Chaos and Kanji is the blog where I write about my adventures through Japan!

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Yahoo Auctions: Japan's eBay

Did any of you use Yahoo Auctions when it existed in America? I tried it out a few times, but the US site was seriously lacking compared to eBay. It started in 1998 and lasted for about 10 years in the US, even less in the UK. In fact, it only remains in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan.

eBay never got off the ground here. Sellers enjoy the concept of a site that has no fee for listings - eBay has listing fees, final value fees, PayPal requirements and fees. And all those happen for every auction. Yahoo started with no fees at all, though they now charge a monthly fee (about $4) and a flat fee of about 5% on final auction values (with some exceptions), also seemingly calculated monthly.

Another problem I think eBay had was payment methods. Japan relies heavily on bank transfers, and the heavy emphasis on PayPal really made things tough. Yahoo does have an online payment system where buyers can pay with credit card or bank transfers through their site, but bank payments are still allowed.

Yahoo in Japan feels a lot like eBay did when it was great - relatively simple and fairly user-friendly if you understand Japanese. I usually use the website, but the iPhone app is pretty handy too. The low fees for sellers means prices start fairly low and shipping is via post - 82 cents at the lowest.

Now, paying for auctions has a cost. Using Yahoo's system, you can pay a 100 yen (about $1) fee to use a credit card, or 162 yen to do a bank transfer. There is a 0-yen method that I would like to learn how to use, which I think requires going to certain banks and paying at the ATMs there.

I'm able to pay using my bank's online system, too - the fee there is 100 yen unless it's to my same bank (those transfers are free). I compare that to eBay - the lowest shipping there seems to be $2, though it's usually $3 or $4 for just one card.

Speaking of shipping, I mentioned that dealers generally offer shipping at or under $1 for single cards. I recently received a 24-card set shipped for $1, and the three thick cards you see below were shipped for $1 total. I just won a 95-card set where the seller is charging $2 for basic shipping.

So, what have I been buying? Not that much, really, and it's mostly been cheap stuff. I bought my second and third series Calbee sets off Yahoo. In the past couple weeks I've been learning about how to make payments and using the communication system. Shipping addresses and such need to be typed in to each dealer, as well as telling the seller which bank the money was sent to (many sellers have multiple banks). With help from a coworker, I've essentially developed a form letter that I copy from auction to auction.

My first multi-auction win is a group of three cards from Immaculate Collection. I was bidding on another card that I didn't end up winning.
One of those is numbered to 49, and all three will fit in my type collection. Combined with shipping and payment fee, these cards cost me under $5.

I can certainly see myself using Yahoo for MLB and NPB single cards as I get better and better at using the site.  Much like eBay was wonderful for my collections in the late 1990s through mid 2000s, Yahoo opens up a whole world of merchandise in my (not-so-)new country.

By the way, eBay does still exist here, basically through the main portal site. But I imagine only savvy businesses selling Japanese goods to overseas buyers, and collectors of international things use it. (Keep in mind that shipping from the US to Japan is super-expensive.)


  1. I used Yahoo! Auctions, but it's been so long ago that I don't really remember anything about the user experience. I wish I could tap into some of the Japanese Yahoo! auctions, especially in my quest to find an R.A. Dickey SEGA Card-Gen rare foil card, but they want me to sign up for sub-brokers and middle-men and currency conversion, and it seems like a lot of hassle and expense for something I would probably just use once.

  2. I remember them and I might have even set up an account, but I don't remember ever bidding on anything on there. It only had a fraction of stuff ebay did.

  3. I don't have an account on YA but I have friends who do and according to them setting up auctions are a huge pain and often make you question whether the payoff is worth it.

  4. RAZ: I'd love to help you find a Dickey if you want to work out a trade or buy it outright. Can you send me an email with an offer for trade, or a maximum price you're willing to pay? I know a few places that I go often which carry CardGen singles still, including many of the foils.

    cynicalbuddha: I didn't use it much, especially because there was such a small selection. But with a smaller user base, prices stayed lower!

    Kenny: I haven't tried listing, but I'd think once you get over the initial hurdles of setting up an account, listing new items shouldn't be too hard. Or is it? There are plenty of listings that it has to be good... people frequently sell things for a pittance (I won an auction for 30 yen and they charged me shipping at cost).

  5. Good post!

    There is just so much to love about Yahoo Auctions, especially when it is compared to the bloated fees that Ebay charges.

    I think Yahoo Auction works best if you have a postal account. Probably 3/4 of sellers on Yahoo accept postal transfers so you can bid on most stuff, and the post office charges nothing to do them, so the cost of the auction is the actual cost. I have a post office on my bike ride to work so I just pop in to use the ATM whenver I win something. I suspect it was postal transfers that were one of the biggest factors that spelled doom for Ebay in Japan - by insisting on sellers accepting paypal with all the fees involved they were just shooting themselves in the foot in a country where everyone is accustomed to using a free service for sending money.

    I just bought a 3rd series 2014 Calbee set (near complete, missing about 3 of the regular cards and most of the star cards) off YA a few days ago, can't wait to get it in the mail!

  6. Sean: thank you!

    I don't have a postal account, though there is a post office pretty close to the station near my house, so it's only a couple minutes out of the way - and would save me $1 per auction. I'll need to learn how to use the system first, though!

    I feel so much happier bidding on Yahoo, despite the language barrier and more-difficult payment system, mainly because it's so much cheaper - the sellers' super-low shipping fees more than make up for the transaction fee (charged by the banks or Yahoo's payment system).