# Ebay print economics - statistics

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by clay, Nov 17, 2006.

1. ### claySubscriber

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My main computer at work here is tied up for 30 minutes doing some number crunching, so I decided to do a little statistical research myself.

I looked at completed ebay listings for platinum and/or palladium prints over the latest three week period. Here are the results:

Total offered: 76 prints

+++++++++++++++++

# of vintage and/or secondary market prints 7

Total vintage prints sold: 5
% sold of vintage prints offered: ~70%

Highest price for vintage print: \$1100
Lowest price for vintage print: \$20.99

+++++++++++++++++

Total 'new' prints offered: 69
Total 'new' prints sold: 12
% sold of new prints offered: ~17%

Highest new print price: \$96
Lowest new print price: \$29.99
Average new print price: \$63.62

Landscapes sold: 5
Nudes sold: 3
Still life florals sold: 4

Annualized 'new' print sales (assuming that this three week period is somewhat representative) \$13,250 for 208 prints

Assuming the average sales rate is about 17% (change to 16-2/3% for some easy math), that means that one out of every 6 listings sells. So each sale has to carry the ebay fees for 5 unsold prints. Again, assuming you list a starting price of 10.00, that means each successful sale will have 6 x \$0.60 in listing fees for a total of \$3.60, plus the completed sales fee of 5.25% on the average 'sold' print price of 63.63, or and additional \$3.34. IOW, on average ebay will get \$6.94 of your sale. So your gross income (after ebay fees) per print sold will be \$56.69.

Now for a gross simplification: assume you don't relist unsold prints but every print listed is a new one. That means that each sold print has 5 unsold siblings in your print drawers. So the breakeven point on a print would mean that to make ONE CENT, you would need to have your per print material and time content no more than \$56.68/6 or \$9.44.

Interesting.....

I'm glad I have fun doing this.

2. ### Travis NunnMember

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3. ### markMember

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I have never understood people like you Clay. I was at a meeting yesterday with a Math teacher who is salivating at the opportunity to crunch testing data for the school I work at. Nice lady, but in my opinion a bit unbalanced.

4. ### claySubscriber

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I'm temporarily bored and just curious. Not to mention a little bit of a propeller-head. Now I know, though. Sort of ugly economics, don't you think?

5. ### John McCallumMember

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Very interesting stats Clay.

\$9.44 for a print is pretty low for material costs and printing time. Downright frightening if you looked honestly at depreciation on equipment and photographing time.

On the other hand; given the nature of buyers to browse and peruse on ebay, and accounting for varying tastes, would you consider relisting unsold prints? If they then sold, this would give a very different model. Bit harder to forecast though ...

[Don't forget the number z with probability p lying under the standard normal density curve is called the upper p critical value of the std normal distribution.]

6. ### KerikMember

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Clay, you've got your propellar in overdrive!! I can just picture papers flying all around your office. Interesting analysis. eBay is definitely a BUYER's market when it comes to photographs.

7. ### claySubscriber

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Well, yeah, sure. I only had a few minutes here. But if you REALLY want to get nerdy, you might want to model the decreasing probability of a particular print selling after an initial no-bid. It seems reasonable to expect the probability of any particular print selling would diminish as the number of selling attempts increased. Probably would asymptotically approach that Guinness Stout I'm getting ready to go home and drink.

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The fact I understood most of this is a testament to my Business Studies teacher. And I didn't think anyone sold that much art on eBay, quite interesting numbers you have going...with photography I think a more direct selling approach is needed so people appreciate the quality of the print as well as your intentions as the person who made it.
That, and eBay fees are a real pain.

9. ### jd callowModeratorStaff MemberModerator

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I sold a ton of prints on ebay at walmart prices. My sell through was better than 50% @ an average sale price of ~14.00. My costs were around .80 per print plus ebay fees. I couldn't make a living at it, but it was fun and helped finance my darkroom activities.

10. ### User RemovedGuest

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I've crunched all the numbers just like you have here. As a print seller on Ebay, I understand the final percentage that they take, and agree that it's too much.

I think Ebay would be much better if they took a higher final value fee from people, rather than taking money just to list something.

That is really where Ebay is making all their money, from stupid people that make high priced auctions that will never sell.

I used to sell my prints for 50-75 dollars on Ebay, now I sell them for 175 and will soon be raising that to 250. My prints are selling just as well at the higher price as they were when they were lower.

I think all the other self representing photographers on Ebay need to raise their 40-75 dollar print price, as it's only hurting the photography market. There is no reason to be selling work for that cheep.

Ryan McIntosh
www.RyanMcIntosh.net

11. ### photomcMember

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Everyone seems to have some way to occupy their time.

Clay, if I had not met you I would worry about you.

However, your numbers seem to bear out what I have noticed as well, ebay is not a good place to sell art - or at least not generic ebay. My guess is selling prints on ebay, is like trying to sell prints to photographers

Everyone thinks that the price is to high, even though they will spend big more \$\$ than the new price of some items, photographs do not seem to one of those items. Have always wondered what the true sales numbers for prints are from a gallery....anyone know? Since a lot of folks seem to buy for the short term pleasure...something to hang on the wall for this year, it is not much of a surprise...cheap does best. After all how many really care if they own a plt/pld, carbon, tintype (vintage or new), etc? There are people who seem to make a living selling photographs...but I just don't know any.

Fun stuff Clay...sure makes the mind start to wander (wonder too!)

12. ### Jim ChinnMember

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I think Mr.Callow has the right idea. You are not going to get rich off selling prints on Ebay but the return might be enough to keep you supplied in film or paper for awhile.

13. ### Alex HawleyMember

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My experience is in line with all the above. Clay, I crunched the numbers for several weeks and had similar results. I've sold my prints for \$50 bucks and it helped out on equipment, paper, and film. But after a couple years, I agree with Ryan and plan to price my sales in a similar range.

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My wife sells prints I pass-on to her on eBay.. all palladium, all small (4.5 inches square on 6x8 inch pieces of paper unmounted. There are about 10 different ones that she rotates at a fixed price of \$100 each. Same as the monthly print offer I make via my website. I thought it would be folly and not go anywhere, but she has sold over 50 of them since July.

Bill

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16. ### claySubscriber

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Bill,when I was scrubbing the listings, none of your work showed up. I guess you haven't had any on in the last three weeks.

I hope no one takes this as some sort of rigorous analysis. As a case in point, I did not catch any of Bill's prints. I think your approach makes the most sense, though. Just figure out a minimum price you will accept, and make sure that it in no way cannabilizes your work sold through other venues.

It was an interesting exercise, though, and if you had asked me to make an estimate before I had done this, I probably would have incorrectly guessed both the average percentage sold and the average sales price.

How's Iceland shaping up?

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Hey Clay,

Iceland going well. Working on the finals as we speak. You should have a letter tomorrow.

As for the eBay thing, I wasn't trying to mess with your numbers! I think you are right in that she hasn't made any listings in the last few weeks. I have to admit that we were surprised at the response to this and I have taken notice. As you said, the monthly offer and the ebay stuff doesn't seem to damage gallery sales of other work. In fact it has proved to help bring new collectors to galleries that represent the work by serving as an "introductory" kind of thing.

As for eBay, I think it is a viable way for a photographer to foster a following with or without absence of other venues. These are very changing times for the dealing of art. As collectors become more confident in obtaining work online it will be harder and harder for the traditional galleries. It is already happening. Certain galleries have become very adept at using the internet, but others are not doing so well. Just because you see what appear to be very successful galleries out there doesn't mean they are not riding on the edge of failure and bankruptcy. Much of the great work held in gallery inventories is that belonging to private collectors. Many collectors that would once consign work from their collection to a reputable gallery for sales now also sell on the internet. A shakeout is underway.

B.

18. ### Robert BrummittMember

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The thought that someone bought your print?

Priceless.

19. ### claySubscriber

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We could start a whole 'nother thread on the gallery world as it exists (I use the term 'exist' very loosely) today. I agree with you that the whole gallery scene is in chaos right now. Looking good and doing well are two entirely different things. A lot of good looking venues are on the brink.

I think your approach using the internet as an introduction to your work makes a lot of sense, especially since it does not cannabilize sales of your larger matted work.

I did this more as an exercise in seeing what the realities of ebay seem to be at the moment. I think that we are in a state of transition right now in the marketing of photographic works. The internet has saturated the world in images, and a lot of them are very good and relatively inexpensive. What that has done to the bricks and mortar gallery operations is not clear to me right now.

20. ### Kirk KeyesMember

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Clay - How many of those were by Ray Bidegain?

21. ### claySubscriber

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Most of them, actually.

22. ### cperezMember

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Isn't it amazing that we now have the tools and resources to even contemplate performing this kind of calculation? There is nothing like a little real world feedback. Seems to me that it blows open the "secretive" world of art, galleries, and pricing. Information can generate knowledge and supplant "belief". Knowledge can lead to understanding. Understanding can lead to freedom of movement of ideas, markets, and money.

Hmmm... that's one world view, I suppose. But I'm not seeing it that way. It appears to me that eBay is a wonderful tool for reaching a vast market. Understood as such I think it's an interesting indicator for how well a person's work migh be accepted in the marketplace. A tool for honing one's market approach. It sure beats having a "gallery" take 30 to 60 percent of your "profit" per print.

Did eBay bring the "eyes" to your work and allow you to raise your prices as you became "established"? Or do you feel you could have/should have charged 175 or 250 out the chute? What venue(s) would you have chosen (when you first entered the market) in place of eBay to get the kind of exposure to your work that you are seeing now?

23. ### Ray BidegainMember

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I always read these discussions on selling on ebay with great interest. One of the most interesting things about the sale of prints on ebay is the fact that this information is available to the public. There is no other outlet for selling prints where the public knows what is selling and for how much. Galleries do not give out this information and private websites don’t either.

I sell prints for a living, and ebay is one of the three settings I have for sales. I looked at my own stats for the last 90 days and I will say my average sales price is somewhat higher than Clay’s information suggests, and my sales rate is more like 25% of the items I list. I have found that it costs me 10-15% of my sales in fees, and that includes both paypal and ebay.

I think that for most emerging, (not to mention living) artists that ebay offers a better opportunity for both income and exposure to the collector community than almost any gallery can offer.

Most photographers I know whom smaller galleries represent experience very few sales, sometimes they go for years at a time with out any sales at all. Maybe Clay or any of the rest of the readers who have gallery representation can share some information on their experience with the galleries that represent them. I would also be interested to hear about website sales.

Ray Bidegain

24. ### claySubscriber

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Hi Ray,

Thanks for checking on this thread. I hope my original post did not imply that I believed my little data mining experiment to be completely representative. But from what you are saying, it was in the general ballpark. It does appear that you are one of the more successful users of this outlet for print sales. And kudos for that!

My general take on the gallery scene is that the number of prints sold is far smaller, but the proceeds from any given print are pretty good. The real issue is getting shows. Just having representation without having shows is just a very slow way to make sales. But shows are a pretty massive effort, and I am not sure I have the whole thing sussed out. You need to have a coherent, interesting (and appealing!) theme to prepare a show. And you need a lot of finished work. As in say, 35-50 finished, matted, and ready to sell prints. That is a whole lot of work. The nice thing about the one-off sales that you are getting online is that you can fulfill them as they come in. You don't have to get them all ready to go at once.

One pro to the ebay sales method is that you may be reaching a far larger audience. On the other hand, the nice thing about a gallery show is that a certain percentage of those coming to a show are there to buy, and often do.

I dunno, I really don't have any 'this is the best way' feelings about the whole thing. There are pros and cons to both approaches.

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25. ### JBrunnerModeratorStaff MemberModerator

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Hi Ray!

A while ago I dabbled with selling on ebay. I was encouraged by the initial results, then Bang! November hit. Couldn't sell anything to save my life. Over Dec and Jan listings in the photo section rose to close to 25,000 items.

Checking back over the next couple of months confirmed very little of anything was selling. After a while I drifted away. Was that an anomaly, or have you found the venue to be cyclical?

26. ### Ray BidegainMember

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Hello Mr. Darkness:

I do think there is a cycle to ebay sales, sadly I am not organized enough to know what it is. I do know that some months are better than others, and the one thing that has really paid off for me has been, perseverance. I have continued to sell for several years now, collectors know what they can expect from me and my work. I have a few collectors who watched me for 3 or more years before beginning to collect my prints.

I think it would be a great way to sell your DVD, by the way. And I have to add that the trailer I viewed had great production values and was harilarious on top of that. Well done.

Ray