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

  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Edward Hopper & His Contemporaries:<br>Making a Modern American Art<br>June 30, 2022
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>The Railroad,</i> etching, 1922. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Sheet of Studies with Men in Hats and a Saloon Keeper,</i> pen, ink & pencil, circa 1900-05. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Night Shadows,</i> etching, 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Edward Hopper & His Contemporaries:<br>Making a Modern American Art<br>June 30, 2022
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> John Marin, <i>Woolworth Building, No. 2,</i> etching & drypoint, 1913. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Charles Demuth, <i>Tulips,</i> watercolor & pencil, 1924. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Under Control,</i> gouache, ink & wash, circa 1907-10. $30,000 to $50,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> JESSE JAMES. Autograph Letter Signed on the attack at his home which maimed his mother and killed his nephew Archie, 6 pp, March 23, 1875. THE MOST IMPORTANT JESSE JAMES LETTER EXTANT. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> THE LETTER THAT ARRIVED TOO LATE: An important letter from Robert E. Lee to Ulysses S. Grant across the battlefield at Cold Harbor, June 6, 1864. $120,000 to $180,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> DAVY CROCKETT. Autograph Letter Signed on his political philosophy and his dispute with Andrew Jackson, "at home Weakley County," August 18, 1831. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> GEORGE WASHINGTON. Letter Signed to Colonel Richard Gridley, the first engineer of the American Army, Morris Town, January 9, 1777. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> SCOTT FITZGERALD. <i>Tender is the Night.</i> FIRST EDITION, INSCRIBED to H.A. Swanseid. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS. <i>Tarzan of the Apes.</i> FIRST EDITION. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> J.R.R. TOLKIEN. <i>The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.</i> FIRST EDITION. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> NATHANAEL WEST. <i>The Day of the Locust.</i> PRESENTATION COPY, inscribed to director Richard Wallace in the year of publication. $6,000 to $8,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> FRANCIS PICABIA. Archive of 17 Autograph Letters signed to Jennie Thiersch on art and life, 1948-1951. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> JOHN HANCOCK. Autograph Letter Signed to his wife Dolly from the Continental Congress, 4 pp, Philadelphia, March 10-11, 1777. $8,000 to $12,000

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