Fans and collectors interested in finding rare and unusal music items are more likely to be into the sole collector model, typified by AB-CD and Steal-A-Record. Other sites follow the person-to-person model. Some person-to-person sites focus on specific niches, like Guitar Auction, and have a look and feel similar to the sole collector sites. Others, of which Auction Universe, OnSale and eBay are examples, can be likened to huge interactive classifieds -- clearinghouse areas set up to encourage buying and selling of everything from Beanie Babies to autographed Def Leppard t-shirts. As John Thibeault, eBay's vice president of new business development, says, sites like his serve as "auctions for the masses."
Despite the many nuances, auction sites follow the same basic rules in facilitating their transactions. Buyers and sellers need to register in order to participate, which helps cut down on fraud and deception. Also, both types set up and post auction parameters, such as time frames, minimum bids and methods of merchandise delivery to winning bidders. And just as in real world auctions, people can slug it out, offering as many bids as they want until time is up, and the winners are notified.
John Grimm, who set up the relatively new Guitar Auction site, got the idea for his online business after placing ads on the 'net, and then had to juggle offers from half a dozen respondents. "I was tired of people lowballing me all the time," he says. "And I thought this would be the easiest way to sell a guitar because I would deal with one person, the highest bidder."
The site, which is free to use for both buyers and sellers, evolved out of the Free Music Classifieds site run by Vintage Music. That site calls itself a "spam-free" area where guitar and music items can be bought and sold. Grimm says that because all items are examined by "real live human beings" before being posted, Vintage Music is able to keep out low-quality material and potential scammers.
Guitar Auction asks its users only that they register at the outset, so that the site's overseers can monitor buyers and sellers and make sure they're acting in good faith. Despite its status as a "fee-free" site, Guitar Auction has a very prominent posting at its registration area inviting people to make donations to the cause. While Steal-A-Record, AB-CD and Guitar Auction fit nicely into a niche, a site like Guitar Auction -- because its users provide the material -- has the capacity for exceptional growth, although probably not into a behemoth like eBay.