Online sellers finding new level of satisfaction with Etsy

Sal Dambra has sold more than 20,000 items on eBay over the past decade. He has a positive feedback rating of 99.9 percent and he currently has more than 2,000 items listed for sale on the site under the handle “drstrangegoods.”

But even Dambra isn’t content to stick with eBay. Since signing up for Etsy.com, a fixed price e-commerce site launched in 2005 with an emphasis on crafts, he’s sold 136 items.

vintage bakelite stretch bracelet  Etsy shop metroretrovintage offers this bold and chunky vintage 1940s green marbled Bakelite stretch bracelet with shiny golden rose beads for $125. The Art Deco beaded bracelet is comprised of triangular 1-inch blocks of ‘end of day’ Bakelite in a vibrant lime green color with marbled swirls of yellow and brown. The bracelet also has round gold vermeil rosette separator beads and double stretch cords. Photos courtesy metroretrovintage.

“The fees on Etsy are only a fraction of the fees on eBay,” he says. “I have some concerns about the long-term viability of eBay as a venue for small sellers and would like to get established on another site as a safety net.”

Part of the allure of Etsy is the transparent fee structure. A 20-cent fee gets your item listed on the site for four months, and then the commission is a flat 3.5 percent of the sales price – not including shipping charges.

It’s no secret to readers of the letters to the editor page in Antique Trader that many full-time dealers are looking for alternatives to eBay. Turned off by a long-term trend of rising fees and a perception that eBay’s sense of community has been replaced by a more corporate model, there has been a cavalcade of challengers to the eBay throne in recent years. But in the world of antiques and collectibles, no other outlet has made as much headway as the Brooklyn, New York-based Etsy. The “Vintage” category on Etsy currently boasts close to 2 million listings, and the antiques and collectibles categories add another 400,000.

Laura Milera, who operates an Etsy store under the handle “metroretrovintage,” left eBay completely after more than 10 years on that site and has since sold more than 500 items on Etsy.

Modernist pin  Vintage 1960s modernist triple leaf sterling and guilloche pin by Albert Scharning, $65 in Etsy shop metroretrovintage.

“Where eBay has moved away from the unique to low priced and mass produced, Etsy has instead fostered uniqueness,” she says.

In September 2011, Etsy had sales of $46.4 million. That was good for a year-over-year increase of 75 percent, but it’s still a small fraction of eBay’s $11.6 billion in annual sales.

And while vintage finds still aren’t Etsy’s specialty, there are a few categories where the site is rapidly becoming the go-to platform. An Etsy search for “vintage fabric” yields 93,703 listings; that search will only get you 31,046 hits on eBay.

Both Dambra and Milera agree, however, that certain items still do better on eBay. Extremely rare items whose value is not easily established generally command higher prices at auction says Milera; and Dambra, when asked what items don’t sell well on Etsy, gives this reply: “Almost anything for men.”


This article originally appeared in Antique Trader magazine

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An elegant daffodil brooch  An elegant daffodil brooch, $40, listed by Etsy shop metroretrovintage.

Because Etsy began as a site for handmade objects sold by small-time crafters – and that’s still the primary focus – the functionality of the site is less than ideal for antiques and collectibles-focused sellers. Dambra cites the “limited demographic of buyers, lack of proper categories for most vintage items and a heavy emphasis on handmade [that] neglects vintage sellers.”

So why leave eBay? The biggest draw at Etsy may be the sense of community.

“There is more of a relaxed atmosphere and friendlier culture,” says Milera. “It is not unusual for a buyer to ask to have an item held or reserved, or for individual shop owners to do trades.

“It’s all part of the charm of buying and selling in what is by and large, a close-knit and well rounded community. Where ‘speed of sale’ and moving product quickly is more of the norm on eBay – on Etsy, shop owners can pretty much set a reasonable price for their items, and then wait for the right buyers to come along.”

Warman's Antiques & Collectibles 2013Zac Bissonnette is the author of “Warman’s Antiques & Collectibles 2013 Price Guide, 46th Edition” and “Debt-Free U: How I Paid For an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching Off My Parents.” He has appeared on “The Today Show” and CNN, as well as a contributing editor to Antique Trader on WGBH and NPR. Everything he knows about money was learned yard-saling with his mother.

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