Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2006 Issue

Creating an Ignore List of eBay Sellers


Meaningless words make matches but waste time and lose friends.

By Bruce McKinney

Over the past year I've seen a proliferation of bogus descriptions in the eBay listings. Anyone who searches eBay for books and ephemera sees them. Some are very overblown and tend to include something close to an encyclopedia of names, terms and phrases at the end of the real description. All this crap is included simply to create matches with the random terms that people use when searching. Those searching choose terms because they are meaningful. Wily sellers subvert the searcher's logic by cramming every conceivable term in at the end of the description and interested browsers then trip over these false matches. No one expects to find appropriate material every time. However, in time patterns emerge. Frequently it is the same seller who again and again dumps the contents of the unabridged dictionary onto the final listing pages.

To these folks I say "this is your right." Then again, I too have rights and I want to sweep all reference to such sellers off my pages. I'd like an option to block sellers whose material I won't consider if for no other reason than that the terms I'm searching are rarely material to the items such sellers offer. Just as at the top of the market there may be bidders who bid only at Sotheby's or Christies but not both, eBay bidders should have the right to exclude sellers who wear out their proverbial welcome. I say let the next generation of neophytes learn first hand of some of the problems of internet presentation. For me, I've learned and now I only seek protection.

I'm a regular eBay buyer and find the service useful. There is a constant flow of interesting material and once in a while a gem. Prices are generally low. If you are a buyer this is appealing. If you are a seller you want to leave no stone unturned to attract bidders. It's absolutely understandable. HOWEVER, where do you draw the line between complete description and abusive inclusion of extraneous material to attract additional bidders? As a potential bidder I should have some control over what I see. I want an option to exclude some sellers.

Listing sites such as Abe, Alibris, ILAB-ABAA and Choosebooks all developed as paid services for sellers and free services for buyers. eBay followed a similar path although their process is different. Selling on eBay is like taking a canoe over the Niagara Falls, listing on the listings sites like paddling across Lake Erie.

In eBay's case the seller pays both listing and, if the lots sell, success fees. The financial relationship is between eBay and seller. eBay provides separate services to buyers including PayPal accounts, insurance and dispute mediation. eBay in fact seems to be continually developing tools to further convert the "wild west" of the internet into an orderly Main Street.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Abraham Lincoln, <i>Emancipation Proclamation by the President of the United States,</i> pamphlet, 1862. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the distinguished Ruby-Jackson family, Portland, Maine, 1853-1961. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens & the persons who served him, 1866-1907. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Autograph book with inscriptions by orators Moses Roper & Peter Williams, 1821-54. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Archive of letters, postcards, and greeting cards sent by Romare Bearden, 1949-87. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br>E. Simms Campbell, <i>A Night-Club Map of Harlem,</i> in inaugural issue of Manhattan, 1933. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Papers of the comedian Nipsey Russell, including a letter from MLK, 1929-2000. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Early German-American anti-slavery broadside, <i>Sclaven-Handel,</i> Philadelphia, 1794. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Edmonia Lewis, prominent sculptor, carte-de-visite by Henry Rocher, c. 1866-71. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br><i>The Black Panther: Black Community News Service,</i> 44 issues, San Francisco, 1967-1971. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Withers, <i>I Am A Man, Sanitation Workers Strike,</i> silver print, 1968. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> <i>March For Freedom Now!,</i> poster for the 1960 Republican Convention. $4,000 to $6,000.

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