Online auctions are a great place to pull some extra cash out of the gear you don't use anymore. While there are a number of online auction sites to choose from, eBay is the leader in terms of potential bidders and the number of items listed. Here are a few tips to help you get the most from your auction. Although the focus is on eBay, much of the information can be used with any online auction.
Do your research
Before selling anything, do a search for the item at the auction site. What are people listing the item for initially? What does the bidding trend look like? Also, check out what the item has been selling for in the past few weeks by clicking on the box marked Completed Items Only, which is located on the Advanced Search page. This will give you a realistic price range to expect, depending on the item's rarity, desirability, condition, and so forth.
Include alternate spellings
An auction's search engine is your friend, so make sure your item shows up there. First, spell the name of your item correctly in the Title field. If the name of your item can be misspelled easily, include potential misspellings in the Title field as well as in the description. For example, if you're selling a theremin, you may want to include theramin, theramen, and teremin somewhere in your text. If the product name has a hyphen, include a version without the hyphen, as well as versions with and without a space (for example, GR-20, GR20, GR 20).
A good-quality photo of your item is essential if you want to get the most out of your auction (see Fig. A). Potential buyers want to see what they are bidding on, and because eBay lets you place one graphic for free, do it. If your item has many parts or is rare and desirable, additional photos will help give bidders a better chance to see what they will be getting. And the extra eye candy makes good bait for bidders who are on the fence. Of course, you will be charged for the additional photos, so you will have to decide whether it's worth the extra fees.
To ship or not to ship
Get an estimate of the shipping costs of the item (including packaging and insurance for what you think it is worth) before you list it. Avoid the urge to guesstimate. Even if you don't intend to list the shipping cost, it is good to know the amount ahead of time, in case a potential buyer inquires before placing a bid. If your item is big, heavy, or fragile, and you don't want to deal with the chore of packing it for a trip across the country, specify that it's for local pick up only. If you live in a large metropolitan area, chances are good that your pool of potential buyers is large enough that you'll still get a decent price for your item. If you're selling something rare and valuable, buyers may consider driving from other parts of the country to collect their prize.
Know thy bidder
Or rather, know as much as you can about their behavior in an auction situation. Check out your bidder's feedback ratings by clicking on the number next to their name. Many sellers are wary of bidders who lack any feedback, but since we've all been in that position, it's not a good idea to dismiss them completely. However, if you're selling a big ticket item and your main bidder is a newbie, consider sending the person a note to see if he or she has any questions for you. The reply may tell you what it will be like to do business with the bidder.