A New eBay Problem for Collectors

On August 31, 2009 eBay is making another troubling change to their auction process. They will be making user submitted pictures into stock eBay photographs that sellers can use. The official announcement and FAQ’s can be read here. Users can also opt out of the having their photos considered for use in the eBay product catalog by following these steps:

  • Click My eBay at the top of any eBay page. You may be asked to sign in.
  • Choose the Account tab at the top of the page
  • Click on Site Preferences in the left hand margin
  • Click on Selling Preferences
  • Click on the “Show” link to the right of Share your photos
  • Click on the “Edit” link next to “Consider photos I upload in the listing process for inclusion in the eBay product catalog and other product offerings.”
  • Click the checkbox that states “If you’d like to opt-out of this program, please do so by checking this box and clicking the “Submit” button below.”
  • Click the “Submit” button.

Conceptually this makes sense: current sellers no longer need to take pictures of every item, making it easier to list more items; plus, new or camera-less sellers can also sell items on eBay. This new model may work for some items, but collectors are assuredly furious. Probably the single greatest influence on a buyer’s bid is the picture. If collectors/buyers are unable to see the actual item, then they are less likely to bid higher amounts or, even more likely, not bid at all. Additionally, when buyers receive items different from the picture(s) there will be an unprecedented number of returns and negative feedbacks.

The truth is that sellers have often stolen other sellers’ pictures. Unfortunately now eBay seems interested in making the process as simple as a mouse click.

The University of M.U.S.C.L.E. featured an auction in Auction Watch #7 for the M.U.S.C.L.E. Mega-Match Game (the board game). The item was put up, August 7, 2009, for auction by woodridge22 for $16.00. The item did not sell.

Unsold Game - Re-Used Picture

Unsold Game - Re-Used Picture

On the surface it seemed like a missed opportunity for buyers to purchase a nice item. Perhaps buyers were already aware that woodridge22 had purchased this item for $41.00 on July 24, 2009 from rosew817. While woodridge22 posted two additional pictures, the main picture was from the original auction.

Original Auction – Original Picture

Original Auction – Original Picture

While there does not appear to be any nefarious activity, aside from reusing the picture, this may have kept bidders away. Had some of the figures been swapped out? Were some stickers removed? Did buyers just not trust the situation? Or was it a weird coincidence?

While there is not any proof, the oddity of the game selling uncharacteristically for $41.00 in the first auction and not selling in the second auction does raise the warning flag of a potential shill bidding situation with the first auction.

This means two things for M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors:

  1. As a buyer, ask for more pictures on any auction you plan to bid on (unless it is clear that you are looking at an original pictures from the seller).
    • It is no longer safe to assume you are buying the exact item in the picture.
  2. As a seller, watermark your pictures.
    • You may not care if someone else uses your picture, but you certainly want your perspective buyers to know they are looking at the actual item they are bidding on.

Ultimately, the safest thing to do is personally deal with members of the M.U.S.C.L.E. community. The easiest way is by becoming a member of the LittleRubberGuys.com message board.

Here you can buy/sell/trade M.U.S.C.L.E. items with other collectors without the hassles of eBay. Most importantly, it is a respectful group interested in helping each other and protecting each other from scams and dishonest sellers.

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