Microplace Launches

I got an email from my friend, Karl Wiley, today announcing the launch of Microplace, a website that opens up a marketplace for microfinance to the broadest possible audience.

From his email:

I am so pleased to let all of you know that today we launched MicroPlace – an innovative new website that allows everyday people to make financial investments in the microfinance industry. It gives you the opportunity to have a direct impact on global poverty while earning a financial return!

As many of you are probably aware, last summer I joined up with this new eBay initiative, and have been serving as its Chief Operating Officer. Today is an exciting day for us, as the site is finally live to the world – the result of over a year of hard work and dedication.

I’m writing you all to invite you to check out the site (www.microplace.com), make an investment, and help us spread the word! For those who aren’t familiar with microfinance, it is a powerful, proven tool to alleviate global poverty. It involves making small loans – often as small as $50 – to the working poor in the developing world. They use these loans to start or grow small businesses – to purchase a sewing machine to make clothing, or inventory to start a small shop, for example. Over time, the borrowers use income from their businesses to pay back their loans with interest, and pull themselves and their families out of poverty.

Microfinance started around 30 years ago, with the formation of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh by Dr. Mohammed Yunus – the winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Since then, the industry has grown dramatically, but demand for microloans still vastly exceeds the funds available in the industry to make loans. Together, we can change that. MicroPlace opens up the ability for all of us to put a modest portion of savings into this incredible, profitable and self-sustaining industry. Roughly half of the world’s population still lives on less than $2 per day of income, so there is lots of work to do.

You can visit MicroPlace and choose from a selection of investments, each of which supports a loan to a specific microfinance lending organization in a developing country. We have 15 listings today, and will be adding more every week. Our minimum investment is only $100, so it’s easy to participate. And while you are earning interest, you know that every one of your invested dollars is going to be lent out to the working poor in the developing world, over and over again. For just a few hundred dollars investment, you can have a direct impact on dozens of peoples lives. Remember, this is not a charitable donation – this is a savings and investment vehicle, but with equal or even greater power than a donation might have.

You can also help us spread the word by forwarding this email, or using our e-card feature on the site (www.microplace.com/ecards). Microfinance is still not well known in the US – and we have great resources on the site that can help educate people about this powerful model. Help us spread the word and take a bite out of global poverty.

Thanks in advance for your support for this exciting initiative. I hope you’ll participate – you’ll feel good about yourself, and the borrowers who benefit from your investment will have the chance to change their lives dramatically!

I am a huge fan of microfinance and of Karl, so it’s great to see this vision come to life. I’ve already signed up on the site and made my first $100 investment.

So congratulations to Karl and the whole Microplace team. Go check out the site now – sign up, and start investing.

eBay Launches Social Networking… or at least, Neighborhoods

eBay launched Neighborhoods today, part of their big push to re-invigorate activity and excitement around the core of the auction platform.  eBay was built over people connecting about the products and categories that they collect and sell, and this effort definitely attempts to recapture more of that original community feel.

What are Neighborhoods?
Think of Neighborhoods as a gathering place for fans of a certain product, team, artist, and more. They’ve been created around popular items and searches and are designed for members with a very specific interest in mind.

For example, if you’re crazy about Audi automobiles, steer yourself over to that Neighborhood. Or maybe you love the “Slippery When Wet” album…the Bon Jovi Neighborhood could be for you. You’ll be able to find links to Neighborhoods on applicable search results pages and the Community hub, or simply search for them at http://neighborhoods.ebay.com.

Within a Neighborhood, you’ll find a discussion board dedicated to that topic where you can ask and answer questions, brag about your latest auction win, or discuss what’s new. You can upload and share photos related to that topic – and vote on which are best – or check out related listings, reviews, guides and blogs. You can even use our tools to see who else is part of that Neighborhood, or to find other Neighborhoods that might interest you.

Auctionbytes covered the launch basics on their site as well.

You can find eBay Neighborhoods here.  I joined this neighborhood dedicated to the Apple iPhone here.  Performance is incredibly slow right now, but I’m assuming they are working out the kinks there.

I caught some flack a few weeks ago for a post I wrote on Ning, where I basically argued that eBay should have acquired Ning before it received financing at a $200M+ price tag.  At the time, I compared it to eBay Groups, which was the 2004 effort by eBay to upgrade their community functionality.  Clearly, eBay Neighborhoods is a much fairer comparison.


Craigslist: What Am I Doing Wrong?

Silly post this evening.

I don’t usually post or forward urban legends or humor emails I receive. Truth be told, I don’t get many of these any more – it’s as if the world went through 10 years of forwarding silly email as they got used to the medium, and that silliness has past.

I thought this email was fake, but I did this Google search, and I was able to verify that this was, truly, a legitimate Craigslist posting recently, and a legitimate response. So enjoy… it has exactly the right mix of humor, social commentary, and financial reference for my tast.

Here is the original Craigslist posting:

What am I doing wrong?

Okay, I’m tired of beating around the bush. I’m a beautiful
(spectacularly beautiful) 25 year old girl. I’m articulate and classy.
I’m not from New York. I’m looking to get married to a guy who makes at least half a million a year. I know how that sounds, but keep in mind that a million a year is middle class in New York City, so I don’t think I’m overreaching at all.

Are there any guys who make 500K or more on this board? Any wives? Could you send me some tips? I dated a business man who makes average around 200 – 250. But that’s where I seem to hit a roadblock. 250,000 won’t get me to central park west. I know a woman in my yoga class who was married to an investment banker and lives in Tribeca, and she’s not as pretty as I am, nor is she a great genius. So what is she doing right? How do I get to her level?

Here are my questions specifically:

– Where do you single rich men hang out? Give me specifics- bars, restaurants, gyms

-What are you looking for in a mate? Be honest guys, you won’t hurt my feelings

-Is there an age range I should be targeting (I’m 25)?

– Why are some of the women living lavish lifestyles on the upper east side so plain? I’ve seen really ‘plain jane’ boring types who have nothing to offer married to incredibly wealthy guys. I’ve seen drop dead gorgeous girls in singles bars in the east village. What’s the story there?

– Jobs I should look out for? Everyone knows – lawyer, investment
banker, doctor. How much do those guys really make? And where do they hang out? Where do the hedge fund guys hang out?

– How you decide marriage vs. just a girlfriend? I am looking for

Please hold your insults – I’m putting myself out there in an honest
way. Most beautiful women are superficial; at least I’m being up front about it. I wouldn’t be searching for these kind of guys if I wasn’t able to match them – in looks, culture, sophistication, and keeping a nice home and hearth.

it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
PostingID: 432279810

Alright. Funny, right? Sick? Disgusting? Ridiculous? Hilarious? New York? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

This post received a number of responses. However, this one is worth reading.

Dear Pers-431649184:

I read your posting with great interest and have thought meaningfully about your dilemma. I offer the following analysis of your predicament.

Firstly, I’m not wasting your time, I qualify as a guy who fits your
bill; that is I make more than $500K per year. That said here’s how I see it.

Your offer, from the prospective of a guy like me, is plain and simple a crappy business deal. Here’s why. Cutting through all the B.S., what you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring my money. Fine, simple. But here’s the rub, your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into perpetuity…in fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won’t be getting any more beautiful!

So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, your depreciation accelerates! Let me explain, you’re 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!

So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy and hold…hence the rub…marriage. It doesn’t make good business sense to “buy you” (which is what you’re asking) so I’d rather lease. In case you think I’m being cruel, I would say the following. If my money were to go away, so would you, so when your beauty fades I need an out. It’s as simple as that. So a deal that makes sense is dating, not marriage.

Separately, I was taught early in my career about efficient markets. So, I wonder why a girl as “articulate, classy and spectacularly beautiful” as you has been unable to find your sugar daddy. I find it hard to believe that if you are as gorgeous as you say you are that the $500K hasn’t found you, if not only for a tryout.

By the way, you could always find a way to make your own money and then we wouldn’t need to have this difficult conversation.

With all that said, I must say you’re going about it the right way. Classic “pump and dump.”

I hope this is helpful, and if you want to enter into some sort of lease, let me know.

New York is a magical place.

Update (12/1/2007): I’ve been meaning to post this for a while. It turns out that this woman ignored the obvious right thing to do, and decided to respond. Her use of technical financial terms is bizarre and incorrect, but I’m guessing she was paraphrasing with some help from friends who had more knowledge about high end finance. In any case, I’ll let you judge for yourself.

From the “Best of Craigslist”, the post titled “To the gentleman who called me a depreciating asset

To the gentleman who called me a depreciating asset
Date: 2007-10-11, 8:23AM EDT

Dear Sir,

I must confess that I was somewhat taken aback upon reading your email. Indeed, it has taken some time for me to sufficiently recuperate from my surprise. Lest your confidence quickly inflate for little reason (as we know is the predisposition for Wall St. types), allow me to hasten to reassure you that the source of my surprise was neither your candor nor the accuracy of your perception. Indeed, it is your “claimed” success in light of your poor grasp of economics which has me baffled. If the standards required to meet with financial success on Wall St. have sunk so low, perhaps I should indeed “make my own money”, except for the fact that the effort/reward ratio is far too high for my liking – especially when so many of your ilk have displayed a far more cogent grasp of market realities than you have.

By now you are likely scratching your ever-vanishing hairline in confusion, so allow me to elaborate, dear man. To build some credibility I will tell you a bit more about yourself. Though you did not mention the details of your occupation, it is clear that you are an investment banker and not a trader, as any good trader would understand that human courtships are based upon a semi-efficient open market, and not an investment banking cartel. However, your inability to grasp the realities of the dating market is not surprising, given that 90% of the population are senior singles in maturity to you. Not to mention that you have successfully employed the tools of collusion and market manipulation rather that true acumen in your supposed wealth generation.

If your grasp of finance were not a minority partner with your ego, you would realize that the “outflows” associated with my depreciating “assets” are quite certain, and therefore subject to a low discount rate when determining their present value. In addition, though your concept of economics evidentially failed to move past the 1950s, advancement in plastic surgery is not subject to the same limitation. Thus, with some additional capital expenditure, the overall lifetime of “outflows” generated by these assets is greatly increased. Sad that Ashton Kutcher has demonstrated understanding of the female asset class which you, in all of your financial “wisdom”, have not.

You, on the other hand, are, given the uncertainty of the Wall St. job market, more of an inflation-indexed junk bond with an underwater nested call option. Though you may argue that you are more of an equity investment, my monetary minimums required from you do not change, and if you are unable to pay them, I will liquidate you without the benefit of a chapter 11, just as you would me.

Because your outflows are so much more uncertain with respect to mine, I require additional compensation in the form of a underwater nested call option on your future assets. I say underwater because, even taking into account the value of your junk bond coupon payment to me, the value of my “outflow” is in excess of the market price of your equity (which is quite low due to its riskiness associated with your poor grasp of finance and my existing claim upon your junk bond coupon).

I must thank you though for raising the question, despite the reputation cost of subjecting your weak logic to such widespread scrutiny. This took either considerable courage or ignorance on your part- and we’ll give you the benefit of doubt, just this once. My current boyfriend (a trader who lives in Central Park West, of course) and I thoroughly enjoyed discussing your response and we wish you the best of luck in your unhappy pursuit of that elusive market inefficiency.

Since it’s on best of craigslist, once again, I have to assume it’s legit. Ah, New York.

eBay Countdown Widget Launches (Beta)

Now this looks like fun…

eBay Countdown Widget (Beta)

I will self-admit, I’m more of a fixed-price buyer than an auction bidder, although I’ve done plenty of both on eBay.  But I like the idea of a smack-talking, action-packed, avatar-enabled feel to an online auction.  Captures some of the intensity and fun of a live auction, with the extra high tech coolness of a web-based widget.

We’ll see what people think, but I’m glad this idea came to life.  Special thanks for making it work on Firefox on the Mac!  Hats off to the Buyer Experience team, who I know have been cooking up ideas like this for the better part of a year.

Now Available: Thomas Jefferson Presidential Dollar Coin Rolls

I’ve recently received two full boxes of the new Thomas Jefferson Presidential Dollar Coins. As usual, I’ve put them up for sale on eBay. These coins are actually dated June 20th, which is one of the earliest dates I have seen.

Interestingly, the boxes for the Thomas Jefferson bank roll boxes are white instead of brown. Otherwise, to my eye, they are identical to the earlier George Washington and John Adams rolls.

You can find the listing for the Thomas Jefferson rolls here on eBay.

I still have some John Adams & George Washington rolls remaining. I’ll be putting up a specific listing in case you might be interested in buying all three together.

Great New Features from the eBay Express Team!

It has been a while since my last eBay-related post, but this article crossed my news feed a few days ago, and I had to comment:

AuctionBytes: Shopping.com Merchants Can Opt to Post on eBay Express

Time moves fairly quickly on the web, and at this point, the last of the strategic features from our 2007 plan for eBay Express are rolling out to the site. It’s exciting to see Lara & the team bring them to life after months & months of planning & effort.

The AuctionBytes article is fairly understated, but I think it’s worth highlighting a bit of what is now possible on eBay Express:

  1. For the first time, buyers have one site where they can search & purchase, in one seamless experience, items from eBay.com, eBay Stores, Half.com, and Shopping.com. This is with 24×7 customer service, PayPal-based checkout, and 100% buyer protection.
  2. Robust Merchandising Platform. eBay Express is now delivering targeted, customizable, and in many cases, product-based merchandising through email and the site. It began with the new “Add to Cart” page that launched a few months ago, and has now been extended across the site and to regular emails to recurring buyers. More importantly, it’s a flexible platform that allows for experimentation and optimization based on the actual results the team sees from different merchandising techniques and different types of placements.

Hopefully, the eBay Express experience will deliver these in such a way that they will feel seamless and obvious to buyers. The goal is to never reveal the complexity of integrating three completely separate platforms for fixed-price items to buyers.

One last thing that is wonderful to see is the amount of experimentation that is going on with the site, as the team works to relentlessly improve buyer engagement and purchasing rates. Many people might not notice the improvements to the results set, the navigation controls on finding pages, the shopping cart presentation, eBay.com integration, and the catalog-based experience in the media categories, but I see them now live-to-site, and I know that each and every one of those small feature improvements makes the experience measurably better.

So congratulations again to the team on these feature launches. I think I may make a couple extra purchases today on the site just to celebrate.

eBay Should Buy Ning… But Can They Afford It?

There was an interesting post yesterday by Don Dodge on the recent financing for Ning.

Marc Andreessen’s Ning raises $44M – Social Network on a Freemium business model

Wow. $44M is a lot of money, and a $214M post-money is a lot for a company at the stage Ning is at financially. Not sure what the end game would be to justify it, unless they either see a multi-billion dollar company on the horizon of 3-5 years, or a quick flip for $500-750M in 2008.

This is one of the areas of Web 2.0, however, that eBay should be a part of. eBay, after all, was built on community. Not just one community, but thousands – coin collectors, auto parts dealers, book sellers.

When I look at Ning, I see a product that eBay should have built – a single profile for a user (much more Web 2.0 savvy and current than the current eBay My World product), and the ability for users to create and join as many groups as they want, with full social networking features. Rather than Google Adwords, the free groups could easily be featuring actually product & item recommendations. The natural search indexing benefits of the groups would be excellent. eBay could build features to help members share searches, classify products, highlight Stores, and make vibrant mini-communities on the eBay/Ning platform.

A couple of years ago, eBay tried to update it’s incredibly dated eBay Forums with the new eBay Groups product. But compare that effort to Ning, and I think you’ll see why I believe that eBay should be courting the Ning team actively. Ironically, the eBay Alumni network is on Ning already.

If the price is too high now, maybe there is a way for eBay to just do a deal to bring Ning functionality to its members, and merge the Ning profile with My World.

Try it out for yourself, and I think you’ll see. The combination of the eBay member base and the functionality of Ning could easily 10x the number of social networks on Ning, and bring the number of users into the tens of millions. The eBay community has always wanted to form social networks… they’ve just lacked modern tools to do so.  eBay & Ning could reach a scale together on a time table that wouldn’t be possible independently.

Please note: In the interest of full disclosure, I do have some good friends at Ning. And I do have some good friends at eBay. So, while I’m not a truly disinterested party, I have no financial stake in Ning. I am a current shareholder of eBay.

How to Search LinkedIn Like a Pro

Just a quick pointer to my new post over on LinkedIn’s blog:

5 Tips on How to Search LinkedIn Like a Pro

For regular readers of my blog, you may find some of the concepts familar, as I used the same approach to help people earlier this year learn how to search eBay like a pro.

In both cases, similar concepts can help you use the search engines much more effectively.  And although different sites use different search technology, once you learn these types of tricks with one, it is fairly easy to learn to apply them to another.

LinkedIn is a great search engine for people.  Check out this earlier post where I compare LinkedIn, ZoomInfo, and Google for people search.  Something to think about the next time you are looking to learn a little bit more about someone you know (or someone you don’t).

Enjoy, and let me know if you have any particular tips about using LinkedIn search!

My (Relatively) New Patent Applications & One Old Nash Patent

One of the great things about working for eBay was the support of the legal team for the creation and filing of patents.  Over the course of my four years at eBay, I filed several patent applications, starting with my first in last 2004.

When I was growing up, I used to always hear about the patents filed by my grandfather (in the food business).  They were always a symbol of success, intelligence and pride in my family.

What patent is this, you might ask?  Well, with great thanks to Google for their new, searchable patent database, I have now for the first time had a chance to read it for myself.   It is patent #3108882, dated January 29, 1963, and is titled “Method of Preparing an Edible Fish Product“.  To translate from the legalese: it is the method of preparing & packing gefilte fish in glass jars with jelly.  Yes, you now know where that came from.

I know there are significant problems with the patent system as it stands today, particularly around software.  However, I can’t help feeling proud of the patents that I worked on at eBay, and grateful for their support shepherding them through the legal hurdles.

Patent applications only display on the US Patent Office website 18 months after the application is filed, so right now only two of the applications are showing up.  The rest will likely become visible over the next year or so.

Here is the link to my patent applications on the USPTO website.    Note the most recent one to show up, for “seller and item filters”, the backbone of the eBay Express website.

Welcome, Kijiji US. The First Real Craigslist Competition.

It was announced fairly quietly on Monday, but if you didn’t hear, eBay launched Kijiji in the US this week.

Click here to go to the site, now live in over 200 cities across the country.

It has been interesting to read the reactions and articles on the launch. It seems like the consensus is that while this is a smart move for eBay, as the online classifieds business continues to grow in potential, most people feel like Craigslist has nothing to fear.

Henry Blodget wrote on his blog the following:

Second, Craigslist is run by socialists who appear to have no interest in turning it into a real business. This means Craigslist is likely to be free or near-free in perpetuity. And this, in turn, means that if eBay ever tries to make Kijiji US a real business, the few buyers and sellers who ARE using Kijiji will probably laugh all the way to Craigslist.

Sorry, Henry. Kijiji has been quite successful for eBay outside the US, and that is without ever charging fees for listings except in very specific categories. (Craigslist, for example, does charge to post job listings).

What eBay does have on its hands is a platform that was designed to easily scale, to roll out new categories and cities across the world almost effortlessly, and one that was designed to be profitable. They have iterated on the model in global markets where classifieds are far more competitive with e-commerce than in the US, and they are now bringing those lessons to the US.

The eBay position described here, in this article, sounds about right:

Kijiji, a site eBay has operated overseas for two years, is now available in about 220 cities across the United States, spokesman Hani Durzy, said Tuesday.

“We’re targeting young people and young families looking for bargains locally,” Durzy said. “For now it’s a free service and our focus is on building the user experience…”

“I think Craigslist has been an incredible success but we think there is market for more players,” Durzy said.

Don Dodge seems to think that Craigslist has a secret-sauce, built around not running Classifieds like a business. It’s possible, but it’s also possible that Craig Newmark is quite happy running effectively a large lifestyle business, where he has a lot of influence, plenty of income, and complete control over his dominion.

eBay has challenges here, no doubt. There are network effects around the classifieds business, to be sure. It’s not like Kijiji in the Bay Area is going to be able to displace Craigslist.

However, where some people see strength in Craig Newmark’s resistance to profit-motive, I see a potential weakness.

Theoretically, eBay will push to innovate on the revenue model for classifieds more aggressively than Craigslist. Google innovated on their natural search business, and gave birth to a multi-billion dollar industry. It’s possible that the craigslist team is missing out on significant opportunity, largely because they aren’t interested in anything more than slight profitability.

It’s also likely that eBay will reinvest those dollars into continued enhancement of the Kijiji experience and business. For example, Kijiji will likely launch in far more cities than Craigslist. Since the network effects are local, Kijiji in a new city should have an outstanding chance at blocking others from expanding. eBay will likely also have more dollars to invest into real problems like Trust & Safety around classified ads.

Craiglist has been a phenomenal success, largely because it creates amazing value for its users. One weekend, as an experiment, I posted a Craiglist ad for two oak dressers and a table on Saturday night. I asked for $400, and that the buyers pick up the furniture no later than Sunday night.

By Sunday at 5pm, I had $400 cash in my wallet, and 3 buyers had come to pick up the furniture and take it away. Amazing.

The online classifieds business is for real, and despite the natural worries about cannibalization, it’s good to see eBay moving on this opportunity.

I guess I’m playing devil’s advocate here by saying that Kijiji could be a real business for eBay in the US, and more importantly, it could be real competition for Craigslist if they aren’t on their game.  Of course, this will only work for eBay if they aggressively invest their profits from the business back into the business, to keep pushing the bar higher for the online classifieds experience.

Missing eBay Live 2007 in Boston

This is the first time in four years that I’m not at eBay Live, and I have to admit, I’m missing it.

Well, of course the eBay Chatter has a play-by-play on their blog, and there is a website that is hosting a replay of the 2007 keynote.  But it’s not like being there.

My first eBay Live was in 2004, in New Orleans.  I was helping out generally, working the Business & Industrial and Sports category booths, and teaching classes to sellers interested in selling in bulk lots on eBay.  I had just delivered some key platform enhancements in this area, and was very excited to be giving my first eBay Live class.  Imagine my surprise when over 300 people turned up for the first session (standing room only!)   The funniest moment was two minutes before we were about to start, Jeff Jordan walked in the room and looked a little surprised.

“What class is this?!?” he asked me.

“Buying & Selling in Lots on eBay” I said.



The secret to a great class at eBay Live was focusing not on what eBay wanted to tell members, but about what members wanted to hear from eBay.  Selling in bulk was something that many sellers at the time were experimenting with at the time, and for good reason.  It was a way to source supply, a way to move out stagnant inventory, and a way to potentially sell new classes of inexpensive goods on the platform.  You’re not going to sell 1 can of tennis balls on eBay, but you might sell a case of 24.

I taught classes at eBay Live 2005 in San Jose, and at eBay Live 2006.  Of course, for me, 2006 was the highlight, as we rolled out eBay Express broadly to the community.  In fact, I believe the 2006 eBay Live class on eBay Express is still available online, right here.

Lara Housser & Christophe Gillet are giving the eBay Express classes this year, and there is a lot of great material in those classes.  I think a lot of people are going to be surprised with the success-to-date for the site.

Despite the incredibly long hours on your feet, and the incredibly early mornings and late nights, there is a bit of magic to eBay Live, and I have to admit that I’m missing it this year.

Of course, that’s the trade-off you make when you take on a new opportunity – you have to leave another behind.  I can’t tell you how excited I am about my new role and my new company.  The opportunity at LinkedIn is incredible, and the people are amazing to work with.

But I’m feeling nostalgic tonight, so good luck to the eBay team in Boston this week.

P.S.  In a weird twist of events, “Lara Housser” has become one of the top ten search queries leading to this blog.  Lara, if you are reading, you may want to update your LinkedIn public profile… people are clearly looking for you.  🙂

The Price of 20th Anniversary Silver Eagle 3-Piece Sets is Spiking

Not sure why I checked this today, but I did.  It’s interesting enough to share, and even if you aren’t into coins, you might find this market behavior interesting.

In 2006, the US Mint celebrated the 20th anniversary of the US Silver Eagle (also known as the American Silver Eagle, or ASE).  They released a 3-piece set of silver eagles, which included the following coins:

  • 2006 “W” Uncirculated Silver Eagle
  • 2006 “W” Proof Silver Eagle
  • 2006 “W” Reverse-Proof Silver Eagle

They were released late in the year, around Halloween, and while I had pre-ordered two sets, they were sold out on the US Mint website quickly.

The coins are beautiful, as to be expected, but at $100 a set, you were paying quite a bit for the novelty of the reverse-proof.  The US Mint had not done a reverse-proof before.

In case you don’t follow coins, a proof coin is pressed twice, with special dies, to give it a mirror-like background and a frosty, well defined image.  The reverse-proof interesting produced a mirror-like image on top of a frosty background.

Given the sold out status, I wasn’t surprised to see the sets selling for $200-$250 in most coin shops and on eBay by December 2006.  I thought that by itself was a pretty steep markup.

Turns out I should have bought more at that price.

Checkout the following chart from eBay Marketplace Research on the last 3 months of prices for the set:

Look at that surge in mid-April!  Average price, as near as I can tell now, is about $580.  That’s 480% appreciation in 8 months.

I used the following query to sift out the single coins, the silver/gold sets, and the graded coins, which would muddy the results:

2006 AMERICAN EAGLE 20TH Set  -no -pr69 -pr70 -ms69 -ms70 -gold -ngc -pcgs -70 -69 

I also filtered out items above $1000, because those tend to be auctions for multiple sets in a single lot.

Anyway, I’m not sure what is causing the surge, but maybe its the release of the 2007 proof eagles.  Not sure.  Please comment if you have some insight.  I did find this thread on CoinTalk.

Judge Judy Episode on eBay Trust & Safety

Sorry, I’ve been sitting on this one too long, and I just have to post it.

This is the Judge Judy episode where the eBay scammer gets her due… to the tune of a $5000 judgement. More importantly, she gets taken to task for even pretending that this was OK or justified.

Premise: The defendant sold two expensive cell phones to the plaintiff, but then only shipped them pictures of the cell phones, claiming the listing was only for the photo, not the cell phone. When the buyer complained, she left them negative feedback claiming they were the scam artists! Sleazy.

Look, I know Judge Judy is no Rob Chesnut, but then again, Rob Chesnut is no Judge Judy. 🙂

I admit to having a soft spot for these type of shows… call it a weakness. But I admit a strong desire to see the few bad actors out there who make the world a worse place get some public humiliation.

Of course, if these buyers had purchased the cell phones on eBay Express, they would have been covered by 100% buyer protection, and they would have gotten their money back quickly. Still, that wouldn’t have been as much fun as this TV clip.

Nintendo Video Game History: For Sale on eBay This Week!

Yes, I am shamelessly plugging my own listings. Deal with it.

I actually have 13 new listings up this week, and I thought it would be fun to highlight them because most of them are ghosts of video game consoles past like the mythic dungeons in world of warcraft! If you don’t know what I’m talking about then you can’t miss visiting this http://elitist-gaming.com/mythic-dungeons-boost/ and revive the old memories. Most were dug up by my father recently, who keeps discovering new things to sell in his endless supply of storage sheds.

This week, I have the following starting on Sunday at 5pm:

  • Nintendo 64, with Mario 64 & Rumble Pack
  • Lot of 10 Nintendo 64 Games
  • Super Nintendo, with two controllers (but no AC or Video Cable)
  • Original Nintendo, with Super Mario Bros.
  • … and other assorted goodies

Feel free to check out my new listings. And happy bidding! 🙂

StumbleUpon is a Real Traffic Driver

StumbleUpon is more powerful than I first thought.

In case you haven’t tried it, StumbleUpon is a fairly unique new tool to help browse the web. It’s a toolbar that you can easily download and install in your browser (IE or Firefox). With it, you can easily vote “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” on any web page you go to, kind of like Tivo. As you vote for websites, StumbleUpon compares the sites you like to the sites that other people like. Then, when you click “Stumble!”, it automatically takes you to other websites, most likely ones you haven’t heard of, but that StumbleUpon thinks you’ll like.

My first impression of StumbleUpon as a user was positive – it very quickly started taking me to Mac-related sites, many of which I hadn’t heard of. It was neat, but since I rarely have time to just randomly browse the web, I didn’t use it much.

I didn’t give StumbleUpon much more thought, despite all of the eBay/StumbleUpon acquisition rumors, until today.

For the first time, this morning I decided to actually vote for my own blog, Psychohistory, with StumbleUpon. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Why not a little self-promotion?

Tonight, I checked my blog statistics, and the number one referring site to my blog today was… StumbleUpon. 29 hits out of 380 total. That might sound like a small number (it is), but I’m just shocked that a single vote could bring traffic to my blog.

Something real is going on here… reading the WordPress forums I see that a lot of blog authors are getting thousands of hits a day from StumbleUpon. If any of that is hitting my blog, then there must be a fairly significant flow sourcing from StumbleUpon users.

In any case, if you haven’t downloaded StumbleUpon yet, it’s worth checking out. And if you run a website, it’s worth thinking about how to best get people to vote for your site in StumbleUpon. This page on the StumbleUpon site helps you integrate their tags into your pages.

Click this link below to vote for this blog… 🙂

Stumble it!