Selling on eBay: The Inside Story

- by Bruce E. McKinney

Dillinger

Philadelphia Inquirer July 23, 1934John Dillinger shot dead by FBI agents in Chicago


By Bruce McKinney

Recently we interviewed two AE members who have been selling on eBay for the past five years: Steve Goldman of Stephen A. Goldman Historical Newspapers (SAGHN) and Frank Wood of DeWolfe and Wood. They both were willing to tell us something about their experiences and to give their perspective on this selling tool.

Dr. Stephen Goldman, a periodontist by training, began collecting historical newspapers more than thirty years ago. An allergy to latex led him in the mid-1990s to spend less time in his professional offices and more time with his then hobby which in 1996 he converted to a fledgling business, Stephen A. Goldman Historical Newspapers. After two years of selling by catalogue he began to sell historical newspapers on eBay.

Frank Wood has been selling used and rare books since the 1970s and in 1992 went into partnership with Scott DeWolfe, himself a dealer since the 1980s. Together they established DeWolfe & Wood. D&W has been selling on eBay since the late 1990s.

The need and desire for a larger market are common to both firms. DeWolfe & Wood is located in Alfred, Maine, a lovely place to visit but a long drive for 98% of the American population. Steve Goldman’s business is more centrally located – in the triangle between Philadelphia, Washington and Baltimore but just as dependent on the national and international markets. Both have found, in eBay, a way to reach the larger market.

This isn’t to say that both or either, for that matter, entirely rely on eBay for sales. Neither does. But what eBay provides is a way to sell certain types or material effectively. DeWolfe & Wood also sell via their own on-line site, in their store, through listing sites such as Abebooks, by catalogue and at shows. For them eBay is one of the arrows in their quiver. When they are assessing material they decide what will be the better selling alternative to use for a particular piece or a particular kind of piece. Once decided they send the item or items to that particular market. They have the inventory to back up this strategy: 100,000 items they have sorted and another 100,000 items that await their chance in the future.

At SAGHN the principal source of material is the more than thirty years accumulation of newspapers, news magazines, and other early news formats that Dr. Goldman has acquired. He and his business partner, Mr. Eric C. Caren (The Caren Archive), maintain an online site – www.historicalnews.com. SAGHN is in the business of selling old, rare and valuable newspapers on eBay in such volume that the firm enjoys “power seller” status, an honor that can only be earned, and, in this case, is based on more than $20,000 of sales monthly on eBay. Dr. Goldman and Mr. Caren also sell on their own web site and through individual requests for specific items. Dr. Goldman makes a distinction between popular and highly collectible material and tends to sell some of the more complicated items directly to sophisticated collectors and institutions or through catalog auction sales.. DeWolfe and Wood, incidentally, are also eBay power-sellers.