©Inkspot Antiques and Collectibles
In 2012, there were some dramatic changes in product search, with pitched battles for the hearts and minds of both buyers and sellers. In the antiques and collectibles marketplace, the changes in product search have been the most dramatic (read more). So it is now 2013, and some of the dust has settled. You want to expand your favorite collection; so where do you look? Are there better bargains to be had beyond ebay? We ranked the major product search and merchant sites according to the number of relevant products over a wide range of collectible categories (see the Site Scoring) explanation. Because buyers are just seeking a particular product, and they do not care if they find it through a merchant site or a search engine, we evaluated both merchandise and search sites together. This approach also make sense because some sites like Google Shopping allow listings of merchandise, independent of whether a product is on another merchant site (company or mall website).
Below is our list of the top 11 antique and collectible search and merchandise sites and how they ranked in our representative searches. This ranking has no bearing on quality of merchandise or sales service. In most instances, buyers are dealing with individual merchants or sellers, not the mall website or listing service. This ranking also has no relevance as to whether the site is a good one for merchants to use, but it does give a sense of where merchants have decided to list their product feeds.
Ebay (ebay.com) remains the first stop and market leader in the search for specific antiques and collectibles for sale online. New mobile web features, and tools to receive email and text alerts upon the arrival and auction closing of items on your want list are powerful tools designed to minimize the time you spend searching the ebay site. The site is also recognized for setting current market benchmark values and trends for most categories of antiques and collectibles. However, some have commented on the apparent decline in the volume of antique and collectible merchandise on ebay. Part of this decline may be due to the fact that the cost of selling on ebay is higher than in the past, with the total costs of ebay listing, ebay commission, and ebay credit card processing through PayPal (essentially an ebay requirement now) averaging around 15% for most small sellers. These fees have ensured a lot of merchandise will be found elsewhere online, and one of the reasons ebay is loosing market share in the antiques and collectibles. This is why you may want to search a few more of the sites on this list.
We cheated, and moved Google Search (sometimes called Google Organic Search) to number two on our list, despite the fact that we could not score it along with the other product and merchandise websites. During 2011 and 2012, there were important changes to the Google Search (Google.com) also called Google organic search or web search. The most prominent of these changes affected how Google ranked sites, and how paid advertisements were added to the search results page (now generally running in a panel on the right side). Google search, and advanced search can yield great results, but trying to get what you are looking on the first few results page (no one want to scroll through dozens of search results pages) depends on how your search is specified. If you are interested in Civil War buttons, typing Civil War Buttons on the search bar will get you a diverse response, but sites selling Civil war buttons will be listed both in the results (left) and paid advertisements (right). Entering instead Civil War Buttons for sale will generate more ecommerce sites. Entering instead "Civil War Buttons for sale": in quotation marks, the search results will be limited only to that exact phrase. This approach can work wonders for specific items such as if you are looking for a New York State Seal Coat Button. Still, trying to find a particular item can be time consuming and can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack.
The Find (TheFind.com), which started life as FatLens.com, is a "discovery shopping" search engine that focuses on "lifestyle products" such as apparel, accessories, home and garden, and health and beauty. However, with its new tagline "every product every store," it clearly seeks to become a leading merchandise aggregator listing site. Consequently, the site has a robust listing of antiques an collectibles merchandise. The site aggregates merchant feeds, but its robots also skim products across the web. Merchandise is displayed in searching window-shopping format. The site accepts merchant feeds for free, and with the Google Shopping's movement to a paid inclusion model, more merchants are taking advantage of The Find. Moreover, most ebay items are now listed, presumably from both submissions and by The Find's robots. All these factors make The Find number 3 on our list, or number 2 if you disregard our biased placement of Google organic search as number 2. In fact, The Find was the biggest surprise in the ranking, coming in with just a slightly lower score than ebay. In fact, because it aggregates ebay items and other merchant listings, it sometimes blows ebay out of the water. For example, a search for Tucks Thanksgiving postcard (relaxed search) gave 218 items on ebay, less than a dozen on Bing Shopping and Google Shopping, and an unbelievable 1,846 examples on The Find. If the site adds some more sophisticated search options, and keeps all ebay feeds, it would be poised to become the number one search site for finding antiques and collectibles, and probably most other merchandise as well.
Google Shopping (google.com/shopping), the successor Froogle, and Google Product Search, was poised to offer serious competition to ebay by 2011, and would have been number two on this list. However, in the fall of 2012, when Google Shopping transitioned to a paid only listing site (much to the dismay of small antiques dealers), it appeared that antique and collectible merchandise had fallen off the face of the earth on the shopping site. Moreover, to cover the thinness of merchandise listed, search results are often fuzzy, so a search for Hot Wheels Redline would show many Hot Wheels toy cars that were not redlines. Since that rocky start, many antiques and collectible listings have reappeared, because of decisions like companies like Etsy who decided to advertise with Google. Other antiques and collectibles merchants have fallen suit, although some seem to be just testing the waters (Etsy was not advertising with Google Shopping after Christmas 2012). Still, in most collectible categories, the amount merchandise is appreciably less than in 2011 and early 2012. Still, Google shopping makes fourth place on our list, just narrowly beating Bing Shopping, which is making big advances with its free listing drive.
Bing Shopping (bing.com/Shopping), formerly MSN Shopping and Windows Live Product Search, is the products search service of Microsoft's Bing search engine. Search results presentation is comparable to Google Shopping in terms of product pictures, pricing, and description. When Google Shopping results faltered in the antiques and collectibles field in the Fall of 2012 when Google went to a paid only product listing, Bing Shopping results became superior to Google Shopping results for a brief period. Bing sought to capitalize on criticism of Google's paid listing model by initiating their "Don't get Scroogled" campaign in the Christmas sales period of 2012. However, because many antique and collectible dealers have not caught on to the fact that Bing accepts free merchant feeds, and that antique and collectible items (used merchandise) are allowed, Bing still has not made sufficient inroads into the antiques and collectible product listings to usurp Google.
Etsy (etsy.com), along with Ruby Lane, Bonanza, GoAntiques, and TIAS is one of five major online antique and collectible online malls. Merchants can list either craft related, handmade or vintage items, in the tradition of craft fairs. Site rules require that vintage items to be at least 20 years old. Sellers have personal storefronts where they list their goods for a fee. The site has been successful in attracting merchants dissatisfied with ebay, and those seeking to a simple turnkey merchant shop solution. The site was number one among the five largest antiques and collectible malls online in the US.
Ruby Lane (rubylane.com), along with Etsy, Bonanza, GoAntiques, and TIAS, is one of five major online antique and collectible online malls. The site was established in 1998 and was another site driven by merchants wanting an alternative to ebay. It offers a wide selection of merchandise and is partriculay strong in vintage costume jewelry, often beating out all other online marts and ebay.
Bonanza (bonanza.com), which started life as Bonazle in 2007, is another merchant site that along with Etsy, Ruby Lane, GoAntiques, and TIAS, is one of five major online antique and collectible online malls. The site was another site meant to offer an alternative to ebay. Vendors on Bonanza sell at a flat price, or in some cases best offer.
GoAntiques (GoAntiques.com), bills itself as the "oldest, most established antiques and collectible trading community on the Internet." While that is true, and at last count it had more than half a million items listed, the amount of merchandise in some categories is thin. Along with Etsy, Ruby Lane, Bonanza, and TIAS, is one of five major online antique and collectible online malls.
TIAS (tias.com) stands for "The Internet Antique Shop." Along with Etsy, Bonanza, GoAntiques, and Ruby Lane, it is one of five major online antique and collectible online malls, and is another site driven by merchants wanting an alternative to ebay. It bills itself as the "internets largest antique shop," but in our scoring, was the fifth best among the 5 non-ebay antique mall websites. They offer a wide selection of vintage and antique and collectible merchandise, but not enough to take them out of last place scoree.
Replacements, Ltd. (replacements.com/) claims to have the world's largest selection of old and new dinnerware, glassware, flatware and limited edition collectibles. Their specialty is to provide replacements for missing pieces in flatware, glassware, and dinnerware sets, and if you need a specific piece in these categories, they will probably be the second site you visit after ebay. They maintain a large warehouse in North Carolina with good inventory, and although some of their prices can be on the high side, if you do not want to wait a long time for a listing for a specific piece, you might just order from them. There last on our list, but,
See the actual search counts for different items searched for.
You can find books on antiques and collectibles on Amazon.com, and you can find antique and collectible books, but you won't find antique and collectible merchandise on Amazon. If you search for Civil War buttons, the only ones you will find are the modern mass produced replicas sold for Civil War re-enactors.
Most price comparative website like NextTag.com or Shopzilla.com are of little use for antiques and collectibles search, and the merchandise listed might just include feeds from ebay or Amazon, and so offer little in the way of new information. Other sites like Overstock.com, which primarily focus on new merchandise, are similarly unhelpful in the antiques and collectible search.