Dodgy descriptions

Ever bought something and found that it wasn’t quite what you expected? I’ve mentioned this in passing before, but will explore it in more detail here. The topic is the way goods are described for sale at auction and I include professional auction houses as well as the popular internet sites in the topic.

There are people who set out to deceive deliberately, but these are in a minority. They are there and buyers should, as always, be cautious, but there are others who just don’t know what it is that they are selling and, whilst they do their best, fail. This is mostly an issue with sellers on sites like eBay, but it is wider spread and auctioneers are not immune.

This is an area where those who have some knowledge can profit through spotting the gems. I have just bought a limited edition slot car on eBay for less than two thirds of its average selling price. I was not outbid because the seller, whilst they had entered it into the correct category, had described it as a die cast model. I can only assume that this put potential buyers off because an identical model, correctly described, is racing away in price on the same site. Private sellers are often not very sure about what they are selling and they also do not want to spend too much time on their listing so it is worth trawling through a variety of search criteria when you are looking to see what it might turn up.

In the case of professional auction rooms specialist sales are usually pretty accurate and the auctioneer will have a good idea of what an items value is. Here the bargains sometimes come from job lots in general sales where a real gem might be lurking amongst a bundle of items. You might have to take a lot of dross with your prize, but that is your choice. Even the pros make mistakes though, especially in niche markets, and the lack of a key word in the catalogue description can thwart those searching on-line. Hours spent trawling through catalogues lot by lot can reveal a nugget if you ave the time and patience.

There are things that I have missed myself. I once. bought a box of motorsport photos, mostly 1970s, but with a few from pre-WW2, at auction. it cost me £12 on the hammer, so less than £15 after fees. I began listing and selling the photos on-line and quickly made my money back. Others sold at fairs and shows and then I was down to the odds and ends from the box having realised a decent profit. One of the photos was an official Indy 500 photo from the mid 1930s and it ran away on-line selling for just over $500. I still have no idea why it was so desirable, nor, obviously, did the auction house that I bought it from.

ll too often models are seen as toys, and whilst there are specialist auction houses in that field, a lot of auctions, professional and other, will see a box of models as just another toy collection. Those of us who are chasing some elusive addition to our collection will spot the rough diamond amongst the pebbles and can pounce. I’ve it a try.


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