Wednesday, July 25, 2012

E-Bay Wars

A few posts ago, I mentioned that some items from my beloved agency were available on E-Bay. Cool ones, a series of badges from the 60s - 70s. Fireman, Engineer, Captain, Gold Captain (Day position, likely Asst. Fire Marshal) and retired Battalion Chief. All from the same era and all in pretty good shape. There were some other things too, including a fireman's hat badge that I was interested in. The prime piece was a Fireman's badge with the number 1 on it and maybe the hat badge, as it had #1 on it as well.

Alone, the hat badge was not worth much, they are not quite as collectable as a regular badge. As this one was numbered "1", it would make a nice pairing with the #1 fireman's badge.

Back in the day, the badges were numbered on the front, senior members got the lowest number. If you were the most senior fireman, you were issued badge #1. From what I have been told, badges were reassigned once a year and there were some guys who stuck around a little longer just to get that #1 badge. I think this practice stopped in the late sixties, or early seventies when the department went to a three platoon system. It probably just became too big of a pain to deal with.

My first instinct was to just buy one of them and add it to my collection of badges, ones that I have worn, which currently number 11. After thinking about it for a while, I set aside my narcissistic tendencies and decided to contact our Union President to encourage the association to purchase all of them for display in our new museum.

Of course when I called him, it went to voice mail. He promptly returned my call, something that he didn't always do when I was still on the job. I never had any problem calling him, either to kill rumors, offer him advice or yell at him if I felt he or the board was making a dumb move on behalf of the membership. As we usually got along well, we always ended the conversation on a positive note. I appreciated the job that he did as I had served on the board and knew how tough it could be. I guess he figured I wasn't calling him to yell at him, so he called back right away.

I told the president about the badges, he was supportive and agreed to talk with some board members about the items. I figured the badges would go for around $200 apiece, the hat badge for less. Maybe a grand for the whole lot.

The goal was to just get the board members to commit to the idea, they wouldn't have to vote on it till the next meeting. As I have an E-Bay account, I was willing to buy the badges, then sell them to the union for what I paid for them.

I followed up with calls to one of the board members and the guy who is putting the museum together as well. Both were supportive, but it was going to take some work - work that was made harder because the president, treasurer and some of the board members were in Philly for a convention. This wasn't going to be a priority for them.

A few days later, one of the board members texts me and tells me that the board doesn't want to jump until the next meeting, where it can be discussed and on the record.

I get it, this policy is a result of people spending money without adequate, documented discussion in the past. They really are doing the right thing, but I know that this opportunity isn't going to wait until the next meeting. One thing for sure, I am not going to drop a grand or so, then have the board decide that they don't want to get involved.

It's back to plan #1, I'm just going to pick one item, pick the most that I am willing to pay for it and bid.

The various auctions of the badges ended about 6 P.M. today. First up was a silver captain's badge, numbered "10" I think. It wasn't my first pick, but my second. As I hadn't bought anything off of E-Bay for a few years, I wanted a test run to make sure that the system still worked like it did a few years back.

For those of you who haven't bought anything on an E-Bay auction, the game is won or lost in the last few seconds of the auction. All bids that are shown before that time are irrelevant and usually only serve the purpose of driving up the price. Sometimes, those bids are actually those of the seller, who uses them to drive up the price of the item they are selling. That's fraudulent, and E-Bay does not allow the practice. However some people who use E-Bay to make a living know ways around it and do it. That's why setting your absofreakinglute highest bid, then not submitting it until two seconds are left on the auction is so important.

Lets say an item is listed with an opening bid of $50. I want it, and am willing to pay $120 for it. When I enter that maximum bid of $120, my bid will show up on the auction as a bid of $52.50. If someone else spots the item and decides to bid on it, they have to bid at least $2.50  higher than the highest visible bid. So say they decide to bid $70. E-Bay knows that I have entered a maximum bid of $120, but it will only show on the auction that I have bid $72.50, two and a half bucks over the next lowest maximum bid. That will continue until no one else bids or someone else exceeds my maximum bid of $120. If my maximum bid is surpassed several days before the auction ends, I may think about it and raise my maximum bid.

Meanwhile, someone else decides they want it bad (like me today) and waits until two seconds before the auction ends before entering their maximum bid, that leaves very little time for anyone else to raise their maximum bid.

The act of waiting until the last few seconds is called sniping, and there are programs that will do it for you. They usually charge about 1 % to automatically do this for this service, I know people who use this and like it. I like doing it myself, it's kind of fun.

The silver Captain's badge comes up and I get on the trigger a little early. I maximum bid it at what I thought was a fair price, around $150, with five seconds to go. I went a little early and someone else won it for $2.50 over my highest bid. I'm sure they sniped it too, they just wanted it more.

 Next up is the #1 fireman's hat badge. I decided that I would bid on it, then pair it with the #1 Fireman's badge. I came up with a number that I though it was worth alone, then doubled it. As a pairing with the Fireman's badge it was worth what I bid on it, as a lone piece it was not.

I waited until there was three seconds left and pulled the trigger. Crap, out bid again, by the same person that won the Captain's badge. Now I'm 0 for 2.

Then the #1 Fireman's badge comes up, which I feel is the best piece of the lot. It has the word "fireman" on it, which reeks of old timey and it has that coveted #1 on it. I'm a little bummed that I can't pair it with the hat badge, but it's still the best piece of the lot. 

I figured what it was worth, added 20% because I figured the person who won the #1 hat badge would be willing to pay more for this and then added a little more just because I wanted it. I waited until there was two seconds left on the auction and fired.

BAM! HIT! I won it, and got it for $20 less than I was willing to pay. I ended up getting it for a little more than two bills, but for that badge it is a fair price, at least in my mind.

I have to think that the person who won the hat badge is bummed that he didn't get this one, I know they bid on it. The price they paid for the hat badge is pretty high for a stand alone piece - oh well.

I'm a little bummed that the board wasn't able to find a way to get all of the items, they would have made a nice addition to the museum.

The reality is that the museum will likely end up with the badge that I bought tonight, I will probably donate to them at a later date. If I don't do that, I will make sure that my heirs give it to them, after I've gone to the healing place in the sky. Hopefully, that badge will be really really old by then.

Thanks for reading,

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