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Sold! Auctions move to the Internet

Karen Koyama and Doug Graham August 25, 1997
Web posted at: 10:43 p.m. EDT (0243 GMT)

From San Francisco Bureau Chief Greg Lefevre

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- Doug Graham wanted to sell a good used PC. Karen Koyama wanted to buy one.

He sold it on an Internet auction, where she was surfing for bargains. They swapped a few e-mails and, voila, the old PC had a new home.

"It was a lot easier than pulling up a paper and calling people and trying to get in touch with somebody via phone," Koyama said.

Graham agreed. He had resisted placing a newspaper ad because his schedule couldn't accommodate a lot of extra telephone calls.

They are just a couple of the people taking advantage of technology to buy and sell belongings. No longer do you have to drag your family antiques or antique motherboards to auction houses and computer scrap stores to unload them; instead, you can auction them off online.

Computer-related items popular

First Auction

Hundreds of auctions go up every day on the Internet, with names like First Auction or CityAuction. Most auction items are computer-related because, for now, most online users are frequent computer users.

Unlike the traditional auction room, in which bidders sit still save to wave little paddles, signifying a bid, computer bidding is casual and straightforward. Bidders sign on, register and write in their bids.

Often, auction items may be on the other side of the globe from their potential buyers. Graham chose CityAuction, a service that limited his audience to the San Francisco area, where Karen lives.


Andy Rebele founded CityAuction when he couldn't find what he wanted in the newspaper. "The buyer can come and try out a bicycle or test drive a car, or see if the computer or printer works before actually placing a bid or buying," Rebele said.

Auctions can last days or even weeks. At the end, the winner and seller get e-mail notices. If the winner flakes out and doesn't buy, the items go to the next-highest bidder. The computer auctioneer's take is 1 percent to 5 percent of the selling price.

As with all private sales, there are risks. For some, that is part of the fun. For most, however, it still means buyer beware.


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