Selling pens on eBay

Selling on eBay is easy enough; to do it well, however, takes more effort. Listing items is an art. It is important to use the essential keywords that bidders will be using to search titles and descriptions. Keep in mind that new pen listings outnumber vintage by quite a large margin, so you may want to make it clear in your title whether your item is vintage or modern so collectors don't inadvertently pass your lot by. Using terms like "vintage" or "old" is OK, but unless you really know pens, avoid using oft-misused terms such as "rare", "unusual", or "early". Likewise, avoid calling a pen "gold" unless it is clearly marked as solid gold, and don't put "14K" in the title just because the pen has a gold nib (pretty much all decent pens had gold nibs, so you are just wasting title characters that could be used for a more useful search word).

When it comes to your description, don't scrimp. Give all the relevant info, especially length, markings, and condition. Note all damage and any areas where the plating has worn through, and be sure to examine the nib carefully for hairline cracks and missing tipping material (the silvery tips should be present at the end of both tines). While some bidders may write to ask questions about items with blurry pictures and skimpy descriptions, most will simply move on and bid elsewhere - or if they do bid, they will bid low, reflecting their uncertainty about the condition and even identity of the items offered. Pen bidders have a lot of material to wade through, so unless your item is very special, most won't bother to take the time for extended correspondence. In many cases, too, the item is not spotted until the last moment, leaving no time for questions.

Aggressive buyers have increasingly tried to persuade sellers to stop auctions and to sell outright. Don't be sucked in - the real action among vintage pen buyers online is always at the very end, and what may seem to be a high offer at the beginning usually turns out to be ridiculously low compared to what others will bid later. If in doubt, check with us. We do not like seeing auctions closed early and sellers shortchanged.

When putting up pictures, try to keep them small enough so they download reasonably quickly. Use basic image editing software to crop out unnecessary background space and to adjust the size of the image.

More important than having an expensive camera is having one which is good for close-up work. Unfortunately, many camera reviews don't pay much attention to macro (close-up) ability, so you will have to do some extra research before buying. Note that where you store your images can make a big difference in how fast your images load. If you spend a lot of time watching eBay, you'll soon see which services serve up images slowly.

Packing and shipping takes up a lot of time for regular eBay sellers. Most now seem to have learned not to send small fragile items such as pens in padded envelopes, but there is an alternative to using the rather easily-crushed USPS Priority Mail boxes. Much sturdier fold-up boxes can be bought in quantity at under $.50 each; supplying your own boxes also means you can ship by First Class within the USA, which saves around $2 over Priority when sending a lightweight parcel.