BY DON FLUCKINGER • I give a shout out to Mike O’Bryan (a.k.a. Mike O on Pentrace), who’s kicking around in Troy, Michigan, sort of near my old stomping grounds of northwestern Ohio. Hope the walleye season was good to you this year, brother.
Anyway, Mike emailed me an interesting fish story about landing a great “junk” pen — I put that in quotes because he, like me, can enjoy a well-made pen of what collectors perceive as a lesser-quality brand — on eBay, a new-old-stock Venus President with a 14K nib. As I would have, he ripped off the sticker and put that baby to good use.
Another emailer, John Sanabria, suggested that I write another piece about eBay.
|For many years, I resisted sniping software on Golden Rule grounds. But heck, now that I’ve found Auctionstealer.com, I say let’s all do this unto others, because they are perfectly capable of doing it unto us, too — and they will.|
To the both of you I dedicate this month’s Extra Fine, which will concentrate on ways to find the bargains — and with any luck, give you a chance to be the “some guy” who crows about nailing bargains on the world’s biggest online junk shop.
If you talk to the people who run eBay, they’ll concede that bidders most frequently use the site’s search function to find auction lots — instead of browsing. With that in mind, the bulk of this column will be dedicated to finding the nooks and crannies a lot of bidders miss because of it — but first a word on sniping, or bidding at the last possible second as the auction timer counts down (usually with the aid of software):
For years, snipers have ticked me off. I refused to do it myself, invoking the Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”). But after realizing that sniping is the modus operandi for almost every auction lot I care about, I gave in and tried an excellent online tool, auctionstealer.com. And yeah, I can rationalize it with the Good Book — I invite all bidders to do unto me by bidding the Auctionstealer.com way.
Basically, the site offers visitors three free snipes a week. I won’t get into the ethics of setting up multiple registrations with different email addresses in order to get more than three freebies — but let’s just say that if you’re using the service that frequently, you probably should fork over a few bucks because you need finer control over your bidding habits … — which the paid registration affords.
Also, please note, if you’re out for blood when bidding, people who kick Auctionstealer a few bucks get to snipe a few seconds later in the auction, which is enough to beat us free users. I don’t need that extra edge — yet — because I really just use the sniping tool as time-saving financial therapy — i.e., if I don’t waste hours watching the auction timer count down, I am not tempted to up my bid.
(All you people ready to hurl insults from the peanut gallery about me being a compulsive freak: Put a lid on it, I’ve heard them all before.)
Moving along, let’s take advantage of sellers’ bad typing habits and complete ignorance of the fountain pen world. I’m going to list some common misspellings that force an auction to fall under the radar of people who search eBay for their favorites:
Fountian pen. Duh. The #1 way to hide your treasure from hordes of bidders willing to toss money at you, and you’ll see them, without fail.
Sheaffer variations. Why can’t people read the word “Sheaffer” right off the barrel? Whatever the reason, search on Shaffer, Schafer, Schaffer, Schaefer, Schaeffer, Shafer, and any close variations, and you’ll get the occasional hits.
Pencil. When there’s a misspelled brand name or the seller is unsure of the brand, and there’s also a pencil involved, the seller will sometimes neglect to put the word “pen” in the title.
Vacuumatic. I see this, and I want to just slap the seller. Also, try Vac, Vacuum, Vaccumatic, etc.
More misspellings. Think about your favorite pen model and the obvious variations, or misspellings you’ve seen: Schaeffer. Snorkle. Torga. Admeral. PMF. Cresent Filler. Fountian Pen. People are stupid, I tell ya — these might seem like absurd examples … — until you see listings with these terms.
Water Man. As opposed to Adam Sandler’s cinematic peak, I guess.
Parcker. Yes, it happens.
Patent dates. If your favorite pen has a patent date stamped on it, sometimes sellers list it in the auction title. This is useful for you when they don’t know what brand they have, and your bidding competition hasn’t sussed out the lot you’re looking at.
Other Brands. This isn’t a search tip, but if you’re compulsive like me, you’ll occasionally browse the “other brands” section of eBay’s fountain pen area, because heck, some sellers don’t know an Oversize Vac when they see one, know what I mean?
Quill. Don’t know why some eBay dimwits insist on calling our beloved self-filling fountain pens “quill” pens, but I see them every week. Not everyone else does, because they sometimes go for cheap. As an aside, I’d love to see from what kind of bird you could pluck a 14K Vacumatic “quill” — the golden goose?
|Schaeffer Snorkle Admeral Fountian Pen|
|Water Man Black Plastic Fountian Pen|
|Parcker Vacuumatic Ink Pen|
A couple other miscellaneous caveats: First, don’t forget that if someone is dumb enough to misspell a search term, they’re probably dumb enough to sell a junk/parts pen without knowing it, so you get what you pay for. Ask questions up front if you get a whiff of problems.
Moreover, the smartest readers will save all the above misspellings, do one big search, and either put them in an eBay Saved Search or bookmark the results page. Check that baby every few days. It’s not like you’ll bid on everything you see, but man, if you get five or six pens a year off this technique, you’ll have enough “sumgai” stories to get all of Pentrace seething with envy and flaming you on the message board.
Further Reading: eBay the Smart Way, by Joseph T. Sinclair
Practice safe eBaying habits, or the next “catch” from the bay might be worse than a pig in a poke. To that end, it might be wise to check out a copy of this tome.
|Freelance writer Don Fluckinger lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, and is the son-in-law of Richard Binder. His articles have been published in Antiques Roadshow Insider, The Boston Globe, and on the Biddersedge.com collectibles Web site. Please note: Any opinions stated in this column are Don’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Richard Binder or this Web site.|