Tuesday, November 28, 2006


eBay has had a major impact on the global junk market. People are crawling through their attics and basements looking for those hard-to-find treasures they can fob off on other unsuspecting ... er, appreciative buyers. Parents shopping for their kids buy an extra toy for themselves, kept pristine in all the original packaging, for the purpose of extorting money from a collector at some future date.

I expected eBay would have one of three effects on the market for "yard sale" quality goods: prices might stay the same, or they might go up, or they might go down. (I'm such a shrewd analyst.) Specifically, I figured prices on most items would go way up, when eBay shoppers first discover obscure, long sought items. After the spike, however, I expected prices to go down, as everyone started dredging up old junk, and the once rare Elvis ashtray or Gangsta Barbie suddenly appeared in profusion across a wide range of inappropriate categories.

From the few categories of items I actually check out, however, it appears that prices have stayed about the same. I think this means the number of buyers has grown faster than the number of sellers, so even though more people are cleaning out their garages, there are yet more and more buyers to bid up the prices on this stuff.

It also means that buyers don't have a clue what things are worth. I know, I know. Things are worth what people are willing to pay for them. Putting the word "rare" in an auction title automatically raises the price by 15%. Putting in big pictures makes the item more valuable than smaller pictures.

With all the social networking sites out there, like MySpace and LinkedIn and whatever, I'm surprised eBay hasn't tried to take advantage of this. After all, you can form instant connections with other people around the world who are into Elvis ashtrays and Gangsta Barbies.

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