Hot Wheels, Czechoslovakian Glass & eBay

I often get calls at the store from folks who are looking to sell their items. Sometimes it’s a single item (a piece of furniture or a doll, for instance), other times it’s an entire collection. I never know what the next phone call will yield for the store.

Many times, people will come into the store to ask in person. If the item is in good condition and it seems to “fit the vibe” of the store, I will often purchase it for our inventory. Many times however it’s an item from the “We don’t buy list” or it’s too large for available space. In this instance, I will try to advise folks what their options are and where they can attempt to sell their item.

In addition to this, I try to prepare the person standing in front of me for what they might expect from the sale of their item. I have written many times about how the markets have changed in the last several years and how values are not what they once were, but not everyone has “gotten the memo”.

It a new world out there and to quote Mr. Dylan, “the times they are a changin’”

I had a gentleman email me that he had inherited a large collection of Czechoslovakian cut crystal and glass and what I thought the market was and where could he hope to sell it.  I explained to him that glass is one of the hardest hit categories of value depreciation of antiques. After a quick search I found most pieces were selling from an average starting point of $9.95 each, and most had sold for prices under $50, with a few reaching a hundred or two hundred.

I have to say it’s difficult to discern disappointment in a email, but it was there. He explained that he had inherited well over 250 pieces of glass from a parent’s collection and although he was interested in keeping a few, there were too many to keep them all. I advised him of all his options regarding where to sell and he thanked me.

Collectors, I find, are more apt to over value what they collect. For many years price guides were the go to source for values, but they just can’t keep up with the fluctuation in pricing that the internet brings to stay relevant in all but a few categories. Many collectors still rely on this outdated material or if they do use online sources they find the highest value they can and use that as a reference when attempting to sell their items.

I think part of this is they have lived with the item for a long time. It took them time to find it, to display it, and it promotes a bit of sentimentality in regards to their items that is reflected in their selling price. As a buyer who resells, I just can’t factor sentimental value (or original buying prices) into a offer. To me, it’s inventory. I am not attached.

A die cast car collector visited the store recently and asked my thoughts on selling his cars. He said he was primarily a collector of the smaller vehicles such as Hot Wheels and Matchbox. I was instantly sad because I knew I was about to crush this person’s hopes.

Die cast car values have taken a huge hit the last several years. People used to grab up NASCAR die cast vehicles for hundreds of dollars each and now they sell for pennies on the dollar, if they sell at all. I explained the options open to him.

I told him he could put his cars for sale at an auction, or take them to a flea market. Sometimes dealers in flea markets or antique malls will buy them as many like smaller items to fill their booths. I told him he could rent a booth in an antique/collectible mall but to expect paying booth rental (as much as $200 monthly) & commissions to the mall (usually 10%) and maybe even credit card fees.

There are online sites such as Craigslist, Offerup/Letgo (they have merged), Mercari and others. They all have positives or negatives to their use and all are difficult to learn if you are someone with little computer experience. With some sites you ship your items to the buyer and others you meet in person to perform the exchange.

I then showed him eBay. We talked about some of the positives and negatives associated with using the site. I then brought up the site and did a search on Hot Wheels. Instantly the site showed 1,090,751 results for hot wheels!

One million, ninety thousand, seven hundred fifty one Hot Wheels items.

This is one of the largest issues with eBay. It’s a crowded marketplace. As of the first quarter of 2021 there were 187 million users worldwide with 1.7 billion listings! I don’t know how that breaks down between buyers & sellers, but it’s a lot of both.

That being said, it’s still the site with the most visibility. That’s the upside. The downsides beside a crowded platform are their policies and terms of service.

eBay tells you if you follow their protocols, you will save fees and do better. You have the option of paying them for a “store’ or not. If you do, they start at $4.95 a month and go up to $2,999.95 a month. These are subscriptions and supposedly they give you benefits and tools you otherwise wouldn’t get. They also tell you that if you offer free returns, same or next day handling, free shipping etc., you will get discounted fees.

I look at it the other way. Because I choose not to pay for a store, and stay with in the 250 free listings monthly, and because I don’t offer free shipping, same day handling, ship internationally, or allow returns, I am penalized and am forced to pay higher fees. In addition to paying higher fees, eBay also throttles my listings so they are seen by buyers less frequently. Yup, they hide and hold back the visibility on my item listings.

In other words, it’s not a level playing field.

The other problem with eBay is their lack of seller support. They will bend over backwards for a buyer. If a buyer has even the slightest issue with a purchase, eBay will yank the funds out of a seller’s account and initiate a refund and most times won’t even give you a chance to rebut it. Another issue is the rapidity of site changes without advance warning. The site seems to be heavily skewed now towards mobile users (because, as I have since found out, in 2019 63% of transactions involve a mobile device – and as of mid-2021 it’s more than half). The may be one of the reasons they change layouts and procedures at a lightning pace.

Another thing you need to know about eBay is what they call managed payments. Since eBay and paypal have split, eBay won’t let you use paypal to collect your payments anymore on the site. You have to give eBay permission to deposit your earnings directly to your checking account, as well as let them withdraw any fees from the same account. Um, wait, what?

Yes, you have to let them have access to your checking account. This was something I was unwilling to do as I have had billing problems in the past with eBay, so I opened a separate checking account just for this purpose. Bear in mind, this is really frustrating for me, and I only sell a few personal items a year on eBay. I don’t use the site for store sales and it’s not a huge money maker for me so I can sell or not at my whim. The people who do the best on eBay are the ones who work it like a business, and some even buy wholesale and drop ship from companies such as AliBaba.

So getting back to our Hot Wheels collection, Most Hot Wheels listings start around .99 cents. Some go a few dollars or more depending on the car or if you offer multiple cars at a time.  If you jump through all of eBay’s recommendations, you can be around 10% commission. That is a lot of work for something that can sell for a dollar.

The collector certainly had a lot to think about after all this. Most folks don’t really know how it all works. It is a buyer’s market for sure and there are few easy ways to downsize or liquidate a collection anymore.

I really hope things turn around soon. I don’t want my kids to donate all my cool stuff when I’m gone!


Published “The Florida Register” Jan/Feb 2022 Issue