May 31, 2012

Tophatter: Love It or Hate It?
A few months back, I was introduced to Tophatter by a Facebook ad at the Left of the screen. I was immediately thrown into a Live Auction led by a little guy with a mustache and monocle. I couldn't take my eyes off the screen - it was so addictive! I didn't do any actual bidding, but I definitely liked to watch all the action.

I've been keeping an eye on for awhile, now. I've been watching all sorts of auctions, and even getting in on a little bit of bidding. Recently, I decided to throw in a few of my own items and see how much they sell for. It's definitely been hit and miss, that's for sure.

Now, if you aren't familiar with Tophatter, it's basically a Live Auction website. No, it isn't like eBay where you get to bid on things that take days to finish - it's more like a real auction where the item is presented to you and bought up within just a few minutes - sometimes seconds.

"Lots" come up, the little mustached guy at the podium tells you a little bit about the item - What price it is starting at, how much it is worth (retail), and where it can shipped and for how much. You can click on the item to get details about it, as well as extra photos. You can place a bid on the item, which is usually in increments of $1 to start, and the increments get a little bigger as the bidding progresses. If people stop bidding, it's basically "Going once, going twice, sold!". Just like a real auction, whoever places the last bid will win.

There is "Standby" where items are placed to be potential items in the current auction. Anything in Standby will sit there until someone "Advances" it to the auction by placing the first bid on it. Once somebody bids on the item, it goes to the bottom of the Auction list. If nobody places the first bid, you're out of luck, and the item will not be sold at Auction at that time. Standby usually opens about an hour before the Auction begins, and a few times throughout the Auction as the amount of Lots up for grabs starts getting low.

It doesn't seem to matter what day it is, there are usually quite a few people in the Auctions. Sometimes there are a few auctions at once - Jewelry seems to be the most popular. In the Auction room, crowds can range from just 50 to over 200. I've seen almost 300 people in one room at once. There have been some pretty fierce battles over certain items, and there have been times where people just didn't budge and things were just flying off the shelves to single bidders for only $2 - $5.

A 10% commission is taken from each sale - $1 is the minimum. So if something sells for just $2.00, Tophatter gets half of that. Priority to sell more than one item at a time is mostly given to those who have sold many items at a high price.

The first item I placed up for auction was my Fabricated Heartbeat heart. In my shop, it is worth $55.00 plus shipping. As the bidding began, it was a little slow - but then some cheerleaders hopped into the action. I didn't even know these people, but they praised my heart like there was no tomorrow! The bidding got a little more fierce and then closed at $42.00. Not too bad for my first auction! It must have been luck, though...

Now. That was during a Jewelry auction just after dinner - probably around 7:30PM Eastern Time. It was a totally different experience selling the same heart at 2AM in the Night Owl Bazaar. The same heart sold for only $22 - and that was with a $20 starting bid. I was rather disappointed. The same thing happened at a few different auctions. Different items, but low selling prices.

It's strange to say, but the items that seem to do the best are the mass produced ones. You know, the lockets and charms that you can just throw together with some chains, beads, danglies, or gears... something pretty or shiny or sparkly. It's quite sad to me because most of these things are something you would often see for wholesale prices on eBay or Alibaba, and for just pennies.

It's the handmade things that seem to sell the worst. People just don't seem to see the value in handmade when it comes to Auction sites. My advice to those who want to sell handmade on Tophatter? Create something that is easy to make many of and something that is less labour intensive and requires the least amount of materials. Because when that sculpture that you worked hours on sells for just 5 bucks - you're going to be heartbroken. Nobody can see how much time and effort you put into something - only you are the one who knows that.  The auction can last seconds to just a few minutes - most of it will be impulse bidding, and folks just won't take the time to read the description. Pictures mean everything on this site, and although people may "Ooooo" and "Ahhhhh" your Lot until the cows come home, that doesn't mean they are going to pay up.

My diagnonsense? Wholesalers, resellers, and destashers - may be for you. Handmade sellers? Forget it... Unless you have a high starting bid or you can make something small, quick, clever, and appeals to the masses - for pennies. Lockets seem to be hot right now. Any locket, really. Stick something in it, glue stuff to it, and call it steampunk. There you go. Instant $30 - $40 right there.

So what do you guys think? Tophatter - Love it? Or Hate it?