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Dealing with Ebay

Yes, I do buy off Ebay. And yes I do sometimes sell on Ebay.
Ebay offers a terrific variety. It has an easy search facility for members, where you can search amongst regular sellers or for the type of pewter you are interested in - if you can easily specify it. Ebay for me has been a source of considerable pleasure and of deep disappointment. A few experiences are shared here with you.

Mystery of the bid in the last few seconds

Common knowledge to many eBayers (but not to all) is how it can happen that there is a bid in the last few seconds when you as a bidder glued to your screen and keyboard simply cannot make a bid in time and so see something else slip away.

The answer for me is to use a bidding service. These simply make a bid for you in the last few seconds of the auction. You can leave your maximum figure with them and if your bid is one step higher than any other bid you buy it at that figure which might well be lower than the figure you had decided as your maximum. I only have experience of one such bidding service and this can be found at - there are others. Their site explains how it works and gives a free opportunity to try it out. For me I can leave a bid (or two) and go to bed and find out in the morning if I have bought anything or nothing.

The only small irritation for me is that if my bid was not in the running then I am not notified but have to find out for myself.

Recently (March/April 08)

A Pint Mug by Moyes of Edinburgh was photographed and a really good eye might have seen the dints and scratches - but mine missed them – and despite assurances in the details like –

“Buy with Confidence: I have sold over 700 Whitefriars pieces on ebay and have been given positive feedback for every single one. I always list any flaws or scratches accurately, and take large pictures for enhanced detail.”

Whitefriars turns out to be glass (not the sellers trading style as I thought) and glass that I have never heard of (my education seemingly lacking). And the flaws and scratches on this mug were not listed. An exchange of emails followed my clear disappointment –

Me;- Skillful to photograph it without at least showing the base dent and scratches never mind the one half way up and scratches - reading your ebay self advertisement you say you show all these. Well you didn't - why not?

The Seller on Ebay emailed back (in two replies) - HI IF YOU READ THE BUY WITH CONFIDENCE STATEMENT this actually refers to whitefriars glass items thats where the scratches and flaws comes into dont all tankards have some kinds of flaws dints scratches out of shape rims etc mine certainly do i have 4 in front of me know none of which you could ever describe has perfect. No skill involved just took pictures of 140 year old used tankard

My reply - “Yes, I was probably wrong to trust that the mug would actually look as well as it did in the photos. No, all mugs are not damaged.”

Now I had the option to try to return the piece and I also had the option to leave a complaining feedback which tells others of my experience - and anyone can check up on feedback to see just how you felt about it.

I wasn’t offered (nor did I ask for) the opportunity of a return.

Feedback which is negative - often ends up as a desultory squabble, useless for all.

Clearly this seller feels that all pewter is bent and this was no more bent than the rest he has had.

Recently (April 08)

I have received an EPBM (electro plated Britannia Metal) milk jug in delightful condition for only £4.40 including postage ( it has no real value at all but it is a very nice piece of its sort)

A BM water jug and a BM Egg cooker (yes, why do I bother? – answer .. I like them,) for very little money and exactly as the sellers described them.

A glass bottomed pint pewter mug was well and truly wrapped when I went quickly to collect it from not far away -(well yes that did ring alarm bells but I gave the seller the benefit of doubt as it was very cheap - £6).

Unwrapping it I find someone has replaced the glass bottom, cheaply and quickly, not too long ago and very crudely, rendering it worthless – not a complaint, as I know that I should have taken more care.

So yes there are very good pieces on Ebay - and a lot of useless ones, with sellers you would not want to be on a boat with, in difficult seas – to use an analogy.

‘’Good luck’’ …as they say…always a strange expression …it means - it’s yours if you will pay more than anyone else – and that apparently is luck!

The luck actually comes in if no-one else on the night wants what you want.

On April 3rd 2008

A flat lidded early tankard was ending its sale period on Ebay. This had a plain undecorated body it stood over 7" tall, there were denticulations to the front of the lid (the front denticulation was slightly cracked underneath). A mark of S.(?) as a makers mark to the center of the inside base, and simple ownership marks to the lid. It had a traditional rams horn style of thumb piece. To the left of the lid hinge and to the top rim were two cracks, one had previously had an old attempt at a simple repair. All in all it looked like a rare survivor of a flat lidded tankard from about say 1680 (?). From the dull looking overall patina you might wonder if it had been kept in a cupboard for a very long time. The owner described it fairly enough as –
A nice early Pewter Tankard. In excellent condition. No repairs. With S.# initials stamped on the inside base. 19cm tall.

The condition was good for something of this age; and so it was scarce if it was right. Buyers had to decide that from the fairly good photos for themselves.

This started on offer at 99p and during the seven days moved in jumps up to £775. Then within the final thirty seconds much higher bids came in (probably by bidders using bidding services – as you rarely are able to do it yourself in the last few seconds.) The bidding ended at £2310.00

One not dissimilar to this (but with a stepped lid, nicely presented, no cracks) in May 2007 at Christies cost the buyer well over £10,000. This one cleaned up a little on a fair day at auction might sell for anything over £4000, (opinions here vary but certainly no-one has suggested less than £3000) and it could go for a lot more – it is probably a very scarce piece.