Red Rider

Buying 20th century furniture on Ebay


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As a retailer and restorer I have a love hate relationship with ebay. Finding an item that has been listed in a less than obvious way or poorly identified can get you excited only to find everyone else had the same luck stumbling across it.

The other issue is condition, one persons good condition can be another’s disaster -I purchased a teak bureau once that was supposedly in good condition only to pick it up and have it falling to pieces carrying it back to the car. Overall it’s probably about half the furniture you buy turns out to have some fault that you were not expecting most often through naivety rather than dishonesty.

Ask the seller to check things like dining chairs for loose joints, cracks, finish faults, tears, seating straps etc. otherwise factor the cost of these repairs into what you are prepared to pay.

My advise would be to check the photos really well and look at all items with a sceptical eye. Obviously if you are selling the way to go is research what you have and post masses of really clear photos. Honest descriptions help the buyer and seller as no one likes  confrontation after a sale. Over all Ebay is a great way to find a true immediate value of an item. I also find you can have items sell for really bizarrely low prices and then get incredible prices for similar items at other times.

In my experience sunday night can be a great time to end as people are home but also if you have an ordinary item it can get lost in a crowd. Great items obviously always get a better response from punters but my tips to grab attention are

Great first picture- if the item is dark or non descript get something in the picture that is bright but in the same style. A red retro lamp on a sideboard for instance or bright cushions on a dark couch.

Set up a scene -with background dressing and pics from all angles and from differing distances. Put in an effort it all helps and shows you value the item.

List at a cheap start price- this method has backfired for me but has also worked really well. You get people emotionally attached to an item and they are less likely to want to miss out.

Add similar item titles like Parker or Fler in the title so you reach people that might be tempted by your item -not just people looking for your specific item, just make sure you say style or era so as not to misrepresent what you have. For example a person who loves Featherston may like Meadmore and Snelling so you would list as “Featherston chair- Meadmore, Snelling, Eames era” Make sure you use all your characters to get the maximum exposure to different searches.

Overall ebay has educated people on 20th century but has seen different pieces boom and others fall away. Some hot items go better than retail at times but can’t always be a reliable outcome. Otherwise we dealers would close our shops and just sell online. Ebay keeps us working harder to uncover our treasures but also saves some great items ending up as landfill. So many people say I was cleaning out the garage and I was about to throw it out but jumped on ebay and found it’s value. It means there is less cheap stock out there and more of it needs work if it is cheap but it is a great tool too. Less dealers sell stuff below what they are worth now too because they have access to the same tool.