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The Internets Impact on CollectingAuthor: Nancy L. Hix
Thousands of people of all ages have turned to the Internet to pursue items they collect. Collectible companies help them by providing free information on their World Wide Web sites, and offer online discussion forums and chat rooms. Antique and memorabilia enthusiasts set up online collector exchanges where others with the same interest can cyber-mingle. As they become more Internet-savvy, collectors turn to online auction sites like eBay, Half.com, and Golds to manage their collections and hunt for antiques.
Collectible Company Web Sites
When businesses started using the Web several years ago, their sites typically consisted of one page that looked like a flat magazine or newspaper ad. More sophisticated sites had several pages that users could hyperlink through, and the most interactive part of the site was a link to an e-mail address. Hot sites had animated icons. Most Web sites were just plain advertising.
Now, almost every major collectible manufacturer manages a Web site. Collectors can find product information with sophisticated search functions, share information with other enthusiasts at online bulletin boards or chat rooms, or sell retired or limited edition items with online classified ads. Many of these sites also have retail dealer Web site directories where collectors can order the items through a secure server.
For the company, the benefits of having a Web site are immeasurable. The fastest way to get product information to their collectors is via the Internet. Compared with print advertising, putting product information on the Web is inexpensive. The company can introduce pieces to thousands of collectors with minimal effort. Astute companies include their site URL in their product brochures so newly intrigued collectors can run home and call up the site on their computers. To ensure regular traffic, the company might update the content of the sites from week to week, adding new features and changing others, depending on whats currently in the spotlight.
Another phenomenon, unheard of in previous decades, is a steady flow of personal interaction between the collectors and the company. Most people who run collectible companies have personal e-mail accounts, and many enjoy hearing from their consumers. What better way is there to have their eyes and ears on the pulse of their target market? When a company communicates with its collectors, they can find out what the fans expect from the line. E-mail is fast, easy, and non-intrusive.
Collectors, in turn, find appeal in being able to communicate directly with the collectible company via e-mail or a Web site.
Portal Sites for Collectors
A portal site is intended be a persons doorway to the Web. The idea is to call up that page first, and access the Web via the many links available at the portal site. The users can often customize their own portal home pages.
Many such portal sites exist. Any online antique dealer is familiar with sites like rubylane.com, collectingchannel.com, and collect-online.com. Some of these host bulletin boards and chat rooms, while others put up information about popular collectibles to draw visitors. Dealers can set up virtual booths to present their items online and garner sales.
Web sites such as collectornet.com and worldcollectorsnet.com are portals geared toward collectors of manufactured lines such as Cherished Teddies, Hallmark, and Harmony Kingdom. Collectors can read informative articles and book reviews, browse collectibles by category, and find bulletin boards and chat rooms where they can meet and correspond with other collectors.
People willing to share their love of a collectible with others operate many of the collector exchanges. Others run the site as an advertising-funded business, and offer free user IDs and passwords for collectors at their request.
Many of these sites also contain message boards or discussion forums so collectors can interact. Their subjects revolve around a unique theme or collection of items.
Heres a word of caution about communicating with other collectors: enthusiasm is contagious. Once you talk to other collectors about their favorite pieces, their enthusiasm may rub off on you, even for pieces youve resisted buying.
Traditional auction houses such as Sothebys, Christies, and Butterfield & Butterfield now have presence on the Internet. With a multitude of antiques and collectibles making their way to online auctions, its not surprising that these premier institutions and their following discovered the Internet.
As they approach their five-year mark, the eBay site boasts over a hundred million auctions since its inception, 85% of which involve collectibles or antiques.
Many antique or collectible enthusiasts already use eBay and have explored other auction sites, maybe to sell a few items or snag a rare find for a bargain. When a person connects to the Internet and calls up an online auction site like Amazon.com or LiveAuctionOnline, they embark on the ultimate antique and/or collectible hunt. If you cant find an item at an online auction site somewhere on the Internet, it probably doesnt exist anywhere.
Collectors turn to online auction sites by the hundreds. To be a smart online auction user and eventually a seasoned participant, it helps to understand the allure of auctions for both buyers and sellers. As a buyer, accurately worded auction descriptions will appeal to you. Sellers must know how to present their listings to interest bidders without misleading them.
The Internet Never Closes
The sites have no business hours theyre open for business 24 hours a day, every day of the year. People access and use them constantly, not only for transactions but also for leisurely browsing and interaction. Collectors who previously spent a lifetime amassing desired items could now locate them in the Internet in a matter of weeks, even days.
With this bold new medium comes the need for guidelines and instructions. Along with a sophisticated and interactive Web site, Collector Books also offers Internet users three guides to collecting in cyberspace.