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Registered: 10-2006
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Writing an eBay Ad 101, Part One...

Writing An eBay Ad 101

Many people have paid me nice compliments about my eBay ads. They've been kind enough to say they found them both entertaining and educational. In fact, some people find them so nicely done that they lift them right off the eBay page and use them for their own sales! Having a degree in Journalism the word "plagiarism" is the word that makes me cringe more than any other.

But, others seem to be trying to emulate the style of my ads and there's nothing wrong with that. Since I believe there is enough magic market for everyone out there, I'm going to try to give a basic course in writing an ad for eBay. Trust me, if you use these techniques you will build a good reputation. But, keep in mind that the reputation won't come overnight. Most people are not aware that I've been selling magic on eBay for nearly NINE years and am probably one of the very first to put magic on that venue, but certainly the first to put high end, collectible magic there. When I first tried eBay, there was nothing but regular retail magic being sold as an "auction," a practice which seems to have extended to other magic "auction" sites today through the use of inflated reserves. So, here are some basic rules and methods to write a good ad. This entire "lesson," will take more than one post, so I'll start with the absolute basic ingredient.

And, that ingredient is, KNOW YOUR ITEM. If you don't start here, no ad will be of any value. Know what you selling. There are four things to know about the item. They are, the manufacturer, what the item does, the condition and the honest value/rarity of the item. Having complete knowledge of those four characteristics of your item gives you a solid foundation on which to build a good ad that will both sell your item and be honest and accurate. You want to describe your item favorably to make it appealing to the bidders, but you also want to be completely honest and accurate to avoid potential problems. Let's take them one by one.

First, the manufacturer or who made it. That can often be the most difficult to establish. It it's a stamped item, like a P&L, in MOST cases that is evidence enough. However, don't rely on that. For example, when Don Esposito bought P&L he decided to print the P&L logo on ALL his instruction sheets no matter what the item was. So, you often see P&L tricks on eBay that you never knew they even made and it is often because they did not. For example, a clever item put out years ago under the title, "Osmosis," was created by a guy in Florida. I think his name was Chris Moore, but I could be wrong. Anyway, it involved a leather zippered tobacco pouch with a piece of card affixed to a piece of elastic. It was used to have a signed card appear in the pouch, similar to Kennedy's Mystery Box and other tricks of that type. It was, obviously, never made by P&L. Yet, get one and it will probably have the P&L logo on the instructions and read, "P&L Osmosis." So, uninformed sellers post them on eBay as a P&L prop. It is and never was.

If it's not stamped or immediately recognizable, then you have to do your research. So, what do you do if you can't definitely establish a builder?

If you don't know who made it, simply say so! Tell the truth! Don't speculate in an attempt to enhance your ad, simply say you don't know who made it. An example of false enhancing? "I'm not sure but several people have told me Okito made this beautiful deck of Bicycle Cards and the case does have an Oriental decal on it, so I'm pretty sure it's Theo's work." Get the idea? Same description properly written, "I have no idea who made this deck of Bicycle cards, however the quality is really first class and there is even a touch of elegance to the decor with the application of an Oriental decal on the case. Even though I'm sure he did not make this, the decal is exquisitely applied in the manner of Okito."

The first one flat out speculates and strongly implies the item was made by Okito. The second ad honestly states the seller doesn't know who made it, but still points out the quality of the workmanship, as well as pointing out a similarity to Okito's work.

The first ad also points out another common mistake to avoid. NEVER use unspecified references to affirm a claim. Who are "several people" and how are they qualified to know if the item was made by Okito? Which brings me to another point. Magic has a plethora of so-called experts in apparatus, 99% of whom take very little time to really research, and in many cases even look at what they sell. That practice is really evident in those who sell on eBay and magic auction sites. Never take the word of any so-called expert, including me, as to the manufacturer of an item. Use their confirmation as a guideline to point your research in the right direction, but never use them as published evidence unless you are absolutely sure they are correct.

Having been on eBay for so many years, I've seen pretty much everything. A few years ago a really well-known "expert," posted a set of Herb Morrissey copper cups on eBay, stating they were Paul Fox Cups. That was during the period when the Paul Fox cups were commanding huge amounts, so the seller was either being completely dishonest in an attempt to cash in on the Paul Fox momentum, or he was completely ignorant and guessing. I suspect the latter. Even recently a set of relatively common brass coins made by Paul Diamond was advertised as having been made by the late George Kirkendall, a builder known for his quality and precision. It is interesting to note, however that I have never seen a set of Paul Fox cups advertised as Morrissey's or a Kirkendall prop as one made by Paul Diamond. The errors always seem to happen in favor of the seller. Another salient point to remember: when you write an ad, of course you want to sell the item, but everything you say should be of advantage to the buyer. Read that again.

By the way, the above advice regarding experts is from experience. I have been guilty, long ago, of taking an "expert" opinion as biblical proof of an item's origin. It took me four or five egregious errors to learn the lesson. The best way to determine an origin is to refer to the old magic catalogs. Buy them when the show up on eBay; they will be one of your best investments. Rely on the Albo Books for cool photographs, but rely on catalogs for accuracy.

The second thing to know about the item is what it does! Knowing what it does also offers you another valuable offshoot of information and that is whether or not the item is complete. There is nothing worse than buying a trick and receiving it and finding it is missing a part and cannot be used. I'll give you another eBay example. Several years ago, I bought a set of Anverdi-Tonny VanRhee Chinca Chinca. These are the little cylinders used for Chink-A-Chink with the special gimmicked one which sellers often mistake as Taytelbaum. Anyway, I received them and got three cones and the shell. I immediately wrote the seller asking if he had the fourth cone. His reply (you're going to love this,) was that I had purchased a very rare three-cone set as made by Anverdi. I responded that I was not so magically ignorant to buy that story and that I have had several sets, including one bought from Anverdi personally during a visit to the Netherlands, and they all came with four. His next email was even more ludicrous as it advised me that I knew what I was getting because the photo for his ad showed three cones and the shell. Well, as any normal person would, I naturally presumed the shell was nested over the fourth cone. To make a long story short, I did get my money back, but had this seller simply known what he was selling, this issue would never have come up.

So, know what it does and be sure it works or point out in your ad that it does not. Again, you are trying to sell an item, so if an item does not work, you can freely suggest the steps needed to make it work and how easy they are (if that is true, of course,) but never just ignore the fact that something does not do what it is supposed to do.

The misfortunes happen mostly with "vintage" apparatus or props with many parts. Often the old Conradi, Marintka, items are sticky and don't work. After all, they are often over 100 years old. Fire Globes get sticky, Snuff Vases get bent so the fit isn't precise, etc. Tell your bidders if such a condition exists.

With mutiple part props, be sure it is complete. Set it up and try it, if nothing else. Read the instructions and you will soon know if something is missing. Anverdi liquid props often have many parts and if they even one is missing, the trick won't work. Take the Wondrringglass, for example. If it is missing one part of any ring, it won't work. Know what it came with. Copenetro, for example, came with the round base, the big glass, the shot glass, the coin stand, a tongue depressor and instructions. Make sure yours come with all that, too, or clearly state otherwise in your ad.

A buyer should never have to ask an obvious question like, "Does it work?" Can you imagine buying a car and having to ask, "Does it come with a steering wheel?" And, again, honesty is the rule. If you don't know what an item does, just say so. I've often seen ads that begin, "I have no idea what this is or what it does, but..." There's nothing wrong with that as the buyer has been informed that he is bidding on something relatively blindly and it is now his choice whether or not to bid.

More to follow.......
1/20/2007, 11:56 am Link to this post Send Email to John Mendoza   Send PM to John Mendoza

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