Joyride Through Cyberspace By Caroline Wright
Part II: Bidding On The Edge
from the Internet Gazette, August 1999

When I think of online auctions, I think of costume jewelry, musty old paperbacks, and Beanie Babies.

Now, I KNOW that’s not fair. Online auctions are SO MUCH MORE than jewelry, books, and beanbags. One can find old surgical tools... virtual domain names... luxury sailboats... rapper Eminem’s doublewide trailer... a pretty female named Bunny Hop Jones... and, until the entry was removed just a few days ago, “Item No. 138277430: Young Man's Virginty [sic]. Please look."

Yep. My own preconceptions of online auctions notwithstanding, no matter WHAT you’re peddling, you can probably find a buyer for it here in cyberspace. If you’re a buyer, your options are endless. You won’t BELIEVE what you can get, if you look hard enough.

L@@K! MUST SEE! WHAT A BARGAIN!

There’s more meaningless hype in online auctions than in the flea markets I used to haunt regularly in Paris... but at least here there aren’t any toothless old men shoving used bedroom slippers in your face.

If you’re looking for everything in the world under a single vast virtual tent, I suggest you go ahead and hit eBAY. It’s still the granddaddy of all online auctions, though users recently have been leaving in droves for other online auctions, thanks to the frequent server interruptions that have recently plagued the giant site. Giant virtual bookstore AMAZON.COM is now giving eBay a respectable run for its money, offering a 10% discount to the first bidders of any auction, and seasonal breaks for sellers (just a dime per listing through August 20!).

The auctions I find most interesting are for unusual merchandise. Guess it’s my subconscious reaction to all those books and beanbags. Though the specialized auction site still seems to be a fairly rare breed, I found several that I find worth mentioning here.

Do you still shed tears when you remember your 1967 maple Fender Telecaster with the whammy bar? The one your mom gave evil cousin Winky when you went off to college? Go directly to GUITARAUCTION! This is your source for used, new, and vintage guitars by Martin, Gibson, Fender, Taylor, and others. The site contains other instruments, too - bass guitars, fiddles, mandolins, even saw a banjo or two - and books and videos for a variety of instruments. This site also provides useful advice on shipping musical instruments, a standard forum for rating buyers and sellers with whom you’ve done business, and the ability to look at all closed auctions for the prior seven days. Though it’s fairly new, Guitarauction already boasts some 27,000 hits each day, and is completely FREE for use by both buyers and sellers. If you’ve been thinking about selling that rare old Kaneala Makini ukulele you found ten years ago at a garage sale in Kaimuki, you might want to post your ad here.

Hipsters and elitists will be charmed by the collection of vintage goodies I found at POPULA. It’s still fairly small (only 647 auctions at the time of my visit, as compared to the 2,549,595 on industry behemoth eBay) but it’s quirky and odd, and therein lies its appeal. I loved this site’s obvious affection for retro items like chocolate-coloured Zodiac boots, twenty-year-old brocade throw pillows, and plastic pink elephant necklaces described by their owners as “One of a kind! (I sure hope so anyway!)”. I was also intrigued to see that no item was selling for over $15. Because Popula charges sellers a listing fee (25 cents) and a commission (a maximum of 5% of the final bid), this may be why it has so few auctions.

Ahh, the excess of Beverly Hills. Perhaps it can now be offset by the excess of the BEVERLY HILLS CHARITY AUCTION. According to the spin for this site: “Beverly Hills Charity Auction is one of the industry’s first web sites to solely auction celebrity events, celebrity memorabilia, travel, upscale merchandise and other items for charities and non-profit organizations around the world.” The most intriguing item up for grabs at the time of my visit was offered for the benefit of American Search & Rescue: a single exhilarating ride, at 400 mph over the Nevada desert, in a MIG 15 UTI jet. The opening bid? A cool $70,000.

I have absolutely NO need for a Polyethylene Manifold, suitable for burying underground, with the convenient Stab Fitting, sized 1 1/4" Inlet x (4) 3/4" Outlets with Stab Fittings on all connections. But by God if I DID, I’d look for my manifold at THE GEOTHERMAL XCHANGE. It’s the world’s FIRST (and, I would tend to think, the world’s ONLY) dedicated auction site for all things geothermal. Go there NOW, and YOU can get a 1" Full Port Ball Valve with 1" PE Pipe mechanically staked to each end, ready to be fused directly into a geothermal system to facilitate serviceability and fluid flow control. And the opening bid’s only $14.99!

Let us return now to the story of Bunny Hop Jones, mentioned earlier in this column. Bunny has lovely sorrel-colored hair. She’s “Sound of Mind & Body”, as her auction info claims, and she “Loves to Work - More She's Worked Better She Is!” Weighing in at a trim but curvy 1,150 lbs., Bunny works slow, says her owner, or with precision as needed, and stops on command. She’s also “Balanced, Light, Athletic and Versatile”. And she’s only had one exclusive trainer!

No, no, no... Bunny’s not a well-fed slave girl. She’s a 7-year-old sorrel mare, and she can be purchased at the CYBERHORSE ONLINE AUCTION, along with thoroughbreds, Appaloosas, quarter horses, Tennessee Walkers, and more equine talent than you can shake a sugar cube at.

Well, there you have it. No matter what you fancy, boys and girls, you can probably find it online. So place your bid, and cross your fingers!

SITES TO SEE

eBay
www.ebay.com

Amazon.com
www.amazon.com

Guitarauction
www.guitarauction.com

Popula
www.popula.com

Beverly Hills Charity Auction
www.bhauction.com

The Geothermal XChange
www.the-gx.com/emazeauction

Cyberhorse Online Auction
www.cyberhorseauction.com


Caroline Wright, of WRIGHT FOR YOU Word Services, is a freelance writer. A former resident of Hawaii, she now lives in rural South Carolina. Feel free to e-mail your comments to Caroline at cw@wrightforyou.com.