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Re: Should TolkienGuide track completed eBay auctions?

Subject: Re: Should TolkienGuide track completed eBay auctions?
by Urulöké on 2006/6/8 17:21:13

Hi Parmastahir,

I'll break my response into two parts - price guides in general, and then eBay in particular.

Price guides suffer from exactly the issues you bring up. They can only look backwards in time, so can be off quite a bit based on the ebb and flow of popularity and scarcity. But, they are strongest when they track actual sales rather than asking prices, as your mention - a completed transaction (on or off eBay) shows exactly what the market will bear at that one particular moment in time, and that may include quite a bit of hype or none at all. Auction house prices (Sotheby's and Christie's at the high end for example) are definitely used by rare book dealers to price their stock, as are other dealer catalogs and known past sales to a lesser extent. So even a flawed price guide can be useful both to a seller and a buyer to start their negotiations with, at least.

eBay items that are common are quite accurately priced (for successfully completed auctions) because everybody skips the higher priced items and successfully buys a lower priced copy without much effort. Items that are scarce tend to get close to their market value over time, with the occasional hyped sky-high result and the occasional steal. [Note - Unfortunately eBay is not always the right venue for rare items - how many people will drop $15,000 on a first edition set of LOTR based on a few pictures and only a few days to investigate the seller, etc. But those rare items do sell for that price, and regularly, just not usually on eBay.] I guess the point I am making is the most accurate estimate of "what the market will bear" is made when you average past results over time, and for items that don't show up often you typically only have one (or zero) data points to know where the market is.

The auctions I am imagining tracking fall in the scarce category (though I would certainly track rare items that complete sucessfully.) The sort of thing you typically can't do a completed auctions search or ABE search and find a comparible item. Pricing an item too high can prevent the negotiations from even starting, and too low can leave one party (the seller) regretting things. I like both parties to feel quite happy!