Nov 3, 2007

On eBay and Obscure Items

As a wedding gift in 1986 my wife and I received three place settings of some exquisite china, Cumberland 2225 by Noritake to be specific. We had always meant to purchase more place settings, but this expense took a back seat to school tuition, braces, and all of the usual costs of raising children.

Since that point in time Noritake has discontinued this particular pattern, and we gradually lost interest in adding to our small collection of elegant dinnerware.

Now, personally, I do not spend a lot of time getting worked up about domestic issues beyond making sure the trash is out and the dishes are clean (two of my default responsibilities), but I have to admit it is pleasant to eat from fine china on occasion.

Lo and behold, though, my wife came across many entries on eBay for Noritake china interspersed with such items as condos for sale, and we were able to place a bid on a 52-piece collection of the discontinued series. We won the auction for just over $50, and best of all the seller lives just miles away from us.

We now have eleven place settings that actually match one another, as well as an assortment of accoutrements such as serving platters, a creamer, and a sugar bowl.

The ability of sites such as eBay to link buyers and sellers across the planet still amazes me, and this small example of a satisfactory Internet exchange demonstrates just one aspect of the ways in which the Web will continue to change the ways in which individuals participate in global markets. The sellers were able to unload china they never used, and the purchasers found discontinued merchandise at an affordable price with little more than a few mouse clicks.

Of course, bureaucrats in offices of the State of Ohio and the federal government are salivating over the prospect of finding ways to tax such transactions as this one, but for the moment the Internet serves as a medium of which Adam Smith would be proud.


Roo said...

Mike - I had that exact same china in 1970. My set was for 12 and had more accessory pieces than I can count. I finally parted with it in 1980 because I wouldn't use it everyday and it took up too much space - especially for 2 people. Enjoy it!

Anonymous said...

Some eBay sellers are collecting sales tax from buyers within their states. If the state actually puts in place some method that forces these charges, I can think of no faster way to kill eBay. The auction site has already been deeply wounded by the postage increases.

There's another problem with commerce on the Web that really ticks me off, but at least it has taught me to read the terms before clicking on "I accept." Recently I've gotten automatic subscription renewals on purchases I made a year ago: Norton Systemworks, McAfee, and Newsaper Archive. If I hadn't checked my credit card statement, I'd be out a lot of dough for software and a Website I no longer use. It seems that everyone lately is including that auto renewal thing in their small print. I caught it in the terms of something I purchased last month and called the company to see how I could make the purchase without the auto renewal. I was told I couldn't, but after the purchase I could contact them again and opt out, which is what I did. I don't think people should have to work that hard not be automatically charged for something a year down the road.

Maggie Thurber said...

just for future reference - should you ever need to replace a broken or chipped piece, you can usually find it at

When I couldn't find replacement pieces on EBay, I did find them at this website - and for a pretty reasonable price, too.

I just mention it because our everyday china has been discontinued - and we tend to be harder on that than on the good china...

Anonymous said...

Now Michael, States are more concerned with its residents buying goods from outstate vendors and losing sales tax revenue. In MI for instance, I was shocked to learn that the State loses close to 300 million a year in such tax revenues. MI residents refer to a futuristic "internet tax" but what they do not realize is that it already exists. It is called the Use Tax. The problem is collection. The statute places the use tax liability on the consumer. And, do you think the guy purchasing his golf clubs online is cutting a 6% check to the State of Michigan?

HS Bud