eBay never ceases to amaze me

My family and I have the good fortune of living near a quaint and historic Midwest town appropriately named Long Grove, Illinois. The good people from the local chamber of commerce provide us with this remarkably accurate summary from the aforementioned:

This historic village dates back to the early 1800s. The village was founded by German farmers who were reminded of their Saar Valley homeland.

Our open-air “lifestyle” center is as it was long ago but the shopping district still meets the needs of families on the go. Or perhaps you would like to visit for a relaxing day shopping and strolling through this charming historic village. It’s truly like a trip back in time to the 1800s. The buildings have been restored and preserved. The brick sidewalks and covered bridge delight your eye. A homemade bakery, chocolate candy, and fresh brewed coffee beans delight your smell. Let the ice cream at the Apple Haus and the popcorn shoppe tempt your taste and a traditional village tavern fulfill your thirst.

You’ll be delighted by the sights, smells and sounds in this charming village and we’re open all year. Free parking and no admission fees make it perfect for a day trip.

The best part of the description is that it is almost completely accurate. One thing the have failed to mention is that many of the quaint antique shops and have sought more pastoral surroundings, giving way to a great many gift shops that pray on the unsuspecting tourist. On a recent walk through the town on a quiet Sunday with my wife and kids I was drawn into one of the last remaining high quality boutiques. I was pleasantly surprised to see an impressive collection of tasteful oil paintings in high quality frames. This is the sort of thing that my wife and I tend to appreciate since our house is cluttered with antiques, rescued stained glass windows, items evoking rural America, and many other interesting pieces of miscellanea. While I am prone to impulse purchases, the starting price tag of $269 doused a bit of my passion to surprise my wife (at least surprise her in a positive sense).

Fast forward 30 hours to my wife and I sitting on our bed watching the news and catching up on personal email. For some reason remembered the oil painting and browsed my way over to eBay to see what the fine merchants of the largest bazaar on earth were peddling. After choosing a select group of keywords and narrowing the field a bit, I was able to find a lovely selection that appears to be every bit as innocuous as one from my trip to town. Now what really amazed me was the price tag: $19.95 plus $16 shipping & handling. While there have been a great many articles written about how eBay represents the broadest array of potential buyers, little has been said about how eBay also generally represents the lowest average sales price across comparable channels for sellers. I wonder if the spectrum of merchandise has become so incredibly vast that it has created a poverty of those buyers that would consume it. What I do know is that I am 26 minutes and 58 seconds away from being the proud new owner of a lovely oil painting with which I plan on surprising my wife.