Buying Collectibles at Online Vintage Auctions

Written By Arman Zulhajar on Thursday, June 7, 2012 | 6:29 AM

Online vintage auctions are excellent sources for buying collectibles, and auctions such as eBay can offer you some marvelous pieces at very low prices. There are ways to use online vintage auctions to your advantage such as sniping software and looking for valuable pieces that are obviously going to sell for a lot less that their real value, but you have to know about them to use them.

Definition of Vintage

First, a definition of the word 'vintage'. Many people confuse vintage with antique, but the two are not the same - nowhere near it in fact. If I tell you that the word is borrowed from the wine industry then that should give a clearer idea of its meaning. Just as a vintage wine is one made from grapes grown in certain years, or periods within a year, a vintage collectible has been made during a certain period, and that might not be old enough for it to be declared an antique.

For example, an art deco piece of 1950s vintage is only around 60 years old, while one of 'the Beatles' vintage would have been made in the 1960s. A true antique would be of Victorian vintage or even Edwardian, since it would then be at least 100 years old. Generally, an antique must be at least 100 years old, although some use the term more loosely than that. Nevertheless, try to sell some antique furniture that is younger than late Edwardian and you might find yourself in trouble.

If Unsure, Ask

Buying collectibles at a vintage auction involves checking the piece and making sure that it belongs to a specific era. If you are unsure of the era of a 'vintage poster' then ask the vendor. If you are using an online auction site there will be a link to the vendor's email address where you can ask the question: 'what vintage is your Sophia Loren poster?'

The vintage makes a difference with collectibles just as it does with wines, and a Marilyn Monroe poster of late 50s vintage will be more valuable than a Brook Shields poster of any vintage! Even an antique can be of a specific vintage, and that is something to be wary of when buying antiques online.

Vintage auctions offering antiques can word their furniture 'of Thomas Sheraton vintage'. That is not to say that it is a Sheraton piece, only that Sheraton was alive when the seller's great, great, great, grandfather who made it in his shed 1790 was alive. Yes, an antique, because it is over 100 years old, and yes, of Sheraton vintage, but worth anything? Likely only sentimental value which does not mean dollars!

So sometimes the term can give you valuable information, although it can also be confusing. Nevertheless, online auctions tend to demand accuracy in a description, and so you can be as sure as possible that the seller is not trying to mislead you on eBay, Cowan Alexander, Amazon, Copart, or any other online auction site.

Payment Protection

Each vintage auction site has its own way of doing things, but one factor is true of all of them: you will generally not be cheated with respect to definitions of 'vintage', but if you are then they should have protection for you. Look for it and if there is none ask the question by email, but never purchase using online vintage auctions if you have no protection other than your own credit card.

You are protected with eBay through PayPal, and Amazon has its own protection for you. Both are excellent at offering you refunds if the product is not as described. Generally, however, you will find that the description of the collectible or piece of furniture on offer is sufficient to enable you to make up your own mind on its provenance, and if you are not sure, as stated earlier, email the seller and retain their response in case you need it later.

Final Advice

Make sure that you never bid above your predetermined price, because while auctions can result in you getting real bargains, they can also result in the opposite if a number of people want the same item and inflate the price. Also, if you are buying collectibles at online vintage auctions, make sure you check the delivery or postage cost.

There is no limit to what the seller can charge you for 'postage and packing' and that can come to more than the price of the item itself. I recently saw a canteen of cutlery in a wooden box selling on an online auction site for $1.99. A fabulous deal, but, as always, I checked the postage price: $65.

$66.99 was still a bargain for the cutlery, but not the $1.99 that many would expect to be paying - so keep clever and keep your eyes open - that way you will make the best use of online vintage auctions and get real bargains at low prices.

Further details on buying collectibles at Online Vintage Auctions and steps to take make sure that you do not overspend are available on All Vintage Auctions that provides you not only with some great items to purchase, but also tips on avoiding pitfalls.

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