Tophatter, the real-time live auction site to sell art or crafts or vintage or ..... ? I did and I loved it. It has the potential to be a major player in online selling, not so much because there's anything unique being sold, but because it's FUN! It's live and it moves fast. Here's my review of Tophatter.
Remember bidding wars on Ebay? This is better. All bidders sign up ahead, go into a virtual auction room with a real-time "auctioneer" and one by one, items come up and are bid for. Minimum bids set by sellers must be half of the retail, and there's plenty of time to look at the items before they actually hit the auction block.
Each buyer has an icon...at this time it's a clumsy cartoon of men or women distinguishable only by color... and bid, real time, on the item. I watched for a while before I sold, and what fun! It was fun to see what each item sold for, fun to see if it sold! They have chat live during the auctions, which means you can ask questions of the seller (if they are there) live, or chat amongst yourselves. Did I say it's fun? I saw sellers wait til an item almost hit the final gavel, then offer a freebie in, some samples, for instance, and the bidding started all over again.
The other word I hear describing Tophatter is that it is addicting, and it is. Now, what's for sale there? They have separate auctions for like lots. For instance, there's Health and Beauty auctions, Art Auctions, Pet (related item) auctions, jewelry auctions, supplies auctions, vintage auctions and daily bazaars where anything goes.
You can go in and out of auctions, if nothing in line to sell at the jewelry auction strikes your fancy, go to the art auction for a while. And you can browse days ahead at upcoming auctions and have Tophatter send you a text message when it's about to be auctioned, so you don't have to watch the whole auction...but you'll WANT to!
Sellers can talk about their product or item, describe nuances, answer questions, talk it up, all live during the auction.
So you get it, it's a live auction, with live buyers and sellers and an auctioneer, online, and loads of fun. Do buyers get deals? Do sellers make money?
Go watch! I saw some incredible deals, but mostly I saw fabulous wares I never saw before going for near retail. I also saw some one of a kinds go way over the expected price. I also saw no sales on items.
Most of the auctions I watched sold relatively inexpensive items, under $50. As it grows, I expect to see that change and pricier items sell. Ebay had its day as an auction site and (stupidly, imo) moved away from it and lost the fun and the momentum of competition that auctions bring at any price point. Tophatter is stepping up to not only compete with Ebay, but with Etsy and the other Etsy-wannabe sites.
The Nuts and Bolts: Both buyers and sellers need a paypal account to sell, and the actual transactions for an item, the payment and the payment of the seller's fees to Tophatter, are handled on paypal, not through Tophatter. There is an active feedback portion. The fees to sell, as of the date of this blog post, is 10% or $1, whichever is highest. So not good for $5 items.
To control fraud, both buyers and sellers are on a probationary period while the transactions all take place on 3 items. The buyer paying, the seller shipping and paying the Tophatter fee and I think leaving feedback, as well.
To set up an auction of your item...called a "lot" here, is pretty simple, after signup, it's a one page affair with small photos needed and a good description, along with retail price and what you want to start the bidding at (half or less of the retail). After you list, you need to schedule your auction. There's a list of the types of auctions and you just choose what is relevent. They choose the time and it's getting crowded as this fun site grows. You can edit your item and reschedule your date and time. You don't get to choose date and time, but if you know, for instance, that you cannot be around on Tuesday, you can reschedule it for a later date.
My personal experience as a seller was that I sold a small portrait commission, my first time out. I did not attend my auction because I had a computer glitch on my end during the auction, and I think I would have sold it for higher if I had. But it did sell, for a nice percentage of my retail price and I'm definitely doing it again. My buyer is also a first timer at Tophatter and we are working on her portrait commission now. She paid within hours, I was billed by Tophatter and paid them, now all that's left is for me to finish her pet portrait and mail to her.
I don't think I'm going to do portrait commissions, only because my prices for them are the same everywhere I sell...at my etsy custom portrait shop, the gallery I show at in Philadelphia, and from my portrait website, and I want to keep my custom portrait prices consistent. So I am going to do already done work in the future. I did that for a while on ebay and it was so much fun, gave me a ton of confidence (I was just starting out) and I sold at amazing prices when there were bidding wars. There's a LOT of bidding wars at Tophatter.
Remember when ebay was fun? This is way more fun. Tophatter is growing and I suspect that as it grows, it will get less clunky (the avatars customizable, for instance), faster ability to get into an auction, and will have a variety of auctions all the time, etc. As a seller, at the least it is exposure with no upfront fee, and at the best, a nice sales platform.
Anyone who's ever bid at a real life auction has experienced the decision to stop bidding at $40 and before you know it, you bid $42...then $46..then $55.... this has all that momentum and fun and is available when you feel like it! And you don't have to tie anything on the roof of your car!
Your experiences with Tophatter? Love to hear it.