Why are some eBay items suspiciously cheap?

I noticed that some eBay items - such as genuine precious-metal jewelry that is selling for just $1. Which leads to suspicion that maybe it’s something fake like plastic, but the seller(s) have high ratings, a track record of numerous sales, and the photos look real. Why would things like these be selling for so low, when they should command hundreds or thousands of dollars? (they even have a “listed retail value” exceeding $10,000 apiece)


Because, they are not “selling” for that price.
That’s just the starting bid, and the seller undoubtably has a reserve price on the auction, which means the item won’t sell until he gets the price he wants.

It is not selling for that price; that is the starting auction bid. Note that jewelry is sold at massive markups.

He gets some nice prices for some of his stuff:

Oh - but the auction ends in 9 days. Is he allowed to refuse to sell if he didn’t get a bid he liked, even if when the auction ends it’s still a measly few dollars? Thought eBay forces sellers to honor the deal.
(As you can see I’m an eBay novice.)

Ebay has several selling methods. One of the more common ones is the reserve price auction. This is the standard model with “real” auctions, so anyone with auction experience is not surprised that they can’t buy a $15,000 diamond for a buck.

The seller could end the auction by claiming the item is no longer available for some reason.

However, the 2 listings you linked to already have multiple bids and multiple people watching them, with 9 days to go. It is very, very likely that the items will be bid up to a fair market price.

Many sellers set a very low starting price to attract bids. It’s a risky strategy for esoteric items that very few people would be interested in. But it works well for popular items.

p.s. Here is a recent listing by that same seller. Click on the “48 bids” to see the entire bid history. As you can see, it had a starting price of $0.99, and it sold for $5300.

I looked at the seller’s completed auctions, and every item sold. This means he’s not using a reserve (or, it’s very low). So, either there is enough liquidity in the jewelry market to guarantee a profit, or he has shill bidders.

Many auction buyers are irrational. They bid on what appears to be a great deal - especially if it doesn’t have a reserve price - and get emotionally invested in it. THey keep bidding even after the price has gone up above the fair market price. This is a seller that understands this well.

I’ve seen it many times myself. Say an item is worth about $220. I’d list it with a $50 starting price and $200 buy-it-now price. Nobody ever chooses the buy-it-now option; someone bids $50 (at which point the buy-it-now option goes away), and it will eventually sell for $250, even if someone else is selling the same item in similar condition for $220 buy-it-now.

It won’t still be a measly few dollars unless the seller made a major error in the listing. Precious metals and actual gemstones aren’t going to go for that cheap.

Think of the 9 days like the time it’s in a showroom before the auction. It won’t really heat up until the end. A lot of the 10 or 17 people who are watching the listings haven’t bid yet, but will then.

Related question - do sellers ever set an unrealistically high reserve price for the purpose of evaluating the market? I.e., they have no intention to sell, they just want to see what it’s worth.

I really thought it was going to be about the various stuff you can get from buyers in China; there’s no way that they can make & ship something internationally for < $1 is there?

Yes, but there’s a price for it. eBay charges a percentage of the reserve price regardless if the item sells.

Most of the bids won’t even come in until the auction is almost over. Check it again in 9 days and look where it ends.

There’s nothing “suspicious” about it. That’s how eBay works.

No, all that means is that the reserve price is less than the price they sold for, not that the reserve was “low”.