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Big-T & the Bada-Bings


Online Auction Sites
By Joya Balfour

This edition of Cyber*Kool originally was featured in the Fall/Winter 2001 issue of ATOMIC Magazine.

The online auction arena has undergone a transition over the past two years much like that of most e-commerce sites: a huge push, an explosion, and finally a recession. In 1999, it seemed as though every other online store had a bid-to-win component, while today the handful of worthwhile sites still pale in comparison to the eBay phenomenon. That said, the Web remains a retro hunter's paradise, and the following auction sites provide the best of the best in vintage, antiques and collectibles.

Still the grandfather of all auction sites. eBay continues to set the standard for bidding and selling on the Web. With listings that far outnumber its closest rival, eBay has deepened the breadth of its offerings be creating specialty page devoted to premier items, such as Americana collectibles, Butterfield auctions, classic automobiles and Antiques Roadshow items. New features include favorite seller lists, regional sites, creation of your own eBay stores, filter by price range, and the Buy-It Now option that enables you to instantly purchase an item at the seller's desired price. For collectors of vintage clothing and decorative items, be sure to visit The Retro Shop at, where eBay sellers specializing in retro items have their items listed on one convenient page.

This site specializes in live interactive television, radio and online auctions. Recent auctions include AMC Live: The Hollywood auction, where members could bid on the Cowardly Lions costume worn in The Wizard of Oz; an original Rudolph Valentino poster; Bob Hope's military field cap worn on a USO Tour; Treasures of Tek-Sing, a sunken Chinese military ship dating to 1822; and Hollywood Central Props, whose doors closed but who made their inventory of movie and television props available to IBidLive. The company's goal, to "bring entertainment to auctions, and auctions to entertainment," is reflected in its attempt to bring the stories behind auction items to life. Partnerships with several cable networks have produced compelling programs on the lives of James Cagney and The Beatles, which featured favorite movie and TV clips and interviews broadcast alongside auction memorabilia.

For those with a hankering for Hollywood posters, limited edition movie books or pop culture kitsch artifacts, Popula delivers. A specialized auction site, it caters to those looking for something unique. Features include the Hothouse (couture and designer vintage apparel and textiles, estate jewelry, rare books and collectibles), the Orphanage (clearance items that didn't receive any bids upon relisting), and the the List-O-Mat (a free application for preparing auction listings that works well with Microsoft Access). Current listings include NunZilla the Fire-breathing Wind-Up Nun, a first edition of the 1957 book Cruising in the Cocktail Era, and the "appalling" Rotary Club Songbook from 1955.

American Pastimes
The goal of American Pastimes is to provide a "gallery, showcase, auction block, and meeting place for collectors and enthusiasts of antiques, sports memorabilia, Americana, pins, comics, signs, toys, etc." Their inventory includes early 20th century campaign pins, old magazines in mint condition, and vintage tin advertising signs, among other items. American Pastimes' splash page, done in Flash, leads one to expect a high impact site with real-time bidding, but unfortunately at press time, their online auctions were still pending. Bids can still be made on the site, but are not updated online; bidders are notified through e-mail. Once their bidding system goes online, however, this site should definitely give other top collectibles sites a run for their money.

It Seems Like Yesterday
Brought to you by Canada's History Television Channel, this site provides a companion overview of the baby boomer era and atomic age programs that ran in Canada. Although it's not the best design for navigation, once you make your way to the content page, a world of history opens up that included feature articles, crosswords, e-cards, discussion boards and factoids. Pleasant retro imagery spread across the site adds a nice visual element.

This austere, pricey auction house is now enabled for online bidding, both for Web and real-time auctions. Recent offerings include photographs of Marilyn Monroe and original pop art prints. With Sotheby's immense in-house collection in galleries around the world, the site offers a decent selection of fine merchandise available for online bidding, ranging from $200 for vintage photographs to $100,000 for original Andy Warhol prints. Sotheby's recent partnering with Auctions should ensure that their items find a wider audience.

Pacific Book Auction Galleries
Pacific Book is the largest specialty auction house in the western United States, featuring rare and antiquated books, manuscripts and screenplays. A simple navigation and bidding system makes it easy for users to find items of interest quickly and efficiently. While the online selection does not compare in scope to Pacific's real-world offerings, there are still some gems up for grabs, including most recently a screenplay for L.A. Confidential, a first-edition of Pearl S. Buck's The Kinfolk from 1949, and a 1954 first-edition of Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye.


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