Is eBay over? (for collectibles)

ebaylogoBack in the early days of eBay, the site functioned as a clearing house for garage sellers and traders of collectibles.

These days, I feel as though small-time collectors and enthusiasts are actively being pushed off the site, in favour of ‘stores’. Because every new update to eBay’s fees seems to punish the little guys.

I first joined eBay over 14 years ago. I think the first item I ever bought was either a Pink Floyd poster, or some bit of Mike Oldfield memorabilia that I had to have. But I soon realized what an amazing marketplace it was – full of old things I never thought I’d see again. It was packed with both great stock, and a great atmosphere of bargain hunting. And for a fan of retro collectibles and toys, I simply didn’t have enough money for all the great things I was finding and that I wanted to buy.

Remember how eBay used to look? This was sometime in the late 1990s or early 2000s…

eBay in the early days


As the years have passed, eBay has inevitably grown – and changed. It’s become more focused on new retail goods sold by businesses, than small time operators selling second hand wares. Of course, it’s become more secure and convenient too. So it hasn’t all been bad. But the atmosphere has changed.

Fees for sellers have increased. And increased. The worst hit are those who only sell casually – eBay now charges 9.9% of your final sale value (up from 5.3% just three years ago) if you’re not a store seller. But to become a store seller of course there are large monthly fees – which is impractical unless you sell large volumes of stock.

Yesterday, eBay Australia announced that it’s 9.9% final value fee will soon be charged on the postage cost of an item, not just the item value itself. Clearly eBay is keen to claw back commission from sellers who sell cheap items with inflated shipping costs. So now everyone will inflate their selling price with the shipping cost, and mark shipping as “free” – which is a lie. But this is apparently what eBay wants everyone to do – ie. offer a simple, singular total price.

However, I don’t yet understand how this will work when the shipping destination is far away vs local. Is the sale price supposed to be inflated to cater for the highest possible shipping cost? And how is that fair for local buyers?

Anyway, as far as I’m concerned… I’ve bought and sold a lot on eBay over the years. Enough to become a “Top Rated Seller”, but never enough to become a store. And as eBay tightens the screws further and further on casual sellers, it seems to me the days of collectible buying and selling on eBay are numbered. Certainly the garage sale and flea market kind, anyway.

Why? Because most buyers and sellers of collectibles are just individuals doing it for fun. They’re just enthusiasts for a particular thing – such as vintage toys.

Of course, eBay is so ubiquitous and has such a monopoly on online classifieds in most western countries, that many people will feel forced to continue to use it – if they want their items to have sales visibility.

On the positive side (although not for eBay) – a lot of hobby communities out there have actually gone back to their roots (and back to the way things were before eBay existed) and created their own private trading communities. This has fragmented the trading market away from a central source, toward a myriad of specialized sites. But if you can find those communities, some of them are quite good and can save both buyers and sellers a lot of money.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m starting to think that most of my collectibles will be mentioned here on first, and eBay second (if at all).

So if you’re at all interested in the toys I write about, and might sell in the future, keep an eye here – I’ll try to provide all the info and pictures I would when listing on eBay. Perhaps I’ll enhance the site one day to better suit buying/selling, but for now it’s fair to assume that at least some of the 100,000 viewers that has had since it started, might enjoy buying vintage toys directly.

After all, no matter what site you buy from, you can probably pay with Paypal. Easy and safe online payment is something we didn’t have 14 years ago.

It seems to me that between eBay becoming more expensive and less friendly to small-time sellers, and the ease with which online payments can be made to anyone in the world these days, there’s less reason than ever for hobby collectors to use eBay.


  1. I agree with you. The thing I don’t like, regarding encouragement for sellers to list items with “free postage” is that it prevents buyers from making a saving when purchasing multiple items from a seller. As a buyer I always look at the total amount when comparing items, and as a seller I like to encourage my buyers to save when buying more than one of an item.

    Ebay seems to have turned into a retail outlet, with individual sellers no longer been seen as individuals, pictures with plain white backgrounds and no added text, and making the whole thing feel impersonal, and yes, less fun. This is affecting how buyers and sellers treat each other and making other sites seem more attractive to increasing numbers.

  2. II have always found Ebay a rather interesting animal. I have been a collector of vintage model and RC items long before it was fashionable to do so. Truthfully I found that Ebay was more of a hindrance than a benefit to the average collector. Since the main stream media started shining the spot lite on Ebay and told of vast fortunes that could be made via online retail. The greed factor came out and ultimately the decline of the average person being able to effectively find an item at a reasonable rate. I cannot tell you how many times I have found items only to have the person want to jack up the price because they did some simple research on Ebay. Perhaps in the early days of Ebay some deals or rare items could have been found but today I have to agree that they have migrated into a good looking retail version of Alibabba.

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