Conducted by TIAS.com, which helps antiques dealers and malls set up shop online and specifically on eBay, the study compared the sales of goods sold on eBay during the first five months of last year with the sale of similar goods sold during the first five months of this year. While the number of goods sold by TIAS dealers on eBay tripled, the average price of each sale fell by 40 percent.
"It appears that prices are being forced down because of the amount of items being listed on eBay," said Phillip Davies, president of TIAS. "It's a very efficient marketplace."
eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove questioned whether the survey results might have been influenced by the mix of products that TIAS sellers listed or the initial prices for which they offered their items. But eBay has seen an increase in listings across the site, and that might have depressed prices, he said.
"We don't have any reason to dispute TIAS or any of their figures," Pursglove said.
On message boards on AuctionWatch.com and on eBay itself, sellers have complained for months that they have been earning less money on their auction sales. Many sellers feel like they have been hit from all sides, with lower prices on eBay and other auction sites because of the surge in sellers; higher prices for items they buy at flea markets and garage sales because more people are searching for those items; increased competition from big businesses as eBay has courted those sellers; and increased fees at eBay and other auction sites.
TIAS conducted its survey after hearing similar complaints of falling auction prices from its clients, Davies said. The study looked at more than 18,000 auctions on eBay, including some 4,500 during the first five months of 2000 and about 13,500 during the first five months of this year.
The study looked only at auctions listed by TIAS sellers during those two time periods. It found that the average price of items listed by TIAS sellers dropped from $83.52 during the five-month time period last year to $50.49 this year.
The study did not compare the prices of any individual items, Davies said. And TIAS did not do an in-depth comparison of the types of items listed either last year or this year. But Davies said that the types of items listed by sellers appeared to be consistent across both years.
"There may be a shift in merchandise, but we're not seeing that," Davies said. "It could be that sellers went from a whole year of selling expensive vases to selling (low-cost) crystal, but that's just not occurring. If you go back and look, there's a fairly consistent type of merchandise that sellers have been selling on the system."
TIAS offers storefronts for antiques and collectibles sellers and provides them with features that help them move their inventory easily onto eBay. Last year, the company opened a virtual antiques mall on eBay that showcases TIAS sellers.