Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
Home Artist Blog About Me Life in Alaska Purchase Site Index Speak
Home » Archives » March 2006 » Pros and Cons of selling art on ebay

[Previous entry: "Mama told me there'd be days like this..."] [Next entry: "Solar powered artist"]

03/15/2006: "Pros and Cons of selling art on ebay"

I have toyed with trying this but I am hesitant (not sure why) probably because I’m afraid I wouldn’t get any bids and I’d look/feel like a loser. Still, fellow Alaskan artist Judy Vars has put the idea in my head and now I can’t stop thinking about it.

The cons, well…ebay recommends setting a low initial price on art to get the bidding going, but what if it backfires and the first and only person to bid gets it for much less than your normal prices? This starts a bidding history, which shows that (for example) you have sold painting 16x20 for $150. New potential bidders may think that something is overpriced if you list another 16x20 for $300.

But then again, if you initially list it at its actual market value, it might not sell at all, which means you are out of a few bucks to ebay for the “insertion fee” and any extra features you wanted, like a super-sized photo or whatever.

I’m also hesitant because of what happened to San Francisco artist Anna Conti (though this happened even though she hadn’t been selling through ebay). I remember that Dio had sold some work through ebay but I can’t remember what the outcome was (I bid on one painting and got outbid!)

The pros are that you’ll get an entirely new set of eyeballs viewing your work and maybe, just maybe, it will sell at full value. You won’t be out of much if the work doesn’t sell, so there seems to be little to lose. There are probably additional concerns for artists who already have traditional gallery representation. And if you sell your work through your website…well, you couldn’t list it on ebay for a different price than how it’s listed on your website (could you?).

I’m curious how many of you have attempted selling art work through ebay and what your experiences were, good or bad. Stay tuned either way, as I may experiment putting up a small original oil in the next day or two, just to see what will happen.

Replies: 9 Comments

on Wednesday, March 15th, Daniel said

This was the first time I had heard the Conti story.

Although I understand the frustration of the situation and would be equally angry. I think the realization that someone would consider my works worthy of "forging" would be shocking enough to kill me.

on Wednesday, March 15th, Elise said


I suppose certain work lends itself better to direct rip-offs where as you'd more likely suffer someone ripping off your style, which is a risk for all artists. I mean, there is a fine line between "inspired by", "derivitive", and outright "copy!"

on Wednesday, March 15th, Judy Vars said

E-bay, I have been playing with them since 2000 and just started sticking my toe in the water as far as selling. It is true that you are only out the insertion fee which sometimes adds up and only lasts a week. My idea was to start my price low and get interest then hopefully there would be a bidding war and I'd get all the bucks. Well it worked to get folks to look and bid but the final selling price was far below what I would have reasonably expected. So I opened up an e-bay store 15.00 per month and the listings cost only .03 each they run for a month and then renew. Next I raised my prices to a nice uniform .75 cents per square inch. I felt cheezy about selling cheeply on e-bay and selling my work for more at a local gallery (not very professional in my opinion). Much of my work in in my little cyberstore on e-bay and I don't obsess much. My web site directs anyone interested in purchasing my art to e-bay or to contact me so that works out. It will take time to get a following and a good reputation and like anything else it takes seed money, time, commitement, lots of hard work. Anyone interested take a look my seller ID is:cabinfeverinalaska
I'm in Self Representing Artists

on Wednesday, March 15th, Elise said

Hi Juday, thanks for the additional info. I guess I don't really need an ebay store cuz I already can take orders from my website, but I think you could reach a new audience through ebay.

I hate it that we need "seed money" for so many things. I agree you have to spend money to make money but I still feel like I'm stuck in the spend money mode and not seeing much of a pay off yet.

I've had to wait several weeks to pick up my pump house prints because I can't afford to pay the printer.

on Thursday, March 16th, Dio said

Its become a more saturated market in recent years, it used to be a lot easier to sell. You need a featured listing to get anywhere which sets you back £10 to start, if you have a normal listing no one sees it.

I tend to start low but put a reserve on the item so if it sells below the reserve, you don't give it away. There is a little trick you can employ which wil ensure that the reserve is reached, but I'd best not mention that here. ;)

My wife is just about to put her first canvas up so we''l see how that goes. I'm not sure how the US site is for featured auctions - goes and looks. Its called featured plus and is $19.95... You'll need ot invest in that.

I'd veer towards the painting section rather than self-representing artists. They sell better from there in my experience. Ebay is really getting crowded in the UK with cookie-cutter pop art.

on Thursday, March 16th, Dio said

Oh yes, and have some good bumph and packing details as well - don't underestimate shipping costs and materials.

on Thursday, March 16th, marja-leena said

Thanks for all this info as I've been mulling eB too. Knowing Anna's story from back when it happened hasn't endeared me to eB, plus this whole issue of selling one's work cheaper than what you ask in galleries is considered very unprofessional. I'll be interested in how your little "test" goes, Elise.

on Thursday, March 16th, Daniel said

Costco - Home Of The Fake Picassos? Costco recently sold a Picasso drawing on its website for $39,999.99. But it looks like the authetication of the drawing was faked, and the incident has sparked questions about the company's online art purchases. The New York Times 03/16/06

I found this on-line, this morning. - DN

on Thursday, March 16th, Elise said

Ooo Dio you tease! I must learn the reserve trick...maybe you could point me in the right direction? Was it in a book you read or something you discovered on your own.

And I imagine it is considered very unprofessional to sell below market value, for that the reserve option sounds good. All the little extras cost $$$, back to needing the seed money to get anywhere. I wonder is it worth it?

I'll still do the test. Also, thanks for the story Daniel, I'll check it out after work today.