Could Auction Guarantees for Art & Collectibles Revolutionize The eBay Marketplace?

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


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A recent LinkedIn post from eBay Senior Manager of Strategy Operations Policy Compliance, Katerina Frank, shows she's been a strategic advisor for The White Glove, "democratizing auction guarantees for art and collectibles" for over a year while still working at eBay - raising questions about if a partnership or acquisition could be in the works as eBay tries to move deeper into the high value collectible world.

Frank was a category manager in fine art and antiques at eBay from 2014-2020, headed up the Art & Collectibles business for Touch Of Modern from 2020-2021, then returned to eBay in trust and policy compliance roles.

eBay has been on a "multi-year journey" to enhance trust in the platform specifically targeting "high value buyers" in focus verticals like sneakers, luxury handbags and watches, fine jewelry, and trading cards with Authenticity Guaranteed.

While authentication may offer peace of mind for buyers, eBay has still struggled to convince sellers of high value items that it is safe for them to sell on the platform - in fact it's not uncommon to hear veteran merchants caution their compatriots never to sell anything on eBay that they can't afford to lose.

One concern high value sellers may have is making sure they get a minimum value for the items they bring to auction, and that's where The White Glove's auction guarantee service could come in handy.

For many years, auctions on eBay have had the option to set a Reserve Price that is the minimum amount the seller is willing to sell an item for. If the reserve price isn't met, the item won't be sold but the seller must still pay the reserve price fee - making it a potentially expensive option and still leaving the seller with the possibility of no sale at the end of the auction.

The White Glove auction guarantees work differently, guaranteeing the seller the item will sell for at least the minimum price and offering potential buyers a chance to make a little money too - if the item sells for more than the guaranteed price at auction, the guarantor receives a predetermined fee plus a share of the upside.

How Auction Guarantees Work - The White Glove
Discover how Auction Guarantees protect all parties. Explore our guide for bid security, buyer protection, and transaction assurance.

How does The White Glove work for guarantors?

STEP 1 - Explore exclusive art and collectibles

Browse our curated selection of art and collectibles. All items are housed with leading auction houses and open for guarantees.

STEP 2 - Submit your offer

Submit a guarantee offer on a collectible that sparks your interest. This commits you to buying the item at your offered price if it doesn’t fetch a higher bid at auction

STEP 3 - Confirmation and auction

Once your offer is accepted, watch as your selected collectible goes to auction, backed by your guarantee. You’ll have a direct stake in the auction outcome, with the potential for immediate financial returns.

STEP 4 - Reap the rewards
If no one bids above your guaranteed price, you become the owner of the collectible. If the final price is higher than your guarantee, the other bidder wins the item but you share the upside with the seller at the agreed ratio.

If the item sells for more than your guarantee

Guarantors receive a pre-determined fee for providing the guarantee, as well as your agreed share of the upside (the difference between your guaranteed offer and the final hammer price). This structure rewards your willingness to support the auction and offers a lucrative return on your commitment.

Sellers receive the guaranteed price plus their agreed share of the upside.

If you win the auction

Guarantors buy the collectible at the previously agreed price. You get the item at a pre-approved value you’re happy to invest, turning your guarantee into a strategic acquisition.

Sellers benefit from a sale at the guaranteed price, ensuring peace of mind regardless of the bidding activity on auction day.

While Frank's freelance strategic advisor gig could be completely unrelated to her work at eBay, it poses an interesting possibility for a future partnership or acquisition - especially now that eBay has acquired Goldin, which is known for its high end sports memorabilia and collectible auctions.

eBay Acquires Goldin From Collectors, Sells eBay Vault To PSA
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Interestingly, eBay snagged Collectors VP of Marketing Mike Nett as their new General Manager for Trading Cards and Sports Memorabilia just 6 months before buying Goldin from Collectors - a move that was reminiscent of when Scott Cutler (who joined eBay in 2015 as President of their StubHub subsidiary before being promoted to VP eBay Americas in 2017) left in February 2019 only to "suddenly" take on the CEO job at rival StockX a few months later, taking a chunk of eBay's sneaker business with him in the process.

While StockX played it off at the time that they had "poached" Cutler from eBay, the reality appeared to be that then eBay CEO Devin Wenig allowed Cutler to engage/consult with StockX while still a company officer.

In fact, both StockX founder Josh Luber and Cutler publicly gushed to media at the time about their long friendship since the site was launched in 2016 and that Cutler had been a "trusted advisor" since the beginning.

StockX in Detroit Closes $110M Series C Round, Plans to Expand Internationally - DBusiness Magazine
Grace Turner - Detroit’s StockX, the world’s first stock market of things, has closed on a $110 million Series C funding round. The company plans to use the new investment to expand its international growth with a specific focus on European and Asian markets.
“Scott and I met just two days after StockX went live,” says Luber. “His extraordinary background mirrors the unique business model we have built at StockX. He understood the power of a stock market of things and quickly became a friend and trusted advisor.

Over the three years that followed, as the business scaled rapidly, Greg (Schwartz, StockX co-founder and COO) and I had the idea that Scott might one day be the perfect CEO to take us to the next level. Then the stars aligned – the growth continued, we added three world-class investors to our team, and Scott became available. We weren’t looking for a new CEO, but this was a no-brainer.”...

...“I have known the company and the management team since the beginning and have been impressed by its unique market model in e-commerce and dramatic growth. StockX is revolutionizing e-commerce,” says Cutler.

As unsuckEBAY put it at the time, StockX's claims about the situation were more than a little misleading.

If eBay were to consider a partnership or possible acquisition of The White Glove to bolster their burgeoning high end auction efforts, it could raise some eyebrows at a time when the company is already facing regulatory scrutiny for their Mergers and Acquisitions due diligence, risk and disclosure practices are being looked at as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice after being found criminally liable in connection to the 2019 cyberstalking of journalists Ina and David Steiner of EcommerceBytes.

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They're acquisition of collectible trading card marketplace TCGPlayer in 2022 is already the subject of a petition to the FTC to investigate alleged deceptive and anticompetitive conduct and the Goldin purchase will likely intensify that pressure.

FTC Urged To Investigate eBay TCGPlayer Deceptive & Anti-Competitive Conduct In ROCC Petition
Responsible Online Commerce Coalition petitions FTC to investigate eBay TCGplayer acquisition, alleging deceptive practices & antitrust violations.

On the other hand, Frank could also be trying out the freelance advisory position as a possible step toward a second exit from eBay - in which case, while she is not a company officer like Cutler was in 2019, allowing a senior director to moonlight for another company facilitating competing auctions for high end items not being sold on eBay would not be a great look.

What would you think of eBay introducing auction guarantees? Let us know in the comments below!

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Liz Morton is a seasoned ecommerce pro with 17 years of online marketplace sales experience, providing commentary, analysis & news about eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Shopify & more at Value Added Resource!


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