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Tips on Using Online Vintage Auctions

You have to be careful when using online vintage auctions, because most such auctions rely on the honesty of the seller. Take eBay, for example.  While this is not strictly a vintage auction, items are sold using eBay that would fit the meaning of the term which shall be described shortly.  However, it is the seller that you have to trust as to the reliability of the description and not the auction house or website.

This can lead to problems, although most sellers and auction sites are honest and reliable.  Nevertheless, unless it is run by experienced auctioneers or auction houses, you are still relying on the knowledge of the seller to accurately describe the item. So what should you be looking for in an online vintage auction, and what does the term mean?

Tip #1:  Definition of Vintage

The term 'vintage' has no legal definition, and refers to a certain date or period in time. It has been borrowed from the term used by the wine industry, which relates to the year that the grapes were grown and harvested. In terms of vintage collectibles, the term similarly refers to a historical period.

Hence, a 1950s vintage poster would have been printed in the 1950s. A poster printed today showing Barrack Obama celebrating election would not be an antique, but in 10 years, when he is no longer president, it could be sold as of 'Barrack Obama' vintage. A table made in 1780 could be described as both an antique and of 'Thomas Sheraton vintage', even if it was made by one your ancestors. That is because it was made when Sheraton was an active cabinet maker, even if he had nothing to do with its construction.

So keep in mind that a vintage collectible only has to made 'in the era of' and not by any specific person. World War 1 vintage means 1914-1918, and not yet an antique. Keep all of that in mind and you will not feel cheated when you purchase a vintage item that is fairly modern.

Tip #2:  Get to the Auction Early

You can purchase collectibles from online vintage auctions or offline at antique fairs.  Make sure you get there early because if there are real bargains, the professional collectors and dealers will get to it before you do. Also make sure you know how much you are prepared to pay: if another person is as interested as you are, either of you could pay well above the realistic price just to acquire it.

Bidding wars generally result in two losers: the person who did not get it, and the one who did. The only winners are the seller and the auction house. This is true of both online vintage auctions and in offline auction houses.

Tip #3:  Use the Right Keywords

If you are looking for vintage items online, use the word in your search. Do not search using 'antique' if you want 'vintage'. As already explained, vintage items are not necessarily antiques.

Tip #4:  Be Aware of Sniping

If you are desperate to purchase a particular vintage poster, calendar or even vintage furniture, and spot the perfect item for you on sale on an online vintage action site such as eBay, be careful of sniping. You might bid double the highest current bid and still lose the item to sniping.

Sniping is carried out by software that automatically bids for you just in the last seconds of an auction.  It can bid 1 cent or the lowest possible bidding unit above your bid. Once you have been sniped you have no time to place another bid. Such software is available online and worth you purchasing if you often use online vintage auctions to purchase collectibles. I wonder what happens when two people are using sniping software against each other!

Tip #5:  Check the Costs

The final bid price you bid on online vintage auctions is not the price you pay:  you have to add shipping onto that. Mostly, shipping is fairly honest, but you do find sellers that start their products at a low price, or even offer it at a very low Buy Now fixed price, and then bump up the delivery cost.

There is no limit to delivery which includes postage and packing. In many cases, the delivery cost is much higher than the price of the item, and is where the seller makes most of their profit. So check the delivery cost first before making a single bid.  You can purchase an item for 99 cents and end up paying $50.99 - that is fact, so make sure you are not caught out.


Finally, make sure that you are purchasing what you set out to buy, and are not led astray by a 'great bargain' that is not a bargain when you add delivery. If you follow these tips on using online vintage auctions, you should avoid the pitfalls and problems that others come across by being careless in their bidding and also in what items they are bidding for. Buying collectibles on vintage auction websites is as much an art as it is a skill, and knowledge is the most important attribute you will need.