eBay is becoming incredibly popular, attracting more buyers and sellers daily. Each of its item categories is absolutely filled with countless interesting and useful items. What's more, its easy-to-use forum allows beginners and seasoned professionals alike to buy and sell items with relative ease. However, with its growing popularity, effectively searching for items can be overwhelming, especially if you are new to the process. I think this is particularly true for vintage linens and textiles where, as an example, my search for Battenburg lace today brought up 654 active auctions. Below I've outlined some general tips that will make searching for eBay items more productive, along with some specific tips for searching for vintage textiles:
- The search words you choose must be included in the listing's title. For example, if you search for a 'red vintage kitchen towel', the only auctions you will pull up will contain all four of your search words in their title. This is a problem since sellers are limited by the number of letters they can include in their auction title-they have to be picky and limit themselves to what they feel are the most important descriptive words. In other words, your search wouldn't find the fabulous SET OF THREE WILENDUR VINTAGE FRUIT TOWELS because the word 'red' was not in their title. Similarly, it is important to consider whether the item you are interested in might have more than one name. Two examples that come immediately to mind are 1) a bedskirt which some sellers choose to call a dust ruffle, or 2) a bedspread which might also be called a coverlet or throw. I think the best way to overcome these obstacles is to do several searches for one item. Back to the red kitchen towel example-try RED KITCHEN TOWEL, VINTAGE KITCHEN TOWEL , RED TEA TOWEL, VINTAGE TEA TOWEL, FRUIT TOWEL, FLORAL TOWEL, FIGURAL TOWEL, ETC. As each search reveals a list of auctions, you can use the categories on the left side of the page to eliminate unwanted groups of listings and then use the gallery photos to pinpoint the towels that look most like what you had in mind.
- Avoid the 'search titles and description' option except for unusual circumstances. I think a lot of people are tempted by this option, the idea being that eBay will search all the auction descriptions as well as the titles for the words you specify. It sounds like a great way to make sure you're seeing every 'red towel', but the problem is that it is also going to pull up every auction that mentions the word 'red' or 'towel' even though the actual item may have nothing to do with a red towel. The first three auction listings when if found when I did a titles & descriptions search for 'vintage kitchen towel' pulled up a 1948 Vagabond Travel Trailer, a Fender Stratocaster Guitar Neck, and a Chestnut Kitchen Work Island-not exactly what I had in mind! Instead, I prefer to use this option when I'm looking for something very specific and fairly unusual. For example, if I were searching for a signed Pat Pritchard Christmas Ornaments towel and only wanted that particular towel, searching titles and descriptions with such a specific list of parameters should only bring up exactly the towel that I'm searching for. This option can also work well when searching for monogrammed items since most auctions wouldn't include the words like SLC (my initials) or JEL (my sister's initials) except in the case of a monogram.
- Know common abbreviations and terms for the category you are searching. I'm sure this varies wildly from one eBay category to another, but within vintage textiles and linens, the following are some common abbreviations and terms which can help narrow your search. However, use them with the understanding that you might miss out on some great items if the seller didn't include the term in the title:
MWT - Mint with tag, usually refers to a vintage item that was never used
NWT - New with tag, item is not vintage, but is a new item with tags still attached. May be a reproduction of an older design
REPRO - Reproduction; item is a new item based on a vintage design
NR - No reserve, item will sell to highest bidder
DOW - Days of the Week
MONO - Monogrammed
- Don't forget linen categories sometimes overlap. Some people prefer to shop by browsing specific categories. I think this is a great way to find items you might not even realize you were interested in, but don't forget that some items might apppear in more than one category. A lace hanky may be found in Collectibles: Lace & Doilies, in Antiques: Lace, or in Men's & Womens Clothing: Vintage: Accessories. In another example, vintage towels might be found in Kitchen Linens, Bed & Bath Linens, or Bar Accessories. Consider whether the items you are interested in might also be listed in more than one category. A great way to do this is to do a quick search for a general term (ie, vintage tablecloths) and then look at the first 10 or so auctions, making a note of which categories they are listed under.
- Save Favorite Sellers. If you buy an item from a particular seller or if a seller often has items that you like, combined with a good reputation, be sure to save that seller's page to your list of favorites. As more and more people begin selling on eBay, its nice to have a page of the sellers you like and trust most. I found this out when searching for art on eBay. Lots of times I search for art when I don't really know what I'm looking for-in other words, I'm just hoping to find something that strikes my fancy, but the art categories have overwhelming numbers of sellers, a lot of them offering pieces that don't really appeal to me. I must have at least 20 art sellers on my favorites page, so about every 2-3 weeks, I quickly click on their links to see what they have up for auction. This works well in any category and you'll find that seller's often have a certain 'style' in the items they select and offer for auction.
Using the search function to browse. The bewildering number of items offered on eBay makes it very difficult to 'just browse', like you might in an antique store or flea market. I've kind of come up with my own way to browse when I've got a little spare time on Saturday or Sunday afternoons. I think of things that I like and use the adjectives to do a very broad eBay search. I might search for something like French wire, pink roses, chartreuse, cottage, bright red, unused or kitchy. By sticking to adjectives, I never know what the search is going to pull up and I often find things that I love, but never would have thought to look for. If the number of items my search brings up is too vast, I just use the categories on the left side of the search page to pare things down. I can't tell you how many great things I've found this way. I know you can probably come up with your own adjectives, but I've included some links to my favorite searches to get you started.