Originally created 04/08/00

Masters gear for sale online

The Augusta National Golf Club is not the only place to get Masters Tournament merchandise anymore. Now, you can click on to eBay.com and other sites to buy stuff that bears the exclusive club's logo.

A look at the merchandise available from the electronic auction house shows that there are more than 200 items -- scorecards, badges, towels, teddy bears, hats, shirts, watches, limited edition putters and more -- for sale.

The Internet has changed dramatically how people buy and sell hard-to-find items. Online auction sales have exploded since 1995. There are now more than a dozen companies selling item online -- Amazon.com, utrade.com, Yahoo!, Auctions.com and Haggle Online, to name a few.

If you're looking for something, chances are you'll find it in an auction. The companies are selling a variety of items, from airline tickets to used cars. EBay alone offers 4,320 categories of merchandise and more than 4.5 million items.

EBay, which calls itself a "personal online trading community," helps connect buyers and sellers. Legally, the Web site is not an auction house because the company never actually takes position of items or charges a commission, eBay spokeswoman Callie Gregory said.

But once the company posts the merchandise on the Internet, it acts as any auctioneer does -- letting buyers bid until the time runs out. The highest bidder wins.

"We bring buyers and sellers together," Ms. Gregory said.

EBay started, as the company lore goes, when founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife -- an avid Pez collector -- talked about how great it would be if she were able to collect the candy dispensers using the Internet.

Most of the Masters merchandise on eBay is priced at more than what it is selling for at the Augusta National gift shop. Some things are selling for less. And a few of the things for sale on the Web aren't available in the club's shop.

Most auction companies, including eBay, do not police their sales. They rely on the users to do that. And, usually, they do not get involved in the actual transactions. So beware, there is no guarantee that the Augusta National logo that you see on screen is authentic.

Masters merchandise on sale on eBay was running from a few bucks to hundreds of dollars Friday. Masters hats sold for as little as $9.99 and as much as $46. A Slazenger label shirt sold for $12.73; a Bobby Jones label one, $66.

Items listed in an auction don't always sell. Sometimes the merchandise is not desirable; at other times the asking price is just too high.

A Masters 2000 wristwatch was up for auction this week for $525. But there were no takers. Other items went unsold, too. An Augusta National Golf Score Card, a Masters 2000 Pocket Knife and a pewter flask all went unsold.

A few items, however, that you cannot get at the club's gift shop did sell. A carafe with the Augusta National logo, for example, sold for $59. Hats with logos that say Augusta National instead of Masters sold at a premium. They don't sell those during the tournament.

And badges from past years are popular items, too. They sold for between $35 and $61. A 1977 badge went for $55.01. That was the year Tom Watson won. A 1989 badge cost $39.99. That was Nick Faldo's year.

An online auction might net you some Masters merchandise, but the experience is not like buying it at the course.

Reach Frank Witsil at 823-3352.

Auction tips

Here are some Internet auction tips for buyers and sellers from the Federal Trade Commission:

For buyers:

  • Identify the seller and check his feedback rating.

  • Know what you're buying.
  • Stick to your top price.
  • Pay with a credit card, if possible.

  • For sellers:

    • Give accurate descriptions.

  • Respond quickly to questions.
  • Contact the high bidder after the auction.
  • Ship as soon as you get payment.

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