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Of the collectables studied in AuctionBytes’ annual Collectables Price Index, 80 per cent averaged lower prices in the past 12 months compared to the previous year – the average fall set at around 11 per cent. The drop in price is less dramatic than that reported in the previous year’s study when, according to AuctionBytes, prices for collectables were down 25 per cent from 2000.

Although unusual or exceptional pieces will always buck a downward trend, the percentage of auctions that are completed successfully also indicate a sluggish marketplace for more standard collectables. The average selling rate by volume for collectables surveyed on eBay was 55 per cent in 2002, compared to 72 per cent in 2000, according to AuctionBytes.

“There are people spending a lot of money listing that aren’t realising a lot of sales,” said David Steiner, AuctionBytes.com’s president, citing the data his company had collected on the performance of lava lamps. In 2000, 248 lava lamps were listed on eBay, having an average selling price of $41.55 and a selling rate of 81 per cent by volume. In 2002, more than 2,000 lava lamps were listed, with an average selling price of $23.42 and a selling rate by volume of 49 per cent.

The huge increase in listing numbers on eBay is perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the data.
In comparison, TIAS.com examined all items its dealers moved directly from TIAS to eBay between January and May during the past three years. In 2002, the average selling price for those lots on eBay was $41.80, compared to $50.49 in 2001 and $83.52 in 2000. However, the selling rate by volume improved slightly, rising from 35.7 per cent in 2001 to 38.4 per cent in 2002.
Both surveys reported an element of diversification among sellers hunting for the best retail arenas, including a move to more fixed-price online venues and a return to more traditional venues.

Statistical surveys are always controversial – they provide general readings whereas the market works with specifics – but these findings do support a common anecdotal opinion of many eBay users that there is a now a glut in the market for lower-end mass-produced 19th and 20th century objects.

Kevin Pursglove, senior director of communications at eBay, pointed to five factors that can affect the results of the AuctionBytes survey – the economy, the merchandise surveyed, the changing nature of the eBay marketplace, the maturing of the online marketplace, and the methodology used in the survey.

He described the 11 per cent decline in prices reported by AuctionBytes as being “a function of the marketplace”, and described the 55 per cent selling rate by volume recorded in the Collectables Price Index as “a little off” compared to data tabulated by eBay.