Tips for collectors
Tips for buying hats on-line
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The most frequently misused terms in on-line hat listings:
- is not a hat term. It's a style of interior
decorating with wood furniture that is
intentionally beat up or "distressed" to make it
look old, teamed with floral
sofas and drapes. Hat sellers may be referring to the floral
pattern when they call a hat "shabby chic" but because of the
"intentionally distressed" connotations, it is not a flattering term for
Rockabilly - is a modern revival of 1950s style music (like Elvis). There is
also a rockabilly movement among youth who like to dress up in an amalgam of 1940s and 1950s
bobby-soxer vintage with a punk twist (exaggerated hairdos, makeup and
tattoos). Hat collectors who are not from
this culture will not recognize the term.
like rockabilly, is a modern term for a movement, a science fiction
version of the 19th century. Steampunks take vintage hats (often top
hats, derbies and military style hats) and add watches, goggles, gears,
chains and feathers to it to make it a steampunk hat. Without the stuff
added, a vintage hat is not "steampunk."
Madmen - Madmen is a t.v. show. Although it may describe the approximate
era of the hat to buyers who watch the show, it won't mean anything to
Titanic or Edwardian - The movie Titanic
used real Edwardian hats - huge wide brimmed hats with lots of flowers
and feathers and birds and ribbons. The reign of King Edward (the
Edwardian era) ran from 1901 - 1910. But just because it has some
ostrich plumes doesn't
Edwardian - wide brim hats with feathers were worn in every era.
- is misused so often it's funny. One recent listing described a hat as
"1940s flapper." Flappers were only around in the 1920s. The cloche is
most often associated with the 1920s, but there were other types of
the 1920s, and cloches were popular for several decades. A
lot of the cloches labeled "flapper" are from the 1960s. If the hat is a
cloche, it's better
to call it a cloche. Cloche collectors will likely look for "cloche"
instead of "flapper" though it doesn't hurt to include flapper as a key
- is just French for "hat". Unless it is a French hat, technically it isn't a chapeau.
is the most frequently misused hat term on eBay. Novice sellers seem to
think "fascinator" means a hat that is arty or fascinating. Hat books
published before 1999 didn't use the term, or defined it as a
"scarf-like covering worn around the head and shoulders." In the past
decade it has come to have a
very specialized meaning: a head piece made of feathers and trims
without a solid hat body. Although the trims may
sit on a tiny base, generally there is no solid base - they just fasten
to the hair with a comb or a
head band. The 1960s had a similar
style - the "veil hat" or "whimsy." Whimsies and fascinators are not the
Bird cage hat:
is a newly coined term for whimsies. Whimsies
or "veil hats" are made of trims attached to veils (often veils that
cover the whole head) without a solid hat body. They were not called
bird cage hats in
the 1960s when they were in style. The term "bird cage veil" originated
in the 1990s, to describe the veil on a 1960s style whimsy. When a hat
has a veil only on the front, that is not a bird cage veil.
a pillbox is a brimless hat comprised of a cylinder with
straight sides and a flat top. If it has a brim it is not a
pillbox. If it has a rounded top or sides that are not strictly
vertical, it is not a pillbox.
Topper: is a nickname for a top hat. Sellers often erroneously apply it as a generic term for
"hat." Unless it is shaped like a top hat, it is not a topper.
We linked each of these misused terms to search results for
term on eBay. Click them to see how often the terms are misused.
Collectors use word searches to find the styles they collect. Terms used
incorrectly are like spam - they clog up the search results with
irrelevant entries we have to plow through to find what we're looking
for. If you want collectors to find your hat, use the right terms.
If you don't know the right term, this website and the Hatatorium ebook are here to help.
|Tips for Selling Hats On-line
(c) 2012 Brenda Grantland, updated 11/19/2012
notice: This website and the accompanying eBook, Hatatorium: An Essential Guide for Hat Collectors, are copyrighted and may
not be reproduced, distributed, copied, or excerpted without the
written permission of the authors. Copyrights to the images in the Guest
Albums are held by the owner of each album, and permission to use the
images in any manner must be obtained from that person. All other
content on this website is copyrighted by Brenda Grantland.
Some vintage hats sell online for hundreds of
dollars each, but that doesn't mean your hat is worth that much, even if
it is made by the same milliner. Great hat designs have intrinsic
artistic qualities that are very subjective. It often takes knowledge
of the vintage collectible hat market to spot a really valuable
collectible hat from among a group of beautiful but ordinary hats.
A novice seller may luck out and sell a really great hat on-line for big
bucks. But to attain high resale prices consistently, seller has to
know what they are doing when they buy hats for resale.
Whenever you see a hat sell for
great price, note the seller. A highly regarded seller has a
reputation that collectors know they can bank upon, because they only
sell merchandise of the highest quality. We're willing to pay a premium
for their expertise in selecting hats for resale - their reputation gives us an assurance of quality.
collectible hats from a novice seller is a gamble, and collectors are
naturally unwilling to pay as much for a hat from a novice seller. There
are many unknowns: Is the hat as described? Did the seller misjudge the
quality or materials? Will they package it right? Will the sale fall
through, requiring a return and refund?
Because collectors can't
visually inspect a hat, smell it to detect mildew, smoke or other odors,
or try it on, we have to rely on the seller's thoroughness,
truthfulness and expertise to determine whether to buy or bid on a hat.
As an avid collector, I do a lot of shopping on eBay,
Etsy and other internet marketplaces. Every day I see novice sellers make the same mistakes that virtually guarantee their
hats will not sell for their fair value, or which will likely result in
stressful disputes, returns and claims.
Here are my tips to help novice sellers get fair prices and build a loyal following of repeat customers.
1. Remember the golden rule. From the first sale you are building
your reputation. Consistent positive
feedback over an extended period of time is the key to building customer
confidence. If your past feedback record is bad, or your listing doesn't
give enough information to make a well informed decision, collectors
will only buy from you as a gamble - if they believe they may get a
can't inspect and try on the hat, we have to
rely on your listing to provide accurate and thorough information about
the condition, size, age, and any other information we need to make a
decision. If you aren't willing or able to
do that, most serious collectors will pass you by. You might have
better results selling your hats at a yard sale where people can
inspect and try on the hats.
If you don't know how to price a hat, do your research before you list.
If you are selling it at an auction, understand that the minimum bid you
set and the shipping costs you state in your listing will be enforced.
If only one person bids and they get your hat for less than what you
think it is worth, you have to honor that sale.
Treat people the way
you would like to be treated and be reasonable or you won't have a good
2. Inspect the hat thoroughly and spruce it up before photographing it. Wipe
off the dust from velvet, felt or straw hats with a lint brush, a
slightly dampened sponge, or a tape roll lint remover (but don't get the
tape near feathers!) While you're wiping it down, inspect it.
Make note of any damage or defects. You will need to disclose all
visible defects including moth nicks, missing or loose trims, broken
stitches, holes in veils, fading, stains, bad shaping and bad odor. When
you're photographing the hat, photograph the defects too, so the buyer
can make an informed decision to buy the hat defects and all. Also while
you're inspecting and photographing the hat, take measurements. Note
the inner circumference of the hat.
3. Take good pictures. Bad pictures are your worst enemy. If your pictures don't present
the hat in its best light, or don't show enough detail about the hat to
make out its shape, materials and its special features, then you won't
attract enough customers to sell it for what it is worth. Taking hat
pictures is much more difficult than taking snapshot portraits or
outdoor scenery, and many sellers just don't know how. The Hatatorium eBook has a chapter on how to stage and
photograph hats - the ebook is worth the investment for that chapter alone.
4. Write a truthful, accurate and thorough description. Don't
puff and say it is "awesome" if it isn't. Using your notes from
your inspection, fairly and accurately describe any defects that you
need to disclose.
5. Use the right terminology. If you describe a
vintage hat with a long string of incorrect terms, you are signalling to
buyers that you are a novice and that you have not done your homework.
That will put doubts in collectors minds about your reliability that
will cause many to not look any further at your listing.
Many novice vintage hat
sellers who don't know the right terms to describe the hat look on eBay
what other sellers call it or just throw terms out there even though
they are unsure what they mean. Bad mistake! eBay sellers are often
novices too and very often they are wrong. If you don't know the proper
for the style or the age of the hat, describe it in generic
terms - wide brimmed, floppy brimmed, felt, straw, etc. But if you
want to get what your hat is worth, do some research and tell
collectors what they need to know to make them want to bid higher to buy
your hat. The Hatatorium gallery is a good starting point for research,
but if you plan to sell more than one or two hats, it would be worth
the investment to buy the eBook.
6. State the size of the hat in your listing. If there is a
size tag, state that, but if not, measure the inner circumference with a
tape measure and
state it in inches/centimeters - whichever is the standard unit of
measurement of your country. Include the inner circumference measurement
prominently in the listing. If you want to measure the height of the
crown or width of the brim in diameter, that's fine, but stating the
diameter "across the head hole" - even if you "measure two ways" - is
not enough for the buyer to determine whether it will fit. You cannot
compute the inner circumference of a hat from the diameter taken
in two places because hats are ovals and they are flexible and sometimes
stretchy. If a hat is 1/4" too small or too large it will not fit - so
saying the inner circumference is about "20 - 21" is not helpful. If you
do not want to bother measuring accurately, then you should not list on
line. Some styles of hats are "adjustable" (some even have tags saying
that) or sit perched on the head, or are stretchy with elastic in the
band. Those are the only hats that should ever be described as one size
fits all. Felt, leather or straw hats that fit down around the head are
not "one size fits all."
7. List the names on any labels in the hat
It may be that your hat was created by a famous milliner, which
substantially increases the value of the hat. Some hat collectors
limit their collections to particular milliners, and will do a word
search only for the milliner's name. If your hat doesn't come up in
their word search you will miss your most valuable customers.
Note, if the hat is in a box with a logo on it, that doesn't mean the
hat is from that box, so don't rely on the hat box as any evidence of a
hat's maker. In fact, if a hat box has a logo on it, you can be sure the
hat from that box would have a label too. Most vintage hats will not
have a label - that doesn't mean they aren't great hats. The big name on
a label might help sell a hat but a mediocre hat with a big name label
might not sell at all, and certainly won't sell for as much as a great
hat with no label.
8. Categorize the hat in the correct era. Someone with no
background in vintage hats may think a hat is "Edwardian" or "Victorian"
or "roaring 20s" if it looks old -- i.e. the style is unfamiliar and
maybe the hat is in deteriorated shape. To determine what era a hat is
takes some effort and research. The Hatatorium eBook is a good
starting point, and often will instantly answer your questions. Some
styles span many decades and it is harder to tell those from different
decades apart. In the case of those ambiguous styles, you may need to do
follow up research on clues you find from the methodology used to make
the hat, the materials, and information listed on the labels in the
hat. The eBook has chapters devoted to each of these subjects.
9. Do your homework before you set your prices. How
much to ask for a hat is a very difficult question. Vintage hats change
hands every day, and the prices vary greatly. Even the most
experienced collector can only estimate what a particular hat is
worth. If you're setting a fixed price for your hat on Etsy, or an
eBay "Buy It Now" price, put yourself in the buyer's shoes and set a
price you would be willing to pay for the hat knowing what you know
about it, if you were collecting in the market you are selling it in. If
you are brand new, then figure out what you're willing to part with the
hat for (or what you paid for it at that yard sale last week), add
enough money to make it worth your effort to list and ship it and your
profit, and hope that it sells. If it doesn't reduce the price and
try again, or sell it at a yard sale.
When you list a hat in an eBay auction, you set a
minimum price and perhaps a minimum reserve and hope the bidders will
bid the hat up to what the hat is worth or more. Whether you will
attract enough bidders to do that depends on the hat and how good your
listing is in photographing and describing it, and on your reputation as
a seller - and luck. It takes at least two bidders bidding
against each other to "bid the price up." Sometimes in the heat of
passion several competing bidders bid the price up beyond the true value
of the hat - but that doesn't happen often.
If you don't have a track record of successful sales and positive
feedback, or you haven't taken good photos or described the hat well, you
could end up with only one bidder, with the hat selling for the minimum
bid. If you set the minimum bid at $5.99 or even $.99, you have to
follow through on the deal anyway. Needless to say - trying to
get the buyer to rescind the sale because you weren't happy with the
price or getting mad and retaliating by shipping the hat improperly will
only create a bad reputation which will haunt you in the future.
Shipping fees are set by the seller - so saving money on shipping is not
a good excuse for packaging the hat improperly. Do your research before
you state a shipping
price - especially if you are offering free shipping. Postal rates
recently went up, and
the Postal Service and other shippers add extra charges for over-sized
boxes even if they don't weigh much. You
may have to buy a box - or even two - and cut them down to fit a wide
brim hat. You will need shipping supplies - plastic pillows or bubble
wrap, tissue paper, packaging tape, etc. You can save money on shipping
supplies by using free USPS priority mail boxes, re-using boxes you
already have or by using plastic dry cleaner bags or newspaper as
stuffing (just be sure to protect the hat from newspaper ink by wrapping
it in newspaper or a clean plastic).
10. Package the hat properly for shipment. It is
shocking how many hats arrive damaged because the seller
stuffed it into a box smaller than the hat -- or even an envelope -- or
put it in a box too flimsy to withstand the rigors of shipment. Hats
are very fragile. Even if a hat is made
of flexible straw or felt, bending the brim to fit it into a box for a
trip that lasts several days means the hat arrives misshapen.
felt and velvet have memory. Once dented, a hat remembers the
dents. Although there are
methods for reblocking or reshaping hats, some hats never completely
recover on their own, and the cost of having them reblocked is more than
the hat is worth. Even if you purchase insurance from the shipper, they
will not honor a claim if you fail to package the merchandise properly