eBay - Tapping Into The Japanese Collector Market


If you owned a skateboard shop in your local mall would you put a big sign in the window saying "No Baggy Pants Allowed"? Of course not. If you did you would be eliminating 50% or more of your most avid potential customers.

If you sell vintage Americana and don't allow Japanese bidders you might just as well place a "No Baggy Pants Allowed" sign in your auction ads.

Vintage Americana is hot in Japan with thousands of hungry collectors. These collectors have several things in common.

  • They have money to spend on their interests
  • They consistently pay high prices for the items they collect
  • They are highly competitive amongst themselves. This means a collector will often pay an unrealistic price for an item simply to keep a fellow collector they know personally from getting the item
  • They are extremely polite
  • They pay quickly - usually with PayPal
  • Once they have bought from you, they return again and again, quickly becoming loyal repeat customers
  • They spend money twelve months a year - they don't suffer from slow buying periods as many American bidders do

If don't think Japanese bidders are a force on eBay, consider this.

There is a company that does nothing but act as a bidding agent for Japanese buyers. They advertise in Japan, have a website set up with sniping equipment, and full translation software. They place bids on eBay for their registered members, make payment in US funds, and have the items shipped to them. They then forward them to the Japanese buyer upon payment for the item, shipping, and a healthy commission.

If a Japanese collector is willing to pay $300 plus a $45+ commission for an item, doesn't it make sense to let them pay the entire $345 to you?

Some things to keep in mind when doing business with Japanese buyers

1. Consider using translator software when doing business with Japanese buyers

2. Whether using translation software or not, remember that many of the people you will be dealing with do not speak or write fluent English. Always use complete sentences and try to use proper sentence structure (simple noun - adjective - verb structure you learned in school). Using the chopped off English many of us have become accustomed to can cause confusion for your customer.

3. Always offer surface, air mail, and Global Priority shipping options. Many Japanese buyers want their items ASAP, and you will be surprised how often a buyer will spend $35 to have a $50 item shipped Air Mail.

4. If they want the item insured (most won't), it must be shipped via Parcel Post of UPS.

5. You will find many Japanese buyers hide their feedback. They do this to keep other collectors they are in competition with from finding their sources (remember what was said earlier about their competitiveness). Don't worry about the hidden feedback. It's usually 100% positive.

6. Delivery confirmation isn't available on USPS international shipments. With Japanese buyers it's not a big thing. They won't ask for it.

What are Japanese buyers looking for?

Their strongest interests seem to be for items from the mid d1950's to current times. Here's a list of some things that have high collector interest in Japan.

  • Fire-King glassware - particularly the advertising coffee mugs they made
  • Pyrex kitchenware - especially the nesting sets of four mixing bowls in nearly any style or color
  • The battery operated tin toys manufactured in Japan but sold in the US during the 1950's and 1960's
  • Much of the kitschy fabrics that were popular in the US during the late 60's and early 70's
  • Vintage US brand name blue jeans and other denim garments Brand name athletic footwear from the 80's and 90's (particularly anything Michael Jordan related)
  • Red/white plastic kitchen accessories from the 50's and 60's Japanese manufactured action figures that were marketed in the US
  • Vintage toys in general from the 60's and 70's

There are hundreds of other items that are avidly sought by Japanese collectors. Many of them things we here in the US don't yet consider collectible.

You can research these simply by looking at the public feedback of Japanese buyers. You can also track their buying habits by searching their bid history.

If you need further evidence of what this market can do to your bottom line, consider this:

I sell a lot of old catalogs from a wide variety of companies. It used to be that whenever I listed a men's shoe catalog from the early 1900's, I could expect a high bid of $30 to $50.

About a year and a half ago, three Japanese collectors began bidding on most of the men's shoe catalogs I listed. It is now a rare catalog that doesn't bring at least $100 from one of these bidders. Many sell for $150+.

Can you afford to give up that kind of additional profits on the items you list?

Gary Hendrickson has been making his living selling on eBay for more than six years. He's the author of two eBay related ebooks, has a blog for eBay sellers, and is the owner of ColdItems.Com.

colditems.com">ColdItems.Com theauctionrebel.typepad.com">The Auction Rebel Blog


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