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It all began this year with the resignation of Meg Whitman as CEO of EBay. She announced that she would retire at the end of March 2008. John Donahoe, who had been President of EBay Marketplaces, will replace her as CEO. However, that is not what started the boycott. Soon after her announcement to retire, EBay also announced that there would be a change to the fees that it charges in addition to some other policies.
Dumb Mikey has his old pickup truck loaded up to for the flea market and starts barreling along down the road. He comes to an overpass and the sign says, “Clearance 10’ 2.”” So Mikey, dutifully gets out of his truck and starts measuring. To his chagrin, he has stacked his junk to high and it measures 10”5”. What to do what to do thinks Mikey, then he looks around and says to himself . . . “Oh, what the heck, there aren’t any cops around, I’ll just take a chance.”
James Mintz, who heads a corporate investigations firm recently said, "No one theory can fit all examples of art theft, but I think it's often an I.Q. test for not-so-smart criminals, and a lot of them fail." Dumb thieves are always stealing art, knowing that art is probably one thing that is recognizable, identifiable and harder to sell on the open market. Maybe it’s because they are dumb or maybe it’s because they see movies like the Thomas Crown Affair or others where the character is suave, sophisticated and debonair, and they think they can be that guy. However, most art thieves usually get caught when they go to unload their loot yet according to Bloomberg.com, over $6 billion a year in art is stolen.
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Last year, two men carrying paintings worth more than $60 million were caught. According to reports, the alleged thieves stole the artwork by Picasso from a relative of the artist and had rolled it up into cardboard tubes. Another cache was recently recovered by Zurich, Switzerland police in parked car by a psychiatric hospital. The stolen art, paintings by Monet, Van Gogh and Cezanne was stolen from a Zurich Museum. The thieves have not yet been apprehended. However, these thieves who will get caught eventually had to know that these masterpieces are familiar to everyone and would be hard to sell on the open market.
EBay has rate changes just about every year, and as antiques and collectibles dealers, we have seen a dramatic increase over the years as their slice of the pie gets bigger when we sell something. In addition, we have also seen a glut in certain areas and therefore prices are depressed for certain items. This cuts even deeper into our slice of the pie. However, like most people who sell on EBay, this isn’t even the crux of our dissatisfaction with EBay.
EBay announced a policy that would dramatically change the way business is conducted by making changes to the ratings. The change means that buyers would be able to still rate a seller for items purchased on the auction site, but sellers would no longer be able to rate buyers. In other words, sellers would no longer be able to “out” non-pay bidders, rude and nasty customers or the chronic merchandise “returner.” Many of us feel this is unfair and a boycott of EBay was organized.
Many of us have purchased items from EBay in the past. However, with the ongoing dispute with EBay, its seller’s fees and its policy changes, we thought we would give you just a couple of alternative ideas for buying on the Internet.
www.shopgoodwill.com is a website run by Goodwill, the non-profit charity that helps people with disabilities by training them. Goodwill Industries, which has been around since 1902, was the first to launch a non-profit online auction site in 2006 and serves millions of people from around the world. Recently, six small paintings by Western New York artist Mildred C. Green sold for more than $2500 on shopgoodwill.com.
With the advent of EBay and other auction sites, it would not be long before someone finally figured out that a good place to get EBay items are the non-profit stores such as Goodwill and Salvation Army. Now, Goodwill trains their employees to look for things that may be worth more than usual and things that will attract people. The six small paintings generated about 5449 hits for the website and were finally purchased by a collector in Florida.
www.propertyroom.com is another site where bargains can be had. The website, which has been called, “The EBay for Cops” by some people, sells unclaimed stolen property from police agencies around the country. This site was founded by a retired police officer in 1999 and claims to have more than 600 law enforcement agencies as affiliates and partners. One of the good things about this site is that it has a sister site called at www.stealitback.com. At this site, people can enter the serial number of property that has been stolen from them, and if it can be verified and the items turn up for auction, it will be returned to its rightful owner.
What effect this will have on the giant of online auctions no one will ever know. However, many people that we have talked to have made decisions to either open their own online storefront, look at alternative online auction sites and in some cases, the combination of higher fees and changes some people have told us that they are leaving the business altogether. This is a shame, because some of these people have been with EBay for a long time.
Unless they are certified appraisers and or have many years of experience, many people in the antiques and collectibles business have problems identifying marks and symbols on different objects. People who collect antiques and collectibles often also have the same problem. Things would be a heck of a lot easier if there were an online website where one could look up a mark or a symbol and easily and efficiently identify the mark or symbol. Well look no further . . . help has arrived.
marks4antiques.com is a site dedicated to making identifying the marks and symbols of antiques and collectibles much easier for all of us involved in the market. One of the beauties of this product is that you no longer need to have 50 books on each type of antique and collectible to help you identify marks or determine the value of an object. Auctioneers, antique show people and EBayers alike are able access the online database from anywhere there is a connection to the Internet.
A recent story on the news told of how Marla Stickland of San Francisco bought a dirty and grimy cruet set from a garage sale in her neighborhood for about $10. What she didn’t know at the time was that the marking at the bottom of the cruet was that of Hulier. She started doing research on the Internet to try to identify the markings but was coming up empty until she stumbled upon marks4antiques.com. It turns out that the cruet is worth more than $850.
Although not all stories will end as happily as Ms. Stickland’s, sometimes we just never know what it is we purchased and whether the product has any real value.