probably will be in conjunction with selling on eBay. 

4th - to cut down on fees, we're starting to sell more "lots" of cards.  We've always sold lots, from lots of 2 to as much as 300.  It's a good way to move inventory, but generally they bring in much less per card than selling them individually.  But, if a card is a good card, but hasn't sold & it's been around for awhile, there's a good chance we'll include it in some sort of logical grouping and list as part of a lot.  We're doing this to cut down on listing fees, and hopefully move some inventory.

5th - we're going through our listings, correcting mistakes, and paying special attention to titles and keywords.  Some seem to work better than others.

So we have to attack this on two sides.  We have to drive sales somehow, and we have to get our fees a bit more under control. Right now they are too high.  The trick to controlling fees though, is to do it in such a way that sales are not negatively impacted.  It's a neat tick.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Just a little audit

Spent some time going thru all the our eBay listings, looking for dupes (can easily happen if you hit the sell similar button instead of relist) or anything else out of the ordinary.  This is what I call a "light" audit, though with almost 2500 listings, anything like this takes a little time.

A heavy and time consuming audit would be to go to every listing and find it's corresponding physical inventory item.    And then do the reverse, go to every inventory item and find it's corresponding listing.   They are two very different things.

Its what us sellers do sometimes.

It's been a long, long time since I've not been able to find a postcard - but on one occasion in the past 4 years we've sold an item which we no longer had.  That is a sick feeling. 

So we do things like this every now and then.  We're only human, we can make mistakes, but we try hard to minimize things like that.

Click here to go to our store, and check out our listings.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Snapshot of a Girl Standing on a Swing

This a snapshot of a girl in a school uniform standing on a swing.  The style looks 1920s-30s era.  There is no identifying information on it anywhere.  Just a girl in a uniform, playfully posing on a swing to have her picture taken.

Click on the title to go to the listing, if you're interested.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Addie Kinabrew Morton of Cleburne Texas, Cabinet Photo

We have this photo for sale in our eBay store, and we believe it is of Addie Kinabrew Morton - that is the name written in pencil on the back of the photo.   Photographer information is also stamped on the back - "J. A. Lindgren, Photographer, Cleburne, Texas".  The Photo is about 4 1/2 X 6 1/2 inches.

Kinabrew is one of those names that can be spelled more than one way - I've seen Kinnabrew, Kinnebrew & Kennebrew, which are all probably different spellings of the same name.   There seem to be plenty of Kinabrews about though, and plenty of them still seem to be from Cleburne. 

Anyway, this is Addie.  We estimate this Cabinet Photo to be from the 1870s or so, and her hair style and clothing seem pretty typical.  She's holding two small purses, which is a little unusual, perhaps, but not much.  And she's wearing a dark dress with a huge amount of lace.

Click on the title to go to our listing.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Thought on Feedback

I frequently peruse the eBay discussions boards, rarely posting anything, but seeing what everyone else has to say.  My favorites are "Seller Central", "PayPal" & "Feedback".  It is interesting to read about some of the problems people run into, and some of the solutions suggested.  I've learned quite a bit, but you also have to take a lot of things with a grain of salt too.  On Seller Central, for example, there is thread after thread about how sales are down after eBay made their big changes on March 30.  Well, our sales are up since March 30, and we continue to sell at a bit better rate than normal for us.  I don't particularly like the changes because it costs us money in higher fees, but it hasn't bothered our sales, at least up to this point.  BTW, only in the eBay world can "the lowest fees ever" cost us about $75.00 a month more than previously.

On to feedback, though.  One thing I find interesting on the Feedback board is that people are still arguing over who should leave feedback first.  There seem to be two armed camps all over America who feel strongly about this subject.  Buyers say sellers should leave it as soon as they receive the money for the item - after all at that point the buyer has met their obligation.   Many sellers say, hold on there, pardner, (not partner, but pardner - all sellers are from the south or southwest, apparently), not so fast.  In their minds, the transaction is not complete until the buyer receives and is happy with the item they bought.  The only way a seller will know that is through communication and/or feeback from the buyer after the buyer receives the item.

As far as I'm concerned, the whole discussion is irrelevant, a complete waste of time.   Although thru the ages, I've actually been on both sides of the issue.  The rules changed, so my position changed.

Ok.  The IN-sane people on eBay are probably evenly distributed among sellers and buyers.  Since I am predominately a seller, I'm more worried about the IN-sane buyers, and I've ran into a few. 

When I first started on eBay, sellers could leave neutral and negative feedback for buyers, but since 2008 (I think), sellers can't leave anything other than positive for buyers.  Up until that point, I generally waited until I received feedback before leaving it.  It was my major protection against an IN-sane buyer.  I have never left retalitory feedback, and probably never would, because feedback says as much about the person leaving it as it says about the person it's left for.  But the IN-sane buyer does not know that - the IN-sane buyer asumes I think like they do, and so was more likely not to leave any feedback than they were to leave unfair feedback.

Now however, that little defense is gone.  Sellers can only leave positive for buyers & buyers know it, so what does it matter?  I now leave positive feedback when I ship out the item.  If the buyer leaves feedback for me, great, if not, I'm not going to worry about it.  It's completely voluntary, something else that a lot of people don't seem to understand.

A lot of people act like collecting feedback is the object of selling or buying on eBay.  That's just weird.

These boards sometimes identify IN-sane eBay types, both seller and buyers.   For example, there is a buyer out there who has bought maybe a couple dozen items in the last two years, and has left negatives for every one of them.  He came to light on the boards because a seller posted that he'd received negative feedback the same day he mailed the item - in other words the buyer hadn't received it yet.  I looked at the buyer's feedback page, and sure enough, he's left negatives for everyone he's ever bought from.  Either he has the worst luck in the world, or he is classically IN-sane.   Either way, I blocked him, just in case.   There was another buyer who leaves an extremely high rate of negative and neutrals - and some of the comments seemed to be about things completely out of the seller's control, like post office transit times.  IN-sane.

Insanity isn't limited to buyers though, not by a long shot.  But they're the ones I worry about.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Can't Make 'em Understand

I can't make Entrecard understand what my problem is.  Or more likely, I can't get them to read and respond to the problem I describe in the emails I send them.   So, this blog is basically non-functional as far as EC is concerned.   I can't link it to my other one, I can't get to an EC dashboard that represents this blog's activity, but I am assured my account is active.  I could probably send them an off color limerick & they write me back telling me my account is now active.  It accepts drops, so it is indeed active - but that's all it can do.

So, I give up.  This blog will keep going, but EC-wise, I won't be dropping, and I can do nothing about approving ads etc.  I don't know if I'll remove the widget or not.

Look for more eBay related stuff in the future.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Still having ecard problems

I still can't link this blog to my other blog in entre-card.  Everytime I write to them I get a one sentence reply saying "my blog is now active".  This put's Entrecard's customer service on par with eBay's, and that isn't good.

So, I can't return drops, or advertise or anything at the moment.  I'll try again, but I may throw in the towel as far as this blog is concerned.  We'll see.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

EntreCard problem

A week or so ago, I noticed that this blog was no longer part of the EntreCard system.  I had it linked with another blog (A Valese Blog - I'm not that creative blog naming wise), so it was easy to switch back and forth in EntreCard when dropping and such.  But suddenly, it wasn't there.  I looked in my email & there was a message from EntreCard saying they had deleted the account because of a security issue.   I contacted them and asked them what I needed to do to rectify the situation, and they contacted me and said I was reactivated. 

However it is still not linked, and I can't seem to link it.  I can't add it as a new blog - because it already exists in EntreCard.  Same thing happens when I try to link it as an existing blog - there is a box for an email address & password, and an "add" button, but it won't accept it.  It says it already exists. 

So I sent another email to them to ask what I needed to do, and I'm awaiting a response.

In the meantime, I cannot drop with this blog.  People can drop on me, but I cannot drop.   Also, I cannot accept or reject ads.  Most ads are accepted automatically so maybe that's not an issue.  But at least one ad was rejected - not by me, but by the EntreCard admin.  So I apologize for that.

I don't know when this problem will be solved, but hopefully soon.    In the mean time, I'm not able to return any drops with this blog.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

S&H Modifications for CDVs

The fallout continues from our recent "charge back" experience.  The only way to even have a hope of protecting ourselves from things like charge backs or "Item Not Received" claim by a buyer is to have delivery confirmation on our items, signature confirmation if they are above $250 (I think).  This is because PayPal, the most common way things are paid for on eBay, assumes the seller is at fault, unless the seller can prove other wise.  If the buyer says he didn't get an item, or that it was an unauthorized use of a credit card or pretty much anything else, PayPal, and by extention eBay, assumes the buyer is telling the truth and the seller isn't.  PayPal apparently puts a hold on the seller's account immediately.  If the seller respsonds to a claim with a delivery confirmation number, PayPal investigates, and presumably releases the hold after awhile and all is well.   But I've read about some absolute horror stories on the eBay community boards.  I don't know if anyone in eBay pays attention to the boards, but there is a fair amount of discontent floating around.  I subscribe to the belief that it is usually the discontented that do the most posting, but still.  It seems significant.

The picture above is a beautiful little CDV, sold and shipped already.   Take a good look at it, because it is the last of our CDVs to be mailed without delivery confirmation.  It is also the last CDV to go out with a  $1.50 shipping and handling charge.   We can pay postage online and print a label off on the printer - the cost for delivery confirmation is cheaper when bought this way than it is if you purchase it at the post office counter.  But we send these CDVs out first class, so delivery confirmation is not free, and $1.50 will no longer cover the actual mailing cost for most of them.  So we increased the shipping and handling cost to $1.75, which should cover the cost of the actual postage, the cost of delivery confirmation and the cost of the mailer, with next to nothing left over.

I absolutely hate to do this, but it seems to be the only way we can protect ourselves.  $1.50 S&H was very reasonable and cheaper than most others charged.  $1.75 is still reasonable & may still be cheaper than most others, not sure, but I liked a $1.50 a lot better.  CDVs are the only thing we're changing our rates on though, postcards & cabinet photos & such remained unchanged, at least for now.

In 4 years of selling we've never had a problem like this.  In recent months however, eBay/PayPal has made changes which make it very easy for a buyer with larceny in his heart to cheat a seller. It was only after these changes that we got our very first charge-back.  Co-incidence?  Maybe.  But it was a wake up call, it is irresponsible for us not to take some kind of precautions.   So this stuff goes out with delivery confirmation to at least partially protect ourselves, and we have to increase the S&H rates to cover the extra cost.

I really, really hate having to do this.  I hate that all of us have to pay because maybe 1 person in a 100, or even 1,000 is dishonest.  But that is life, isn't it.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I guess we've made the big-time

After 4 years of doing business on eBay we finally got a charge back.  I've heard hints & rumors of charge back horror stories, but we never experienced it.

On March 25th we sold an antique photo and shipped it off to New York.  It wasn't expensive, the total cost, including shipping was $8.09.  On April 15th, the person opened up a PayPal dispute claiming "unauthorized use of a credit card".  It turns out that because of PayPal rules,  we, as sellers, didn't have a leg to stand on, and we realized that fairly quickly.  It also turns out that not only were we out our item, and the $8.09, but then PayPal charged us a $10.00 fee, to cover the fee that the credit card charged them.  Insult to injury.

And looking around the discussion boards, it turns out that this person has been doing this to quite a few people, there are several threads about it, and at least once person mentioned her by name.  Her feedback is private, so you cant see any comments, and but you can see that her account has over 200 purchases in the last month.

So one of two things happened.  Perhaps her credit card was stolen, or perhaps it was used without her permission to buy a bunch of stuff.  Perhaps her eBay account was compromised & a bunch of items purchased under her name without her knowledge.  That's a lot of perhaps, but if that is the case I can understand her predicament, but it irritates me that we're left holding the bag.  We did nothing dishonest.

The other possibility is that she is doing this intentionally, to a lot of sellers.  That is the possibility I'm inclined to believe.  Maybe she'll get away with it, or maybe she'll end up in some legal hot water.  I'll never know, one way or the other.

We've sold thousands of items over the years, and the worst that has happened to us up to now is that every now and then someone decides not to pay.  And that can be irritating, but in the grand scheme of things it's no biggie.  But a charge back is not good.

Perhaps all I had to do was put delivery confirmation on the package.  My understanding is for PayPal seller protection to kick in they require delivery confirmation on items less than $250 in value, and signature confirmation on items over $250.   We hadn't been doing that for the lower priced items, but we may need to re-evaluate that.

Most buyers are honest - the vast majority.  If you go into selling (or buying) on eBay thinking you're going to get cheated everytime you do anything, then you're going to have miserable experiences.  But you also need to take reasonable precautions.  And hope for the best.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Thackrey Family (except Otis), circa 1880's.

This is a detail of a cabinet card we have for sale.  The whole card measures about 4 1/2 X 6 1/2 inches, and it is of the Thackrey family, except Otis, who might have been no 'count anyway.  Who knows.

The names are listed on the back:  In the back row, left to right, they are Birtha, Cora & Mandy, center is Dad and Mother, and in front are Alice, Logan, Ioa(?) and Torrince.  Another sibling, Otis, is not in the picture.

The photographer was F.K. Frasier, but there is no indication of where the photographer's shop is located, or where these people lived or when the picture was taken.  Based on the looks of the card & clothing styles, we guestimate the age at 1880-1890s, with more of a nod toward the 1880s side of the estimation.   It is a family picture that was probably important to someone at sometime, and may still be if someone can tie themselves to them.  

I was just kidding about Otis being no 'count.  It's my sense of humor.  Most likely Otis was either the oldest and on his own somewhere, or he had yet to be born when the picture was taken. 

I like it because it documents what they consisered their "Sunday Best" clothes, and you can see some of the family closeness in it.  Alice is young and leaning into her father's leg, Logan has one hand on his father's leg & another on his mother's, Cora, I believe, has a hand on her father's shoulder. 

This was a good sized family - they almost certainly have decendants running about today, somewhere.  

You can click on the title to go to the listing.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Young Man Sitting in a Chair - Watertown South Dakota, 1911

I honestly don't know why I dwell on stuff like this.   What is it about this photograph?  This is actually a postcard, a Real Picture Postcard (RPPC), with a handwritten message on back dated May 12th, 1911, in Watertown, South Dakota.  The sender (we assume the person in the picture) was sending this to his cousin, most likely included in an envelope with a more formal correspondence.  This was never mailed.

So I look at this, and he reminds me a little of my son.  His age when this picture was taken is about the age my son is now.  He looks like he's tall, tho it's hard to say.  My son is tall.  He's not a physical double for my son by any means, but there is something about him that is a reminder.

He was photographed and wrote a message in 1911.   I'd say he was born in the late 1880s or very early 1890s.  He is young, looks to be in good health, physically strong, and he has nice clothes, in what was a much more formal era.  I know nothing about him, not even his name - the person he was writing to was obviously very familiar to him.  But I do know that 98 years 11 months and 2 weeks after he wrote this message on the back of his picture, he is no longer living, but yet he has me looking at his image and thinking about it.

If he had a normal lifespan, if he survived WWI, it is possible our lives overlapped. It is not inconceivable that he would have lived into the 1970s.  Had we met he would have been very old, and I would have been very young.  I would have looked at him and thought he had always been old, that he was born that way.  I would have thought, this is the way it is, the way it was, and the way it always will be.  I know better now.

I guess it all boils down to a mortality thing.  It's a reminder that people who are old and weak, or even have already died, were once young and strong, with optomism and hope.  They burned away their days as if they had an infinite supply.  I see myself and everybody I know in this picture. 

So, I'm going to list this card on eBay - I scheduled it earlier today, it should be there soon.  You're welcome to it if you want it.  Just go to the store & do a search on Watertown.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Pricing on eBay

It is not free to sell on eBay, and I don't consider it cheap.  It is cheaper than running a brick & mortar store down on main street, but it is not cheap.  But you get what you pay for, and it seems to be one of the more popular sites on the internet, so it is a good place to do some business.

eBay seems to fiddle with their fee structures every 12-18 months or so, we've only been selling on eBay a little over 3 years, so I'm not sure about that.  It had been awhile, so I guess it was due - and it was something of a bombshell when it was announced.

After the initial shock, we tried to figure out what the best route for us would be.  They sent us an email with their recommendations, and using their calculator and our activity level & the way we do business, we came to the same conclusion.  That doesn't mean we were happy about it.

Right now there are 3 ways to sell on eBay (at least postcards & photos), auctions, fixed price, and store inventory.   All things being equal, auction and fixed price will display first in search results and store inventory items have the least visibility.  Auctions and fixed price are much more expensive to list than store items, but the final value fee charged when they sell is less.   So, if two items sell at the same price, you'll pay less fees if it is an auction item, than if it is a store item.  However, it's cheap to list store items, (3 cents a month for items priced up to $24.99 I believe) and you can leave them out there for long periods of time. 

eBay is doing away with store inventory selling format - everything now will be auctions or fixed price.  We can still have a store - but the items will be converted to fixed price.  eBay did lower listing fees - but the new fixed price listing fee is still going to be higher than the current store inventory fee.  Also, and I have no idea how this will effect things, everything will have the same level of visibility in searches - they'll still have whatever criteria they used to determine "best match", but now millions of store inventory items which will be reclassified as fixed price will be thrown into the mix.  I'm not sure of the ramifications of that.

The fee structure you pay will be based on the type of store subscription you have with eBay.  Right now we have a basic subscription, at $15.95 a month - and we usually have 2300-2500 items in store inventory.  If we maintained the basic subscription, the fixed price listing fee would be 20 cents a month - enough to cause us to shut down our store.  At that rate we'd pretty much be working to pay eBay, and that aint gonna happen.

However, eBay has "graciously" provided us a way to keep being productive members of society.  We can upgrade to a premium subscription for $49.95 a month, and they'll throw in seller manager pro in the bargain.  If we do that, our fixed price listing fees will only be 5 cents a month, something we can handle.  For us, that 2 cent hike means about $40-$50.00 a month more in fees.   So, if we sold absolutely nothing, we'll be sending eBay about $160 or more a month in listing fees for store items alone. That is a very healthy increase.  In reality, we'll be sending eBay a lot more than that - we do sell stuff, and the final value fees on items that sell are a lot higher than the listing fees.

Since listing fees will be less for auctions, it's possible we may actually save $30 or so over the course of a month, and that would pay for the increased cost of the upgraded store subscription.  But we're going to pay more for our "fixed price" items - no way around it.  I can't see how our fees will do anything but increase.

So, to get ready for this, we reduced some inventory - over 400 items in the last couple of months, and made a few other tweeks.  We've not increased our shipping rates, and I'm trying to resist a major increase in pricing if I can - still have to compete.  eBay let us upgrade to a premium store early at no extra charge (more or less), so we did, and I gotta tell ya, I'm having a field day with that selling manager pro, yessir.  Best thing since cheese on pizza, and I don't like cheese. We've also looked into other avenues of selling, which havent really panned out yet, but it takes awhile.

The changes start in 5 days.  I'm holding my breath.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson

This is an underground exhibit at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, located in Tucson, Arizona. It has been mailed and is postmarked 1970, but based on the clothing and hair styles, I'd say the picture is 10-15 years older than that.

I'm not sure why I like this postcard, I'm not sure anyone else besides me does.  Maybe I like it (and maybe no one else does) because it screams 1950s at you.  Or maybe it's because everybody is looking at an exhibit with an arm extended out on a railing, and I can imagine them moving from display to display with some unintended Kafka-esque alienation, relishing the cool of the tunnel while contemplating the reality of their pending mortality, personified by the blistering heat they walk into upon leaving the tunnel, way down there in the desert of southern Arizona, amongst the cacti, rattlesnakes and scorpions. 

You can click on the title to go to the listing, or click on the picture to make it bigger and search for the quirks. 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cathryn at San Marco, Venice, Italy, Feb 2, 1930

This is an Italian RPPC  (Real Picture Postcard) of a well dressed woman standing in front of a monument, and surrounded by pigeons. 

Written on back, "To my Valentine, much love mother dear, Cathryn".  And below that, "Taken at St. Marks, Venice, Italy, Feb 2, 1930".

The scene, if not the era, is very familiar to me.  Approximately 52 years after this picture was taken, to the month, I found myself standing in San Marco's square in Venice, very close to or possibly right at the same spot this woman is standing, also surrounded by pigeons.   Italy is quite a bit warmer than Germany in February and March, and it was a good place to go for a week or so, just to remember what warmth was like.

Going to Venice was like going to a different planet.  I loved it.

Click on the picture to make it bigger, click on the title to go to the listing.

Update: SOLD!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cabinet Photo of a Woman from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1880s or so.

This is an interesting cabinet photo of a woman from Lancaster, PA., probably dating to the 1880s or later.   It was taken at the "Fowler" Gallery, 12 West King street.

It's hard to put my finger on why I like this picture, but I do.  Maybe it's the choker with the cameo (or whatever) in it.  Perhaps it is just the way she looks. 

Any rate, its for sale, and you can click on the title to go to the listing if you want to. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Seattle Washinton, Japanese Pagoda Lantern, Mt. Baker Park Early 20th Century Postcard

This is a postcard of the Japanese Lantern in Mt. Baker Park, Seattle, Washington.  It was a gift from Kojiro Matsukatu of Kobe, Japan to Seattle, I believe in 1912.  This card dates to sometime before 1920. 

There are many versions of this card - early cards like this one with slightly different captions, and cards from later times with a very similar view.   In my research I found the donor's name was actually Matsukata, and he lived from 1865-1950.  There is an interesting wikipedia write up about him.

Click on the title to go to the listing, if you so desire.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Breakneck Mountain, Hudson Highlands, New York, Early 20th Century Postcard

This is an early 20th undivided back postcard of Breakneck Mountain in New York.   Undivided backs were not produced in the United States after March 1907, so this card is well over 100 years old.   It is in good condition, but there is fading on the back, and indications that it was kept in an album at one time.

Breakneck Mountain is still a tourist attraction of sorts, along the Hudson River.   It has an elevation of 1,260 feet, and looks like a very nice place for a summer visit. 

Click on the title to go to the listing.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Philip Eden, University of Wisconsin, Class of 1872

There is a bit of information about this person written in flowing penmanship on the back of this CDV; his name, Philip Eden, and the fact that he was a graduate of the "Class of '72 (that would be 1872).  The photographer's information is also there, one N.P. Jones of Madison, Wisconsin.

So I googled Philip Eden, Class of 1872, and I found some interesting information.

There is a Philip Eden listed on Page 110 of the University of Wisconsin Madison 1872 class album, with a short handwritten biography.  Some of the information they recorded are things no one today would think to put in a college year book, and some of it I found odd.  And it was all written in that wordy, cumbersome & formal 19th century style.

Here are some interesting facts about Mr. Philip Eden, represented in the picture above.  He was 27 years old when he graduated from college:

  • Born March 5, 1845, Mineral Point, WI

  • He was 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighed 136 lbs

  • He was well porportioned

  • He had a Grecian nose

  • He had a gentlemanly manner, with eloquent speech

  • He possessed some fortitude

  • He had no particular field of study

  • His favorite Poets: Milton, Whittier & Burns

  • His favorite Novelist: Dickens

  • His favorite Historian: Macaulay (Yikes!! I actually read Macaulay when I was in college to try to get a feel for 19th century views of European History)

  • He was a Republican

  • He favored tarrifs for collecting revenue

  • He was a Methodist, and did not use tobacco or spirits

  • He had a "medium" mind

  • His personal expenses were about $250 a year

  • At 17 (that would have been 1862) he learned the capentry/cabinet making trade

  • He also taught school

  • He entered the University of Wisconsin in the Fall semester of 1869

  • He was also a member of a fraternity, but I could not read the writing
In 1862, when Mr. Eden was 17 and learning capentry, there was a widespread and bloody civil war being fought in the USA, and he would have been of prime military age - but there is no mention of any military service.   I'm fairly certain that had he served in the Union Army it would have been noted, he would have considered it a high honor (after he was out, of course, probably anything but, while he was in, I speak from some experience) - I'm wondering how he managed to avoid it.

Its not every day you find this much information about someone in a random 19th century photograph.  I find it facinating.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Circa 1880s CDV of a man from Sing Sing, NY

This is a CDV portrait (about 2 1/2 X 4 inch albumen print mounted on cardboard) of a rather stern looking fellow from the late 19th century.  Based on the thickness of the cardboard, the semi-elaborate graphics on the back and the round corners, we feel this is at least from the 1880s, possibly 1890s.  If I were expert on clothing styles, I might be able to be more exact.

Printing on back indicates photographer was a C. Smith of Sing Sing, N.Y.  It's possible (even probable) that the gentleman in this picture was a local citizen.

Click on the title if you're interested.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Comic Linen Postcard - Love Thy Neighbor

This is a mildly risque Curt Teich comic postcard, from 1938.  I can tell the exact year it was created from a notation in the stamp box on the back.  Another clue to the general era is the partial view of an automobile behind a tent, and the card itself.  This is a linen card, and the linens date from roughly 1932-1952.

Many of the comics were not all that funny, but they do provide some insight & a little commentary (intentional or not) to the attitudes of the time.

Click on the title to go to the listing if you're interested.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Late 19th Century Family

This is one of my favorite antique photos, and I'm not sure why.  It shows a man with a heck of a beard, a woman (I assume his wife) and a baby.  I always thought he was smiling at something, but it's hard to tell.  Also it's a little unusual because I'm pretty sure this was taken outside, not in a studio.

I belive this is an albumen print mounted on cardboard - and most of the mounting was trimmed away at some point in the past. 

I think it's an interesting picture.  I've had it for a long time, so maybe I'm the only one who likes it, but I find it interesting just the same.

Click on the title to go to the listing, click on the picture to bigify it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

How we will cope with the future madness

On Jan 26th eBay announced changes in the fee structures for selling on their site, beginning March 30th.  A lot of sellers in the eBay community went ballistic, one going as far as to annouce they were putting all their stuff on sale, and would have a fire sale of sorts for anything that was left in March, and then would close down their store.  Well, if they had anything I wanted to buy, I guess that would be good for me.

I don't trust people who go ballistic.  Nothing ever remains the same, and anyone who expects everything to remain the same is living in some other reality.  Every year to 18 months, eBay fiddles with the fee structure.  It's going to happen, and we just have to deal with it.  Nothing I say or do is going to influence eBay, and if I decide to quit in protest, they would care less.   If I were a fly, they wouldn't even bother to swat me.

This change is major, however, and it's making us look at the way we do business.  I don't know if the way we do business is the best or not, but it works.  We make profit, and it provides a nice supplement to our income, but perhaps, especially with the rule changes, we could do better.  That's what we have to figure out. 

We'll almost certainly have to upgrade to a "Premium" store membership, because of our volume.  Right now we have a "Basic" store membership.  That means a $33 higher initial payment or so, and listing fees for store inventory are going up 2 cents an item.  But the auction fees will be reduced, and we've determined that if we make no changes & continue to do business the way we currently do, our total monthly fees will be fairly close to what they are right now - maybe a little more, or perhaps a little less, depending on sales and such.  So I'm not too worried.   If we stay with a "Basic" store and make no changes, our fees will go thru the roof, we would lose money.  So the forced upgrade is a bit of a no-brainer.

Last night, for the first time ever, we tuned in to an eBay internet radio town hall, where these changes were discussed.  The corporate people did a pretty good job of not really answering anyone's questions to anybody's satisfaction, or just giving back canned answers (see - I can be cynical).  A lot of the callers did a good job of being very rigid and unwilling to make any kind of changes in the way they do business.  

I'm sorry, but we won't be having any fire sales.  We're not closing down our eBay account.  We've tried other sites, and it's just not worked out for us, so eBay is what we have for now.  We'll figure it out and make adjustments.

Monday, January 25, 2010

1940s-50s Snapshot of a couple at a beach

This is a nice little snapshot of a couple having some fun at a beach.  Based on the styles I'd say it's from the 1940s or 1950s era.  Unlike many snapshots, this is actually a very good photograph - might have been professional.  I believe (but not sure) that it is Velox paper - the type of paper used can give an accurate indication of the date.  There is a stamped number on back, but nothing to identify the people or location.

Its a 3X5 inch picture (or close enough that it doesn't matter), and it's interesting to look at and think about. 

Click on the title to go to the listing, if you're interested.  Click on the picture to make it bigger.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota, George Washington Profile & Measurments

This is a standard/chrome postcard showing a profile of the Mt. Rushmore carving of George Washington, including it's measurements.

It has a serrated edge, so I'm sure this was part of a booklet at one time.   Information on back lists Wall Drug Store, in Wall, South Dakota as the publisher.

Click on the title to go to the listing.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

CDV Two Women of Goteborg Sweden - with phone number

This is a CDV of two women from Goteborg Sweden.  The photo was taken by Alfred Back, who was a "Fotographi Atelier".  His address is listed as Goteborg, Sodra Hamngatan 59,  Platen Forvaras, with a telephone number of 5274.

We believe that a Radisson Hotel is now located at or near that address.  

Telephone service began in Sweden in 1877 - so this photo was taken after that.  This is the only CDV we have with a telephone number on it. 

The back has very ornate graphics - and that usually indicates a CDV from the 1880s-1890s. 

Click on the title to go to the listing, if you're interested.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

CDV Apenrade Germany (Apenraa Denmark)

This is a CDV of a woman with books. The photographer was J. H. Door, and the location was Apenrade, Beim Nordermarkt.

Apenraa is located in Denmark. It was occupied by Germany from 1864 to 1920, and renamed Apenrade. This picture was obviously taken during that period, most likely in the 1880s-90s.

A little bit of history. Interesting.

Click on the title to go to the listing.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

How we coped with the recent madness.

I remember from my working life dealing with the "disaster recovery plan", the famous DRP. There were all kinds of levels, depending on the extent on the disaster. Something like a hurricane or tornado, or like what happened in Haiti, something that destroyed physical facilities and injured or killed part of your work force is major, and would involve, at least at my previous company, a nationwide response. My company was a business of course, their major priority was to meet (or exceed) their customers needs & expectations - to get processes up and running normally as quickly as possible. It could be very complicated, but that's why they paid us the big bucks.

My emergency was not nearly so comprehensive. My computer was rendered useless by a nasty trojan horse, or worm, or virus, I'm not sure. I described it in my other blog so I won't go into it here.

But, even though it was on a very limited scale, I had a disaster on my hands. I had obligations I needed to meet and my capabilities were severely reduced.

Monday we did not list any new items. Normally I print address labels and invoice statements - I send out an invoice statement with every item - but I could no longer print. My computer was physically hooked up to the printer & my wife prints from her computer thru our little network. None of that was working.

So Monday, for the first time in my 3 plus years of selling on eBay, I printed out addresses by hand, and wrote out a simple invoice, also by hand. That's how we recovered from the disaster of not being able to print.

My desktop computer was not functioning - at least not safely - so we unhooked it and brought down the laptop. We did a little router rewiring for my wife's desktop and she was able to get online. My laptop has a wireless card, so it picked it right up.

Later Monday afternoon I downloaded a printer driver to my laptop, and could print as long as the printer was physically connected to the computer. We still could not print from the my wife's computer, but for now, that it was ok. It meant that we were fully functional again, at least as far as our eBay business was concerned. Tuesday, even though I was using a laptop instead of the desktop, was a normal day, eBay wise.

I got the computer back Tuesday afternoon, complete with a re-loaded operating system, and we hooked everything back the way it was and lo & behold, it works.

I should have downloaded the printer driver earlier Monday, and I wish I had. But I still able to get things shipped to my customers. These were payments that had come in over the weekend, for the most part, and I had sent them all emails telling them I'd ship on Monday. I was determined to get their items on their way to them, and I did.

So, that's how we coped with the recent madness. This seems to be just one of a series of events happening this month that impacts our business.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

1906 Letter Card - Pop up Pig & Leprechaun

Its not every day you see a Leprechaun riding a pig.

This is a "letter card" from 1906. It closes up and is addressed & stamped but when you open it up a pig expands out with a drawing of a Leprechaun riding it.

This one was mailed on Apr 27, 1906 from Hartford, CT & received on Apr 28, 1906 in Addison, CT - there are postmarks from both cities. I looked on the USPS website and there does not seem to be a post office in Addison, so this is probably a DPO - a dead post office, one that was closed at some point.

The back of this letter card (not shown here) is in pretty rough shape, but the pig still expands nicely.

Click on the title to go to the listing, if you're interested.

Update:  SOLD!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Valdese NC - From This Day Forward

This is a standard/chrome postcard advertising an outdoor play staged in Valdese, NC every August. I'm not exactly sure of the date of the card, but I would assume it is from the 1970s - maybe as late as the early 1980s, but most likely 1970's. It's a pretty little card showing a woman in traditional dress (traditional for the 1890 Waldesnsians that settled here, I presume), reading a bible.

The play is still performed every August.

Click on the title to go to the listing.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

CDV - A little 19th Century Men's Fashion

This is a carte de viste (cdv) photograph of a man with HUGE mutton chops. There is no writing on the card to give a hint of the photographer or location. We estimate the date to be 1880's at the earliest, because the backing is thick and the corners are rounded.

Men liked their facial hair in the 19th century, and this person might win a prize at the local fair's mutton chop contest.

Click on the title to go to the listing, if you're interested.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The first sale of 2010 - Dallas TX Chamber of Horrors

This gruesome standard/chrome postcard was our first sale of 2010 - purchased the morning of Jan 1. It is an exhibit at the Southwestern Historical Wax Museum at State Fair Park in Dallas, Texas. The picture depicts 4 men hanged in a barn, with the caption on front, "Wish You Were Here".

Information on back says this recreates an event which happened in Ada, Oklahoma on April 19, 1909, when a lynch mob took four suspected murderers from a jail to a barn and hanged them.

I could not find dating information on this card, but I'm estimating it is from the 1960s. The addresses for the publisher & manufacturer do not include a zip code. The card was written on but never mailed - and the mailing address (which it was never sent to) does includes a zip code. Zip codes came into being in 1963, but were not mandatory for awhile after that. It's probably from the '60s.

The first sale of 2010!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Some 2009 Sales Stats

I keep a simple excel spreadsheet to track the money generated by our eBay business. We started eBay in August 2006, and I started this spreadsheet in Jan 2007 - I found it was much easier to keep track of things. Also, I needed to be able to prove to myself & anyone else who cared that we were not losing money.

So, anyway, here are some stats for 2009.

First the money: eBay-wise our gross was 9.5% higher than last year, and almost 300% higher than 2007. Last year (and most of 2007) we rented booths in a couple of antique/collectible stores downtown, and we also had some sales on ETSY & eBid. Our total gross income was higher in 2008, when you include non-eBay activity. Renting and stocking booths was a lot of work tho, it took a lot of time and a fair amount of physical labor - I was surprised. We decided to concentrate on eBay, so we don't work the booths anymore.

Our net income is about 7% less than last year, again because we've all but stopped all non-eBay activity, sales wise.

Second, the customers: Domestically we shipped to all 50 states. The top 5 shipping addresses were located in California, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Texas. That's no surprise, last year it was the same except Florida was 3rd & Pennsylvania 4th.

Internationally we shipped to 25 countries, alphabetically from Argentina to Uruguay. The top 5 international shipping addresses were in the UK, Canada, France, Australia & Germany. Over time, and with a larger volume, I have a feeling that we'd send more to Canada than anywhere else. So far everything has eventually made it to the purchaser. I ship within one business day of receiving payment, but sometimes it takes awhile to get there.

We picked up consignments again starting from October, after a lull of sorts. We do consignments by word of mouth mostly, we don't actively seek them out anymore. Consignments are a love/hate thing with me. They add another layer of work keeping track of the sales for the consignor, eBay and PayPal fees & our commissions. And it requires extra communication with people, I find myself defending eBay fees (which are not cheap) and you sometimes end up trying to sell things that you might not really care about selling. But on the good side, you can get a lot of ideas about what to sell, you get more experience with what sells and what doesn't, you get a bit of money for inventory you didn't have to buy, and sometimes you present the consignor with a really large check, and that's always nice. Our profits from consignment sales accounted for about 11% of our net profits in 2009.

Third, the things we sell. I track the items well sell. I know which subjects sell the most, and which get the highest price (not the same). I know how much we spend per item, and how much well sell it for. Occasionally I'll track a group of items down to the penny, just to make sure of expenses vs income. That's pretty tedious though, so I don't do it often. I also keep a sheet of customer requests - if I come across a postcard or a picture that includes a collie, or an antique clock, or an interstate highway, I know who to contact.

Stats are boring, aren't they?