The way we buy antiques has changed. In fact, due to the development of the internet, and Ebay in particular, the way we buy many things has changed. The web has provided us with a never ending supply of goods paid for online and delivered straight to our doors. At one time nearly everyone relied on word of mouth and, at best, telephone directories to find the suppliers and places to go for the goods we wanted. Hunting for antiques used to involve just that; hunting. So many false leads, early mornings, long drives, hard negotiations and the near misses that still make us wince. Now we can buy antiques and collectables like mass-produced goods and the most excitement we get is wondering if we will win an auction and if the item will ever arrive.
The format of auction websites with thousands of worthless items to search through and the constant removal of decent items seems to have jaded many buyers. However, sites such as Ebay and purchasing tools like Paypal have done a lot to make buyers feel more secure than when we first registered to buy on the net over ten years ago. To many people purchasing online has changed, yes there are still risks, but the convenience nearly always outweighs these negative factors.
Offline and online auctions were easily the best place for fresh items to appear, Ebay in particular has brought so many new items to market. At its height there was a saturation of good items appearing and swelling collections across the globe. However, people bidding for antiques and collectables in auction sites often seemed to have a strange mentality. If it looked as though a seller knew what they had got and had a rough idea of value, this could put potential buyers off. Items with 'Buy it Now' prices and unknown reserves getting little interest when compared to items started off at 99p. Ultimately sellers began starting every auction off with a ridiculously low starting price, to save listing costs and also give the impression that the item may sell for nothing to attract more interest. Unsurprisingly, many sellers had no interest in selling their items for nothing and arranged for mysterious buyers to protect them by putting bids in to prevent an unsatisfactory selling price (shill bidding). Due to the illegality of this practice Ebay and other sites had to crack down on such sellers. A combination of this, the saturation of the online market, Paypal chargebacks, shipping by sea taking too long for transaction time limits as well as the inability for sellers to leave negative feedback, has caused many knowledgeable collectors and dealers to feel left out in the cold.
Traditionally antiques fairs were the hub of the collecting world. However, the rising costs of fuel, online competition and poor organisation has led to the shrinking of this marketplace. The knock on effect of this is that buyers and suppliers make many pre-arranged deals, syphoning off the best items, leaving new visitors to shows with a reduced chance of picking up a bargain or adding something significant to their collection. Antique shops and carboot sales have met a similar fate here in the UK, with online competition and reduced passing trade making it harder every year. The online antiques shops and markets don't seem to have captured the buyers interest quite as much as auctions. The reasons for this are often because sellers have inflated prices, the stock does not change quickly enough and sites are too difficult to update with many items listed for sale being sold weeks before.
Over the past three years members of the original AdvertisingAntiques.co.uk website have been developing this new version of the website www.oldshopstuff.com as a free alternative to online auction sites. By combining the benefits of these sites such as secure online payments, multiple sellers, search functions and a simple uploading options, we hope to offer buyers and sellers alike an improved system without many of the problems inherent in auction style alternatives. Sellers are asked to put a price on all items for sale with a 'Buy it Now' option being the only method of buying, effectively removing the issues of shill bidding, items being removed early from the site and reintroducing the element of chance back into the marketplace. Creating a level playing field for buyers and sellers is of utmost importance, and so is allowing the freedom of communication between these two groups. Unlike other online marketplaces, the OldShopStuff.com website actively encourages communication between parties and makes it easier for deals to be struck and contacts to be recorded for future business.
Due to the fact that there is no time limit on items for sale, users of OldShopStuff.com can take advantage of the power of search engines such as google, as well as the many shopping specific alternatives. If you search for an item such as 'Colman's Starch Enamel Sign' for example, many of the results will be for Ebay items that were sold weeks if not months ago. Our new website has been designed specifically to send every item listed high up the search engine ratings, giving sellers greater exposure of their merchandise whilst giving them an opportunity to buy more items like the ones advertised. For sellers, the idea is that for each item listed there is an opportunity to buy similar stock from the general public who are actively using search engines to find a buyer for the things they have found. Even if sales are slow, the opportunity to buy more items to sell elsewhere is a powerful tool. Once items are sold, they disappear from the live listings, but sellers will at some point in the future have the opportunity to choose to send these items to an online archive of advertising items together with an advert asking to buy similar objects.
Advantages of having a prolific online presence can be of great benefit to collectors as well. Each user of this new site can have their own profile page with feedback forms for potential sellers to contact them whilst still protecting their identity. We will soon be introducing collectors online galleries that will give potential sellers a good idea of the things they purchase, allowing them in turn a greater opportunity to find new additions to the collection, completing sets as well as getting in touch with fellow collectors. This 'Facebook' element of the site is intended to build an international community of collectors, sharing images, information as well as ultimately improving each other's collections. We are very close to this happening now we are in November 2011.