Most experienced sellers on eBay understand the importance of research. It is foolhardy to try and sell an item on eBay, if you do not know what the market will bear.
eBay is sometimes likened to a huge garage sale and in some ways that is an accurate description. With millions of items listed every day, it can have a hodge podge feel. There are over 26,000 categories on eBay which help to bring some organization to this awful number of items. When starting to sell its really important to research what items similar to yours have sold for in the past.
The only way to really understand what an item will go for is to search through eBay's Completed Items List. Information on completed items is only available to registered eBay users. In order to search on eBay you can just go to the site and enter a search term in the search field. Searching eBay's active listings is free and open to the public. But active listings really do not give you a lot of information regarding what an item will absolutely sell for.
Since a lot of the bidding happens during the final minutes or even seconds of the auction, looking at the lists before they end, does not tell you very much. You can see what the starting bid is that the seller wanted to get for the item is; and you can see whether sellers of items similar to yours usually start the bidding at a penny, a hundred dollars, or anything in between.
This information is only marginally helpful because if it's toward the end of the auction and it does not seem to be much interest in the item, the seller may have started the bidding too high or too low. You may wonder how can you start an item's bidding too low. Bidders are sometimes suspicious of prices this seem too low.
If you're selling of $ 10,000.00 diamond ring people will probably be leery if you start the bidding at a dollar. By the same token if you have an expensive item and you start the bidding too high you can scare off legitimate bidders. There seems to be a starting bid 'sweet spot' that you need to try and hit when setting the stating bid for your items.
That 'sweet spot' starting bid will be either too high nor too low. When you look at the Completed Items Listings, you get a lot of information about how bidding on an item preceded from the first few bids through the final closing bid.
I always say bidding starts with the seller, in that the seller is the one who sets the opening bid that either entices or scars off the potential bidders. Once the seller's initial bid is met, all of the activity centers around the bidders in the process.
In order to look at eBay's Completed Items you need to look under the Advanced tab under the Search field on the top right of any eBay page. I put in a general search term that describes the item I am researching. When the list of items comes back I determine from the list what words or descriptive keywords I could put in the my search field in order to get results closer to a match for what I'm selling.
Looking at the list of items that is returned from the search, I start by sorting the list of Completed Items returned by my search and then click on the Ending Price field so that the items sort in descending order, with the item that was sold for the highest price at the top of the list.
I am usually only interested in the first few items at the top of the list, since these are the items that had the highest ending bid. These are the auctions that I want to emulate. I am not interested in the items on the list that did not sell, or that sold for significantly less than the highest items.
In part II of this article I will take a more in-depth look at using the Completed Items Listing to price your items to sell.