Ebay trees: Why Aren't They 'Worked'?

Brent

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I check the Ebay trees about two or three times a week to see what the competition is up to and to judge how to price trees, what the market has to offer, etc. There is a perennial question that arises for me as I look at most of these trees: Why aren't they 'worked'? Of course, most of this stuff is garbage, but in a hour or two, I could prune and wire a lot of these trees and make them twice as valuable, something with a bonsai potential you could see. Why isn't this done?

It can't really be that hard, or can it? To me it's insane to offer a tree for $500 and not at least make it presentable. Is it because they don't have to? I see bids on these trees, and assuming the bids aren't bogus (which they may very well be), people are buying this stuff. But it seems to me they could make a lot more money simply investing a few hours in detail work. I just don't get it.

This is a question that has bugged me for a long time. Is the styling of trees really more difficult than I think it is? Admittedly, and all humility aside, I have a knack for tree design, but is this such a rare commodity, that not only a majority, but an overwhelming percentage of folks just don't get? I have spent the last twenty five years codifying and explaining just how to do this, and there is an enormous amount of information on tree design available, but even among my bonsai friends and compatriots, I often get blank expresions when I ask them what they see in their trees and where they would take them.

I can understand this in beginners, but there are people who have been in bonsai a decade or two that can't seem to create the illusion, maybe a good cookie cutter at best, but a real creation?

What do you think?

Brent
EvergreenGardenworks.com
see our blog at http://BonsaiNurseryman.typepad.com
new blog entry coming up soon, more on pines!
 

BONSAI_OUTLAW

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People will buy anything on ebay I guess....

Brent you are a great repository of info on growing trees. I have and I know other have been waiting as well for you to start posting your trees. When are you going to start showing us some of your stuff? I bet it's awesome. I love some of the stock I have purchased from you so I know you have some good stuff to choose from, so when can we see some of your trees?
 
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I'm not sure what the answer would be, Brent, but this response from Rich makes me wonder... if selling the tree is top priority, doing to much to it might be the death knell of a quick sale.
 
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Some possibilities....


The seller may well not have the talent as you suggested and could in reality lower the value by doing so.

The sellers see no reason to invest the additional expense of wire and time when they are already realizing a good profit.

The sellers know enough to know that a tree will take some time to recover from pruning and wiring before it begins to look good, prolonging the time before they can sell, costing more in upkeep and taking some risk in losing the trees due to being over stressed or other unforeseen factors including the seller may think the tree is already dying. ;)

The seller hasn't got a clue about bonsai other than the word attached to a potted plant brings in higher profits, much more so than advertising houseplants or landscape plants for sale.



Will
 

grouper52

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I don't know, Brent - I simply find it hard to believe that people buy trees off Ebay. Like you, I occasionally go there and type in "bonsai specimens" just to see what's happening: EVERY one I've ever seen there is horribly overpriced, IMO.

I'm just not into selling things on Ebay, but if I ever think of liquidating my little collection of hobbysai I think I'll do it there - my trees are nothing special, but should fetch a small fortune compared to the competition I've seen there! Might be able to retire early!
 

irene_b

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I am shocked at the prices that they go for.
The same can be said about the seedlings as well.
Attach the word "Bonsai" and the price jumps and the frenzy starts.
Irene
 

Tachigi

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Could be that this person came home with this raw stock. He paid a fortune for it not being knowing its true value. His significant other had a meltdown and threatened great bodily harm if he didn't sell it and get the money back. So he threw it up on ebay as fast as he could.

I think the 550 price of the tree (that Chris linked to ) is a false price. He truly is looking for the 300. For a pot to be so old and valuable he sure did let it get in dreadful condition. So the question (at least in my mind) is this Ezo Spruce worth 300? Me thinks not!
 

Bill S

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Irene, I think you hit upon it. For a long time I have seen from swap meets, to used cars, things being sold for prices that seem much too high, and I have come to the conclusion that "there is an A$$ for every seat" . These days, at least to me, there are a lot of people with "stupid" money at thier disposal, put an exotic "Bonsai " in front of them and viola a new ego is born.

Mind you though, the people that would make a purchase like this are not likely to be Bonsai savy, so the words on the title of the auction page are enough to make a sale.
 

Brent

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People will buy anything on ebay I guess....

Brent you are a great repository of info on growing trees. I have and I know other have been waiting as well for you to start posting your trees. When are you going to start showing us some of your stuff? I bet it's awesome. I love some of the stock I have purchased from you so I know you have some good stuff to choose from, so when can we see some of your trees?

Soon. My trees are like the shoemakers children, they go barefoot. I spend so much time, effort and money on the nursery there never seems to be any energy left for my own trees. The move, now in it's ninth year, was the killer. My trees were in fairly good shape before I took on this enormous task, but have been neglected to one degree or another ever since. The last, and hopefully final, insult was a move to a temporary and crowded location while I rebuilt the display area. I finished it about three weeks ago and 'carved' out the trees before putting them in their new home positions. This involved simply removing the overgrowth and unwanted branches, but it was very rewarding to actually 'see' my trees again. I probably won't post any pictures until I do the next round of wiring, maybe this winter.

It isn't a large collection, but I probably have half a dozen trees that are truly 'worthy' of the name and only need detailed wiring and more ramification to achieve show condition. Hopefully I can show some of them at REBS next year, if I can afford the pots and stands. I lost some heartbreakers last winter during the exceptionally cold period, since there was no deep freeze protection in the temporary area, mostly Celtis occidentalis shohin. Their delicate little skeletons still haunt me. They weren't finished by any means, but they were close. Stuff like that is just irreplaceable. I won't see anything like them in the rest of the time allotted to me.

Bonsai is performance art for me (that's not exactly the right phrase as someone once pointed out, but I have forgotten what the right phrase is). All of the trials and tragedies as well as the excitement of seeing a 'tree' come 'alive' after an intense styling session are all part of why we, or at least I, do this. Throughout it all, the trees just get better and better. Some of the beauty is even based on benign neglect. I have some bark and deadwood that is to die for simply because I have left it alone for fifteen or tweny years. Even a flush cut stump becomes a 'feature' after twenty years as my little Cydonia oblonga will attest.

Your asking this question is interesting, because it is the first time I think anyone has ever asked why I haven't shown my trees. I have been waiting for Vance to ask me for years, since I definitely fall into the catalog of 'If he's so good, let's see his trees'. Be patient, Only yesterday I was thinking about where to put my personal section in the website. The competition of the REBS and BABA trees might be a little too fierce in the Images section.

Brent
 

Brent

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I'm not sure what the answer would be, Brent, but this response from Rich makes me wonder... if selling the tree is top priority, doing to much to it might be the death knell of a quick sale.

Chris

No, it wasn't that tree, it wasn't any tree in particular. It is just that it is almost always the same complaint I have when clicking on an item of interest. I don't look at the junk. I set the search for 'bonsai' and then search for the highest priced items first. Rarely do I get beyond the first page. Usually I stop when things get cheaper than around $150.

Rich's comment is interesting, but I don't that's a universal or even common attitude. This is more likely among advanced people who can 'see' the tree among the garbage, and that is a rare quality, most people have to be shown, which is why all this stuff does so well on Ebay.

Brent
 

Brent

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I'm not sure what the answer would be, Brent, but this response from Rich makes me wonder... if selling the tree is top priority, doing to much to it might be the death knell of a quick sale.

Chris

No, it wasn't that tree. It wasn't any tree in particular. I almost always have the same complaint when I click on an entry and examine the tree. I only evaluate the specimen stuff. I set the search for 'bonsai' and click on list highest priced items first. I usually stop at around $150.

Rich's attitude is interesting, but hardly universal I think. This is how talented individuals who can see the 'tree' in the tree respond, but this is a rather rare quality, which is one of my points.

Brent
 

Brent

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Some possibilities....


The seller may well not have the talent as you suggested and could in reality lower the value by doing so.

True, but there are a number of 'dealers' who are offering these trees, more so than individuals, you would think they would know better, but maybe not.

The sellers see no reason to invest the additional expense of wire and time when they are already realizing a good profit.

Maybe, but if they could do what I am talking about, they would realize hundreds of dollars more and probably more than a 100% premium if they value their work at $50 an hour. And if they themselves can't do it, professionals are available for reasonable amounts of money. You can 'buy' Walter or Marco for about $400 to $500 for a full day, that's a lot of trees.

The sellers know enough to know that a tree will take some time to recover from pruning and wiring before it begins to look good, prolonging the time before they can sell, costing more in upkeep and taking some risk in losing the trees due to being over stressed or other unforeseen factors including the seller may think the tree is already dying. ;)

The kind of work I am talking about would instantly make the tree look better, even simple things like wiring and repositioning branches, heading back overly long stuff. My recent experience of pulling my own trees out and almost hedge of overgrowth and just pruning them down to bonsai weight, even without wiring was an almost magical transformation.


The seller hasn't got a clue about bonsai other than the word attached to a potted plant brings in higher profits, much more so than advertising houseplants or landscape plants for sale.

Yes, undoubtedly true, but does this mean that there isn't a market for the real McCoy? I don't think so. On those few occasions that I do see a tree that has been 'worked', it usually gets a fair amount of return. Why are so few talented individuals making use of this medium?


Brent
 

Brent

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Grouper said:
I don't know, Brent - I simply find it hard to believe that people buy trees off Ebay. Like you, I occasionally go there and type in "bonsai specimens" just to see what's happening: EVERY one I've ever seen there is horribly overpriced, IMO.

I'm just not into selling things on Ebay, but if I ever think of liquidating my little collection of hobbysai I think I'll do it there - my trees are nothing special, but should fetch a small fortune compared to the competition I've seen there! Might be able to retire early!


I am shocked at the prices that they go for.
The same can be said about the seedlings as well.
Attach the word "Bonsai" and the price jumps and the frenzy starts.
Irene

Grouper and Irene

I see many reasonably priced trees in the specimen listings, but like I said, I don't bother with looking at anything less than about $150, too much flim flam in the cheap stuff. There have been times when I would have myself paid the highest bid if it were not for the shipping and lack of actual inspection, as well as the fact it would 'coals to Newcastle'. There are bargains to be had, but you have to be very discerning and be able to see the 'tree'. And that's my point: With a little work many of these monstrosities could more readily reveal their potential. One of the things that I look for when scanning down the list is whether or not there has been a bid. If there are no bids, it is usually priced too high, people aren't all that stupid. Trees with potential and low starting bids will have bids, and more often than not, they end up selling within the ballpark from my perspective.

Brent
 

Brent

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Could be that this person came home with this raw stock. He paid a fortune for it not being knowing its true value. His significant other had a meltdown and threatened great bodily harm if he didn't sell it and get the money back. So he threw it up on ebay as fast as he could.

Tom

Most of the trees that I am talking about are listed by dealers, not individuals who paid too much. I see the same names over and over, a few: Daves Bonsai, Dyed, PelvicPunisher (you have to love that one), LizzyIzzy, etc. Some of these people always offer universally bad, even horrendous trees, some of the others have some decent stuff and sell many trees.

Brent
 

JasonG

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Hi Brent,

Since I no longer have a real job I have been toying with the idea of selling some of my personal trees on ebay for the past few months. Not sure why I haven't done it so far..... I have thought about the exact question that you brought up.... If I were to do a rough styling I could get more but there is always one issue with that, Shipping!

If you were to ship a wired tree there is a much better chance of a broken branch or damage then without any wire. Atleast that was my thought and it makes sense. If someone bought a tree and it arrived with a broken branch I for one would feel bad but they would be pretty pissed I would assume.

Who knows maybe I will put a few up there soon and find out.... I have a little JBP that has been wired and would be a perfect tree to use for this since it is small and would be much easier to prep for shipping than say one of my large ones.

Anyways, that is just one of my thoughts..... Another would be leaving the future design of the tree up to the new owner....like I mention in Chris's link, (that was me, not Rich). I also think that Ezo spruce that was linked too is worth maybe $100 at most!! It has a tiny little trunk and would be a very long term project for the money they are wanting for it....

See Ya!
 
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Hi Brent,

Since I no longer have a real job I have been toying with the idea of selling some of my personal trees on ebay for the past few months. Not sure why I haven't done it so far..... I have thought about the exact question that you brought up.... If I were to do a rough styling I could get more but there is always one issue with that, Shipping!

If you were to ship a wired tree there is a much better chance of a broken branch or damage then without any wire. Atleast that was my thought and it makes sense. If someone bought a tree and it arrived with a broken branch I for one would feel bad but they would be pretty pissed I would assume.

Who knows maybe I will put a few up there soon and find out.... I have a little JBP that has been wired and would be a perfect tree to use for this since it is small and would be much easier to prep for shipping than say one of my large ones.

Anyways, that is just one of my thoughts..... Another would be leaving the future design of the tree up to the new owner....like I mention in Chris's link, (that was me, not Rich). I also think that Ezo spruce that was linked too is worth maybe $100 at most!! It has a tiny little trunk and would be a very long term project for the money they are wanting for it....

See Ya!

Sorry, Jason! There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip, as my father is so fond of saying!

Have you done much shipping of trees? I mean, anything can happen, but with proper packing, for which you charge a fair price, the tree can be encased in enough support to protect it from most shipping problems shy of a sociopathic Registered Fedex Sender.
 

JasonG

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Sorry, Jason! There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip, as my father is so fond of saying!

Have you done much shipping of trees? I mean, anything can happen, but with proper packing, for which you charge a fair price, the tree can be encased in enough support to protect it from most shipping problems shy of a sociopathic Registered Fedex Sender.

Hey Chris,

Yes, I have shipped quite a few trees in the past few years. Typically what I do is bring the branches in a bit and wrap the tree in bubblewrap to protect the tree then pak all around the tree with more packing items. With a wired tree you would almost have to build a dome around it or something like that to protect the branches.

Every tree I have shipped I always get an email back letting me know that the customer was impressed with how I packed it. So I must be doing something right....

Jason
 

Bonsai Nut

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Two possible solutions:

1) Buyers are ignorant and don't know a good tree from a bad. (Highly probable)

2) Buyers are knowledgeable and see something in the tree that makes it worth $$$. Perhaps they live a LONG way from a bonsai nursery and it would cost them $100 in gas and wear and tear on their car to drive that far (?)

As far as the sellers behavior goes, they obviously sell trees in any condition, so why take the time to clean them up?

There is strange behavior that goes on with these auction sites, especially for "exotic" hobbies like bonsai, koi, or marine aquaria. People get emotionally involved in a purchase, and spend far too much money for it. I have seen people pay $1000 for a piece of coral the size of my thumbnail, or $500 for a koi that is only marginal quality. All it takes is someone to hype the listing, and people swarm to it. One of the reasons why I post articles about auction listings in Japan is that only very rarely do I see an eBay bonsai that I would care to have in my collection AT ANY PRICE. I have a feeling people unload their junk and keep their good stock for shows, clubs, or professional bonsai vendors to sell retail.
 

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