Posts Tagged ‘selling’
by B.B. Pelletier
Okay, there has been a lot of interest in this series, and many of you have been champing at the bit to see what I think is wrong with the three photos I gave you as homework last time. So why don’t we begin there?
The three things I see wrong with the above photo are:
1. It’s too small. You can’t see any detail on the gun, which leaves any potential buyer to imagine what the condition might possibly be. It seems dishonest to me.
2. The gun is too dark. The seller made no attempt to clarify the photo to show wood grain, etc. This was so obviously wrong that several readers re-did the photo in software to show us what could be done.
3. The seller used flash, which usually ruins the image. It produces a bright flare on the central metal parts and allows the darker wooden parts to go black.
This is a better shot, but it’s still not good for selling. The perspective is off because we’re looking up on an angle from the butt. Because of that, a 50-inch rifle will look the same as a 32-inch carbine. You have to learn to show the gun from the side, on a 90-deg. angle.
What? Is this a girl at a dance and you’re afraid to walk up to her? GET CLOSER! Fill the frame with your subject. Learn how to use the macro function on your camera. Don’t you hate those old family photos of you at the beach where you stand a quarter-inch high in the middle of all the scenery? Can’t even see that it’s you.
The classic mistake of putting a dark blue gun on a white background, to make certain that no detail from the gun shows through. If the gun is dark, make the background medium dark, and then learn how to set your camera to over-expose the image, so the details pop out.
Okay, all of those mistakes plus the out-of-focus pictures that come from not knowing how to use the macro function or from being too cheap to buy a tripod are what I will concentrate on today.
Think about what you’re doing
When you want to sell an airgun, you have to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. What about your gun is unique and good, and how do you show that to a buyer? The photos should make the buyer salivate when he sees them. And, they should match the words you write.
As far as the photos go, show both sides of the gun and use the largest size image you can. On this blog, we’re limited to pictures 560 pixels wide, but there’s no height limitation. That’s why I often rotate a long gun so it’s standing on an angle. That way, I can show you much closer detail while still showing the entire gun. A few people will balk at this approach because it makes them scroll…and they don’t like to scroll. The majority of people want the photos to be as big as possible, and they’ll handle the scrolling.
Show me the details. If you’re selling a revolver, show me the gun with the cylinder opened. If you have nice wood on the stock, please show me a closeup so I can appreciate it. Don’t use flash that leaves bright spots right where you don’t want them. In short, SHOW ME THE GUN!
A way to cut bright shiny spots that come from overhead lighting and even from sunlight is to stand in the way, so you cast a shadow over the shiny area. With digital cameras, you get such fine preview images that you can do this as you shoot, but only if you have a tripod.
Use the countdown function on your camera. I usually set mine to 2 seconds, which gives me time to stand in the right place before the image is taken.
I know this subject means different things to different people, and I also know that no one can impose their own standards on anyone else. When selling an airgun, one thing you want to avoid at all costs is after-sales issues that have to be resolved. Some of these come from damage in shipment, which cannot be avoided but can be offset with insurance. Having a customer regard the gun you sent as less than described can cause problems that go on seemingly forever.
Let’s face it — some people are pickier than others. A year ago, I was selling a S&W Model 37 snubnosed revolver to a man who lived in Texas, but four hours away. He was a collector, so the last thing I wanted was to have him drive all that way only to reject the gun because of its condition. The gun was in 99 percent finish, but it had a tiny bump on the sideplate, where someone had disassembled it. There was a drag mark in the blued finish of the cylinder, from a dragging cylinder bolt.
Both of these things are common on fine revolvers, but I didn’t want this man to be surprised. I took macro shots of both situations and sent them to him. I sent them as 12-inch wide photos, optimized for the internet, which is a trick I advise all prospective sellers to learn how to do. Doing that makes the file size much smaller, while still showing all the detail you want to show. Instead of photos that are 250K in size, mine are 36K, so they’re much easier on the server on both ends.
The images you see here are a little over half the size of the ones I sent him.
The bump is along the curved gap of the sideplate, right where the light and dark meet. It’s on the right of the photo, about two-thirds of the way down from the top.
This photo shows the drag mark on the cylinder of the S&W model 37 revolver. It actually looked a lot less conspicuous than this in real life.
He saw the images and decided the gun was still in good enough condition to make the trip worth it. When he finally saw the gun for the first time, he remarked that the marks were far less conspicuous than he thought they’d be. The drag mark didn’t even penetrate the bluing. That made him very happy, and we completed the deal.
The lesson here is to learn to use the macro function on your camera and to describe any damage in detail so the buyer is prepared for it. For gosh sakes, get a tripod and learn to use it, because sharp shots like these are impossible without one. You should be able to pick up a good workable tripod for under $20 at a pawn shop. Consider that to be one of your tools for selling and trading airguns.
Show the whole gun
Let me illustrate why showing the entire gun at a large size is so essential. Note that instead of a beige carpet background, I used a darker red background. That was to lighten the gun in the foreground.
I know there’s a flare (specular highlight) on the comb of the stock. I had to use direct light because the dark finish ate up too much light to show wood grain detail. You can see that one of the two stock screws in the forearm is missing — something I would have mentioned in my description.
Look at the “folk art” initials carved into the checkering on the forearm! A real condition-killer. Notice the varnish scrape above the triggerguard.
Here’s the Falke 90 I acquired at Roanoke this year. When I bought it, I was aware of the horrible condition of the stock, but not the fact that the gun won’t cock or shoot. I also didn’t know that fewer than 200 of this model were ever made. Mine is number 39. This rifle is far rarer than the fabulous Colt Walker revolver that sells for $150,000 up to a million dollars.
The stock finish is so dark that I had to over-expose these two images by two F-stops and to use direct lighting, which I almost never do. Most digital cameras allow you to over- or under-expose images somewhere in the menu.
Well, that’s the lesson for today. Please let me know what you would like me to discuss in this series. I want to help anyone who wants to start buying and selling airguns to get off on the right foot.
by B.B. Pelletier
In case you haven’t had a chance to view Pyramyd Air’s 2010 Xmas video, here it is!
Before I start today’s blog, please note that I’m undergoing another outpatient procedure this morning and will be out of the loop much of the day. Edith will monitor the blog and answer comments as she’s able. I would appreciate it if the blog readers could help out by answering the comments from new people and others who might usually get an answer from me.
The covert deal
I call this report the covert deal because that’s what it’s about. I’ll explain a few of the uncommon deals I’ve made as an airgun collector/buyer and seller. I’m doing this to encourage those among you who want to get out and try this for themselves but haven’t gotten up the courage to try it, yet. Hopefully, you’ll see from what I am about to tell you that there are plenty of great airgun deals still to be made. Okay, here we go.
While you’re standing at your airgun table at an airgun show, someone comes up and offers you a firearm. He tells you that he knows nothing about firearms and he recently inherited one that he wants to get rid of right away. Without saying so, you gather that he is uncomfortable around firearms, and he sees you as his chance to get rid of this one.
Think it can’t happen? I’ve had it happen many times at different shows; so much so, in fact, that I am now prepared to talk to this person, because I know exactly what he wants and where he’s coming from. I won’t bore you with all the details; but the quick and dirty is that he somehow feels owning a firearm makes him a marked man, and he wants to keep this transaction as quiet and private as possible. That’s what you need to know — keep things quiet and private and let this fellow go his way, unencumbered by any firearms.
He says he has in his car what looks like a Civil War musket, and the plate on the right side just says Springfield with an eagle and the date 1873. There appear to be additional words on the gun, but they’re impossible for him to read. You can relax, because what he has is not considered to be a firearm by the ATF. It was made before 1898 and is classified as an antique. This is no M4 that was used to rob a liquor store last week, then thrown into the bushes during the getaway.
Also, if you know that the American Civil War lasted from 1860 until early 1865, you know that this isn’t a Civil War gun. With that date of 1873, it’s most likely a Trapdoor Springfield.
Now, this could either be the real deal from the late-19th century, or it could just as easily be a modern reproduction. You won’t know until you see it. The genuine rifle in overall good condition should be worth about $700. A modern replica in excellent condition is worth about $800-900.
You wander out to his car which you notice he’s parked far from the show entrance. He asks you to get in the back seat, where you find the rifle wrapped in a dirty beach towel. It turns out t0 be the real deal, so you ask him what he wants. “I saw something on your table that I’d like to trade for, if that’s okay. He describes it and you know he’s interested in an IZH 61 that you have priced at $75.
This is a real Trapdoor Springfield.
The nickname “Trapdoor” comes from the way the breech bolt operates. This one is in just good condition, because all original finish is gone. But, the barrel is clean and shiny with sharp rifling. That means that if the rest of the rifle is in good condition, it’s safe to shoot with vintage-powered ammunition.
You answer, “Sure, I’ll do that, plus I’ll throw in some pellets and targets to get you started. Let’s go back inside, and I’ll show you how it works.” You take the Trapdoor over to your own car and lock it in the trunk. Then the two of you head inside to finish the deal.
Have you just taken this guy to the cleaners? I used to think so, until I came to realize that he has absolutely no interest in guns, and you’ve just done him a big favor. That Trapdoor Springfield is worthless to him, and every time he has to venture out in public with it is a big risk, as far as he is concerned. Besides, you may not get a fair market price for it if you decide to sell it, because the market is severely depressed these days. Yes, you’re going to make money on the deal, but since you didn’t define the terms of the deal and, indeed, didn’t look for the deal to begin with, accept what has happened as a little windfall.
Now, had the gun been a prime German Jaeger hunting rifle with engraving, gold inlay, fluted barrel and bas-relief carving on the wood, it would have been worth four times as much, and then I think you should have given him some money to boot. But the point is, you didn’t seek this deal out. He came to you, and if you have satisfied his needs, then you have done him a kindness.
Here’s the big question. Why did he come to an airgun show? The surprising answer is that people who don’t like firearms also can’t discriminate between them and airguns. Everything at your show looked like a firearm to him. He doesn’t know exactly why airguns are not regulated the same as firearm, but he does know that they aren’t, and he just felt under less pressure at your low-profile airgun show. Bottom line, he had a gun to get rid of and he knew that you were the right guy to turn to.
The desperate seller
It’s getting on toward the end of the airgun show and a man you don’t know walks briskly up to your table. He’s holding several boxes, plus a nickel-plated Daisy Targeteer. “I want to sell you all of this stuff and I’m going to price it right. How about $100 for everything?”
“That’s all the money I have at the moment. I’m flying home in three hours and I’ll need some money in my pocket for that,” you respond.
“Aww, you can probably resell this for three times a hundred dollars in the remaining time the show is open. Come on!”
What he is offering you is a nickel-plated Daisy Targeteer in 98 percent condition, a blued gun that’s in 80 percent condition and a very early 100-percent blued gun in the box with everything. On top of that there are seven red-white-blue metal tubes of Daisy .118 copper-plated steel shot. Each of the shot tubes is worth at least $10 , the boxed gun is worth $150, the nickel-plated gun is worth $90 and the other blued gun is worth at least $50. This whole package is worth $360, or just a little more than he estimates.
You pull out all your money and buy it. He is happy because he needed gas money to get home. And you now have a quick sales job to do. Just because something is worth a certain amount doesn’t mean that anyone at this show wants to buy it. Mr. Desperate knew that when he came to you.
So the safest thing to do is lowball the whole deal away. You sell the Nickel Targeteer, the 80-percent Blue Targeteer and six tubes of steel shot to a Daisy collector for $100. You keep the boxed pistol and one tube of shot for yourself. Mr. Desperate hasn’t left the building before you have your money back and people are wondering why you are selling so cheap.
The boxed Targeteer is worth more than the asking price for the whole package.
The buyer with specific tastes
Here’s another one that I don’t have a picture for. A guy comes up to your table and offers you a Weihrauch HW 55 target rifle for your Diana model 24 youth rifle. You tell him that his gun is worth five times what yours is and he responds that it’s okay, because he still has three more 55s and he has been searching for a 24 like yours all year. You do the trade and everyone is happy.
Sound impossible? I can assure you it isn’t. Sometimes having a surplus of certain models can devaluate them in the owner’s mind. Familiarity breeds contempt.
In fact, all of these stories are true ones and the guns shown are the very ones that came from the deals described. I have changed the description of the deals to disguise the other party, but these exact things have all happened to me.
Things like this can happen to you at an airgun show, so always be ready to step into prosperity.
Now for a small homework assignment. I’m going to show you several bad images that were recently used in auction sales. I want you to discuss them amongst yourselves, and be ready to critique them so we will be ready for the next part of this report.
I see three things wrong with this picture. It’s so insulting that it might stop me from doing a deal with this seller.
The photographer was so close on this one. He just missed one thing.
This photographer has made the classic mistake. Can you tell what it is?
Another classic gun photo mistake. What is it?
Alright, that’s a wrap for today. In the next report, I’ll get into the fundamentals of taking good pictures to sell airguns.
by B.B. Pelletier
Before we begin, take a look at Pyramyd Air’s holiday video. Let it download completely before you play it.
This report was recently suggested by Kevin and other readers as an adjunct to my report on The art of collecting airguns. And, with Fred from the People’s Republik of New Jersey telling us the tale of his recent acquisition, I see the time as ripe for this.
I know some of you claim to have no interest in vintage or collectible airguns, but every so often I see where one of you has been exposed to a fine vintage gun, and your attitude changes dramatically. When that happens, this report series will be waiting for you.
Pick a trusted dealer or become one yourself
The biggest obstacle to buying and selling used items is trust. Those who haven’t ventured forth feel they’re stepping into a minefield to start trading long distance over the internet. And, let’s be honest, there are unscrupulous dealers who lay in wait for the hapless, so let me give you some pointers to reduce your risk in this area as much as possible.
To begin with, deal only with people whose reputations you can either check or that you already know. For example, I bet there isn’t one of our thousands of readers who would have much misgiving if they found themselves in a deal with Kevin Lentz. If you’ve read this blog for longer than two weeks, you must know that Kevin is a saint. He’s the kind of guy who will bend over backwards to give the other guy a fair deal because he values his reputation above almost everything.
There was a Pawn Stars TV episode in which the owner, Rick Harrison, told a woman that her Faberge pin that she thought was worth $2,000 was really worth $15,000 to him. He could have remained silent and given her what she asked, but he said he had to sleep at night, so he told her what it was really worth. You can explain that away by saying Rick couldn’t afford to let the public see him take advantage of the woman on television, but I got the impression that he’s really like that all the time. He’s always out for a profit, but he’s also inherently honest.
In a recent American Pickers episode, the guys shared a $10,000 windfall with the person who had sold them the two items that netted that amount. They split the sales price with the seller 50-50 well after the fact. That is a pretty good assessment of how Kevin or many other guys on this blog will treat you.
In my position, I get to know hundreds of Kevins that I meet at airgun shows and read about online. If one of them is selling something, I know I can trust both the description and the price. Well, really, the price is what drives my buy decision, but only if I know the seller in some way.
A couple of weeks ago, I bought a Primary New York City dart gun made in the 1870s. The seller asked me what it was worth, so I told him. Then he asked if I was interested. I answered yes, but at a price lower than the top of the range I had mentioned. I don’t collect these guns, but if there’s an opportunity to acquire one at a good price, I’m interested. He responded that he would sell it for my offer and we did the deal. Some time after Christmas, I’ll show the gun to you, because Edith and I agreed that it would be my big Christmas present this year.
The point I’m making is this. If I tell you something is worth as much as $800 to the right buyer but that I would offer $500, you know I’m not about to scam you. And if the seller had said he was hoping to get a little more than I offered, I would have been glad to help him find the places to sell it successfully for more money. After all, I’m going to own this gun for maybe the next several decades and then it’ll be someone else’s turn. Like Rick Harrison, I have to sleep at night.
So, point No. 1 is to buy from dealers with good reputations. And point No. 1A is to become such a dealer yourself. I don’t mean that you have to feel sorry for anybody, or help them out of a prior bad deal by overpaying; but as a deal comes together, you should know without conscious thought that you’re doing the right thing. If everybody wins, the deal is good.
Watch your descriptions!
Language is important, and too many people treat it as though it’s paint that can be slathered on the job and you’re done.
One of the most difficult things is to get an idea out of your own head and into the head of someone else so they understand what you’re trying to say. This is not the time to write conversationally, because writing lacks the tonal inflection of speech. Writing is too complex to discuss it meaningfully in a blog report, so instead I’ll give you some things to think about.
The following sentence makes me think the writer is dishonest: “This gun is in exceptional shape for an 80-year-old airgun.” The writer is asking the reader to agree to a standard that’s in the writer’s mind and impossible to convey. Here’s the honest way to describe the same gun: “The blued finish is worn until only 30 percent remains. Some old rust has left a pitted surface on the receiver, but the pits are small and smooth and look like patina. The wooden stock has small scratches and a couple dents from handling over the years. I’ve photographed the worst of these so you can evaluate them.”
The way to describe a gun to someone else is to act as their agent while describing the gun. Look for all the flaws and bring them to the attention of the reader. Your goal should be for the buyer to say something like this after he has seen the airgun, “You described it as much worse than it really is. I was pleasantly surprised when I finally saw it.”
Learn to punctuate! Failing to use the correct punctuation will confuse most readers. “The gun has been used very little after rebuilding which was done last year by a top airgunsmith who only works on this model when he has the time which is not that often unless you want one thats brand new get it.”
“The DRD is fitted tight to the muzzle and the de-pinger has increased the shot count by a lot. I’ve installed a 90-gram hammer that works really well with CPH.”
Instead, say that the silencer is fitted tight to the muzzle and a custom hammer de-bouncer has increased the shot count per fill. The gun likes 10.5-grain Crosman Premiers.
Use accepted terminology
Don’t call it a single-pump rifle when it’s really a breakbarrel spring-piston rifle. If it holds more than one round that can be fired without reloading the gun — it’s a repeater. Many newer shooters are calling these guns single shots because they have to do something beyond just pulling the trigger. In their world, only a semiautomatic can be a repeater.
Guns and airguns are never “mint,” so don’t use that term to describe the condition. That’s a phrase associated with coins, though it’s not precise there, either. Guns are poor, fair, good, very good and excellent. If they’ve never been shot and have everything they originally came with, they can also be classified as new in the box. The NRA determines what each of the conditions entails, and the Blue Book of Airguns goes the extra mile for those things in which airguns depart from firearms.
And, speaking of the Blue Book, if you plan to buy and sell airguns, you really need to own one. That way, it won’t take you three pages of description to describe that Red Ryder. You’ll know the difference between a No. 111, Model 40, and a Model 1938 Red Ryder. And, you can add informative things into your description from the Blue Book to help buyers understand what you’re selling.
I plan to have a separate report on photos, alone, because that topic is too large to be stuffed in anywhere else. It won’t be a repeat of my 5-part series on photographing airguns. I also plan to discuss how and where to sell your airguns. I’ve bought and sold guns while thousands of miles from home on business trips, so unless you’re on an oil platform or in a submarine, there isn’t much excuse not to participate.