While many Farm Collector readers may use Facebook simply to post vacation photos and keep up with the grandkids, antique dealers know that buying and selling on this platform is not only good for your pocketbook, it takes the guesswork — and legwork — out of scoring farm collectibles with no hidden fees.
Facebook groups, which are free to create and join, offer a platform for like-minded collector enthusiasts. Garrett Balsick of Calhan, Colorado, says selling merchandise on Facebook rather than face-to-face has transformed his business, B/K Antiques, for the better.
A fifth-generation rancher, Garrett works as a loan officer at a local bank. In the evenings, while tending to other chores, he keeps an eye on Facebook live auctions, where he and his wife sell collectibles.
Their focus is on small, colorful items that look good on a shelf, the kind of things a lot of farmers may not even realize they still have. “A lot of work benches are just piled with 20 years of stuff,” Garrett says. “We want the old oil cans, wrenches, gas pump nozzles and stock parts that were never used.”
The online auctions pose no threat to auctioneers and established auction houses. “We will never compete with local auctioneers because everything we sell either has to be shipped or delivered,” Garrett says. “That is the largest hang-up with this platform.”
Going where the customers are
Garrett isn’t the only entrepreneur or collector to stumble onto buying and selling on the world’s largest social media platform. In August 2017, Jesse Balliett, Addison, New York, and his partner, Cody Palmer, opened Early Bird Antiques as a brick-and-mortar business.
“We opened a retail space but it’s in a rural area that doesn’t have a lot of foot traffic, so we started doing Facebook auctions,” Jesse explains. They learned through the school of hard knocks. “There was no book that explained how to buy and sell on Facebook, covering things like how to invoice customers and weed out bad buyers,” he says. “We were part of leading this.”
Jesse now owns his own Facebook group, Early Bird Auctions. “I hold an auction almost every night,” he says. “I’ve built a really good customer base doing that. Buyers join the group, watch live auctions, bid in real time and pay as they choose.”
Live auctions may last minutes or several hours. Communication is conducted through Facebook messaging. There is no charge to sell an item on Facebook (although if you sell through another person’s page, he or she may ask for a small fee) and there are no buyer’s premiums.
Jesse’s Facebook group has 11,400 members, a diverse community of people all over the world with one thing in common: a love for antiques. His collectibles include high-end signs, gas pumps, store displays, farm ephemera, small, painted wood signs, tools and toys, salesman’s samples, vintage farm clothing and more.
“What we are seeing is that people who have small antique shops or did eBay from home are now doing an auction once a week on Facebook and they’re bringing in an extra $1,000 dollars a week from a two-hour auction,” Jesse notes.
He says people who’ve had bad experiences with other online auctions might prefer Facebook’s setup. “There is no protection for the seller on eBay,” he explains. “If the buyer doesn’t like one thing about it, the person can make a complaint and the money is immediately frozen from your PayPal account. On Facebook, the seller sells direct to the buyer.”
Transparency for buyers and sellers
Garrett holds two auctions a month in Roy McNeese’s Gas Station/Country Store Auctions group. That group’s membership exceeds 13,000. Based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Roy says farm collectibles have been a lifelong passion.
“I decided to sell on Facebook and started my group in 2014,” Roy says. “We were one of the first auction groups ever on Facebook.”
Facebook, he says, offers a level of security for both sellers and customers. “There is more transparency with someone’s identity. You can ask questions in real time and see an item in a live video, and not just go from a photo or two in an online auction,” Roy says. “I want to see the top and bottom of an item and know more about it.”
Garrett and Bailey Balsick.
Community offers security
To get involved, buyers ask to join a Facebook group. That sends an electronic notification to the group’s moderators. Moderators control who can join and what they can sell. Roy and Jesse say they have banned people from their groups who stiff sellers or sell counterfeit antiques.
“We preview auctions ahead of time to make sure all is okay,” Jesse says. “Advertising signs are being faked so bad right now and sell for good money on eBay. Once it came to our attention that an auctioneer sold a fake piece, so he went live on Facebook and destroyed it. People are held to a high standard.”
Roy says one downside of Facebook occurs when a person backs out of a sale or fails to return messages, but when you have mutual friends, that person is less likely to pull any funny business.
“If I accept someone to the group and I have 30 mutual friends or several interests with him, I usually add without looking,” he says. “But if the person doesn’t share any groups, it is probably a scam and we monitor who joins.”
Antique signs are a popular category on online auctions.
Making friends; building connections
Finding merchandise to sell is half the fun. Jesse says he logs 30,000 miles a year, amassing pieces for his inventory, perusing estate sales and local auctions, and conducting good, old-fashioned picking. “It’s not just selling stuff,” Garrett notes. “There are conversations, joking around, and that kind of thing.”
For Roy, Facebook auctions are a way to help preserve farm history, have fun and make new friends. “There are a variety of collectibles a person could get into relatively cheap,” he says. “Some people really like certain brands. There are young people repurposing antiques into home furnishings.”
“A lot of the guys will have their sons or daughters helping them,” Roy says. “That gets them involved and you never know what it can lead to. Maybe your daughter likes being in front of the camera doing the live auctions and she becomes an actress, anchor or sports broadcaster. Maybe she’ll be her own auctioneer one day. You never know.” FC
Where to Start?
In Facebook auctions, begin with a keyword
Want to shop a Facebook group, but wondering where to begin?
Start by typing keywords in Facebook’s search browser, such as “tractor collectibles,” “antique tools” or “old spark plugs.” Narrow your search by selecting “groups.” Click on a group’s page and select “join group.”
To join some groups, you may be asked to answer a few questions pertaining to your interest in joining the group; this is a way to weed out spam. Once your request has been approved, start browsing the group’s page. You will be able to click on links, photos, events, files and albums.
For a “buy it now” item, type “sold” in the thread when you see an item you want to buy. The seller will then send you an invoice. Payment options vary.
This screenshot gives an idea of what a Facebook auction site looks like.
For live auctions, follow along in the comments section. The auctioneer will pan the camera to each listed item, sharing features of each piece. The piece may be classified by a name or item number. Place your monetary bid in the “comments” section. The highest bidder in the allotted time wins the item. The seller then sends an invoice to the winning bidder. Payment options vary: Sellers accept a variety of payment methods, including PayPal, cash, money order, credit card and personal check.
Prospective sellers should contact a group’s administrators to get approved to sell in their group. Some people charge a fee to sell through their group — perhaps a percentage of what an item sells for — and others do not. This varies by group, but sellers have to establish themselves with whoever runs the group. Once approved, sellers can create events, post and promote auctions. The advantage of selling through a group is a ready-made market. For example, Early Bird Auctions has 11,400 members, the kind of people who are interested in farm primitives. It’s a targeted audience, if you will.
For more information, most groups have a tab called “rules.” Read through those posts to learn the specifics about purchase and payment expectations.
— Sara Jordan-Heintz
For more information:
To learn more about buying and selling on Facebook, visit: https://www.facebook.com/help/894935210589667.
Garrett Balsick, (719) 472-4812; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get involved, ask to join the Early Bird Auctions and Gas Station/Country Store
Auction Facebook groups.
Sara Jordan-Heintz is an award-winning writer, editor and historian. Her articles have been published by the Associated Press and in Discover Vintage America, Antique Trader and others. Her biography Going Hollywood: Midwesterners in Movieland is out now. Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SaraEliz90 or contact her at: email@example.com.