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Amazon now lets you bid for fine arts, collectibles

In an attempt to drive more sales, Amazon's new Make an Offer feature allows you to negotiate with sellers on the price of collectible items.

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Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

You can can now haggle over a painting, rare baseball card or other collectible hawked by certain sellers on Amazon.

Introduced on Tuesday, a new feature called Make an Offer is a way to help Amazon buyers purchase collectibles and fine art for less than the current price and help sellers unload items. Though the feature sounds like eBay's auction process, Amazon's option is different in that the negotiation over price is a private exchange between the seller and each buyer.

About 176,000 collectibles appear to qualify for Make an Offer, according to Amazon's own tally on its site.

The feature is a way for Amazon to ring up more sales beyond its direct product offerings. The retail giant has increasingly relied on sales of products from third-party vendors. Some analysts estimate that third-party sales now account for more than 40 percent of Amazon's unit sales, according to the Wall Street Journal. Amazon's cut from outside vendors is based on a commission that generally ranges from 10 to 15 percent.

A recent survey of sellers by Amazon found that almost half of them said the ability to negotiate prices "would be important to drive more sales on Amazon," Amazon Marketplace general manager Peter Faricy told Reuters.

How does Make an Offer work?

If you're a consumer, launch the Amazon Make an Offer website. From there, you can browse the site or search for a specific item in the search field at the top of the page. You can then narrow the results by category, item, brand and other criteria. For example, if you're looking for a piece of memorabilia associated with New York Yankee great Lou Gehrig, type the phrase "Lou Gehrig."

From the search results, click an item that interests you, and the link for Make an Offer should appear. Click that link, and a field pops up allowing you to enter your offering price.

For instance, I'd love to have that 1934 baseball card signed by Gehrig, but $8,900 seems a bit high. So instead, maybe I'd offer a bid of $8,000, which is then sent to the seller.

Sellers have up to 72 hours to respond to your offer via e-mail. A seller can accept or reject your offer or try to negotiate a different price. During this time, other buyers can also bid for the item, so you need to keep that in mind if you're negotiating for an item you truly want. Assuming the two of you come to an agreement, you then purchase the item just as you would purchase any product on Amazon.

An Amazon spokesperson said that Make an Offer doesn't charge buyers or sellers any additional fees. Amazon collect a share of revenue from all sellers, but the amount is the same whether the item is sold at a fixed cost or through Make an Offer's bidding process.

Updated at 9:40 a.m. PT with Amazon's comment.