Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Wednesday, June 19

Gapers Block

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My friend Steve is one of the best antique dealers I know. He always seems to get the best stuff and is always up on the latest trends. Sometimes I think he knows what the buying public wants even before they do. Other dealers at the antique shows always come over to Steve's booth see what he is selling. You can see the look in their eyes as they look over Steve's treasures. That look says, "How does he get all this great stuff?" Dealers are always in friendly competition and it always pays to be on top of what people are buying and selling.

Steve and I were standing in his booth at the Grayslake Antiques Show shooting the breeze when Steve got a pained look in his face. I asked him what was wrong as he looked over my shoulder and said, "Oh great, here comes my stalker," I turned around — a little man with a t-shirt that said I ♥ Ebay was heading right for us. "Hey Arnie," said Steve to him sullenly. Arnie seemed really happy to see Steve. "Hey Steve. How are ya? I see you got good money for that Rookwood vase you sold last week and you got a lotta bids on that Paul McCobb piece." Steve just stared at him and didn't say a word. Arnie kinda shuffled from foot to foot for a minute or two and then said "Well Steve, I gotta go. There's a dealer here holding some modern furniture for me. I bought the whole load. See ya." With that, Arnie trotted off to pick up his furniture.

As soon as Arnie was out of earshot, Steve said, "So, now you've met my stalker." I looked at Steve and said, "What the hell are you talking about? It's just Arnie." I had known Arnie for years. He's a low level dealer who never really had "good stuff." This past year, though, he's had a few good finds.

Steve said, "Last year Arnie and I were standing here talking just like you and I are now. Out of the blue Arnie asks me what my Ebay user name was. I didn't think anything of it and told him. The next time I saw Arnie he was telling me about how cool each item I had listed on Ebay was. He was watching my account and seeing everything I was selling and how much things were going for. The next thing I know, at the next antique show, he's buying the same kind of antiques I normally buy. Take today for instance. Arnie never used to buy modern furniture. Now he's actively looking for it. He's getting an education in the business just by watching what I'm selling online. He's my stalker."

"What can you do about it?" I asked him. Steve told me, "Last week I opened a different Ebay account in my wife's name. I had to do it. Arnie's becoming too much competition. This guy is killing me."

I smiled at him and asked, "So, what's the username on the new account?" He grinned. "Like I'm gonna tell you."

Ebay stalking is a relatively easy thing to do. All you really need is the person's username. If you go to Ebay's home page, you'll see the "search" box in the upper right hand corner. Just under that is a link titled "advanced search." Click on that. The next page you get taken to has a sidebar on the left. Look for the link titled "items by seller" Click that. All you have to do at that point is type in the User ID and you're in stalker heaven. You can see what someone is currently selling as well as what they've sold for the past 30 days. You can also see what someone has bid on by searching "items by bidder" and entering the User ID.

I ended up accidently finding a friend of mine's user ID when I searched on Ebay for some magazines I missed out on. I was at an estate buying a few antiques and I saw a huge pile of old detective magazines in the basement. I asked the owner how much and he told me another dealer had already bought them. I had never seen this particular type of old detective magazine and was curious how much they were worth. Later that week, I looked them up on Ebay. I noticed the one dealer who was selling the majority of them was based here in Chicago. It was the guy who had bought the magazines. With a few clicks, I was able to see everything he had for sale. It was like I was able to look inside his store and see his business without him even knowing. It felt wrong.

At the antiques show, I asked a few other antique dealers if Ebay stalking was something they did. None of the bigger dealers would openly admit it, but one or two said they'd "sneak a peek" at one or two other dealers' Ebay user IDs every now and then just to see what they were selling. None would admit to being a full fledged stalker.

I get the feeling it goes on a lot more than people admit.


This week's auction pick:

Sunday, October 16th, 10am
Hacks Auction Service
Auction to be held at the residence of Gary and Carol Williams
3706 Rotary Rd., Rockford
815-239-1436 (contact Jan)

Mark your calenders, kids, this looks like a great auction. Hacks auction service will be holding what looks to be a wonderful vintage amusement park and carnival ride sale. Here's a little blurb from their website;

"Gary and Carol Williams have recreated a wonderful Amusement Park setting at their rural residence. This is your opportunity to purchase many hard to find Amusement Park, Carnival and Coin-Op Rides including a Vintage Mangles Carousel Merry-Go-Round, Falgas Outdoor Train Set, 1960s Herschell Sky-Fighter Ride, Ferris Wheel and more, Outdoor and Recreational Power Toys, rare 1940s Chevrolet Amusement Park Car, Playground Character Equipment, Pinball and Arcade Games, Slot Machines, Vintage Juke Boxes, Clock and Pocket Watch Collection, Antiques and Collectibles, Unique Smalls and many other interesting items."

Judging by the pictures alone, it's a can't-miss sale. I'll see you there. I'll be the tall guy in the Hawaiian shirt bidding on the Sky Fighter Ride. (Yes, I have a huge backyard.)

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About the Author(s)

Ron Slattery is a collector of interesting junk and other wonderment, and is one of the experts behind the Chicago Antiques Guide. You can visit him at and

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