TIME Pop Culture

Near-Perfect Copy of Action Comics #1 Will be Sold on eBay

Action Comics #1 comic book of 1938 is pictured on February 23, 2010 in New York which had sold for USD 1 million, making it the first ever million dollar comic book.
Action Comics #1 comic book of 1938 is pictured on February 23, 2010 in New York which had sold for USD 1 million, making it the first ever million dollar comic book. Timothy A. Clary—AFP/Getty Images

The copy being sold received a 9.0 out of 10 rating by the most trusted comic book rating company

In a little less than a month, anyone looking to get his or her hands on a copy of the comic book that introduced the world to Superman will have an opportunity to vie for the legendary relic.

Action Comics #1 will be auctioned on eBay from August 14 to 24 and may run you a fair amount more than the 10 cents that the original cost when it was released in 1938. In fact, the last issue of the Jerry Siegel/Joe Shuster-penned comic to be sold went for no less than $2.16 million.

According to Cnet, the issue of the 1938 comic being sold next month was given a 9-out-of-10 rating from the Certified Guaranty Company, a well-known comic ratings company, which is the highest grade a copy of Action Comics #1 has ever received. The issue that sold for over $2 million in 2011 also received a 9.0 rating.

The issue’s owner, Darren Adams, got the copy from a dealer, but the original was kept in pristine condition in part because it was stored for a while in a cedar chest in West Virginia.

“I felt this book deserves to have as much publicity as possible because of what it is,” Adams said in a video on eBay. “It is the cream of the crop and it doesn’t get any better than this.”

A portion of the proceeds will go to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. Christopher Reeve played Superman in the iconic 1978 film. He became a quadriplegic in the 1990s after being thrown from a horse and died in 2004.

MONEY stocks

What the Financial Press Isn’t Telling Us About Google and Other Tech Companies

Google on iPhone 5
Iain Masterton—Alamy

The search engine's ongoing struggles in mobile highlight problems cropping up throughout the tech sector — yet you wouldn't know it by the reactions of investors and the media.

This was an awful week for tech, as many of the sector’s biggest names announced disappointing results that point to slowing growth and troubled strategies.

Yet you wouldn’t know it by how the markets — or the media — reacted this week.

Late Thursday, the search engine giant Google reported the amount of money that advertisers are willing to pay whenever someone clicks on an online ad continues to fall. So-called “average costs per click” for Google fell 6% in the quarter, compared with the same period a year earlier. This continues a trend that’s been going on for some time. In the first quarter, for example, costs per click sank 9%.

There are two explanations for why this is happening and neither is good news for Google. One is that online sites are increasingly being viewed through mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets, and mobile ad platforms are not paying the premium that traditional web ads have. The other reason is that Google is no longer the only game in town when it comes to online advertising, and Facebook’s recent efforts to boost its mobile presence are clearly succeeding.

Yet instead, most news accounts focused on the rosier parts of Google’s quarterly results, such as the fact that overall revenues grew 22%.

The same thing happened all week throughout the sector:

* eBay

On Wednesday, the online auction site reported sales that fell short of the Street’s expectations. In fact, on a quarterly basis, revenues have been flat for several quarters. Instead, headlines focused on profits meeting consensus forecasts.

* Yahoo

The portal, which is making a huge push to try to be a big player in online advertising, reported on Tuesday that display ad revenues declined. Yet instead, many publications focused on how Yahoo’s mobile efforts were improving or that the company was going to sell a smaller-than-expected stake in Alibaba, the giant Chinese online retailer and auction site that is expected to go public later this summer.

* Intel

Intel shares hit a decade-high after releasing earnings results on Tuesday that showed better-than-expected PC sales expectations and overall revenue growth. As Reuters reported, chief financial officer Stacy Smith said “PC sales had stabilized, easing fears about the four-year decline in computer sales as consumers turn increasingly to tablets and smartphones.”

Great. That means the dying part of the industry is dying a little less rapidly than was previously thought. Meanwhile, investors glossed over the fact that revenues for the mobile and communications chip group sales were down 67% compared with the prior quarter and off 83% versus last year.

* Microsoft

The company announced the biggest layoffs in its history on Thursday, cutting its workforce by 18,000 — many of those coming from its recently acquired Nokia division. As MONEY’s Ian Salisbury reported, the historic cuts show how far this once-dominant tech company has fallen as it struggles to find its place in the sector. Yet many sites looked at the situation as glass-half-full, noting how the stock was rising on news that Microsoft was retrenching.

Of course, that’s what happens when investors fall in love with a particular group of stocks that have collectively posted a better-than-expected run. They start viewing those shares through rose-colored glasses.

TIME

Sotheby’s and eBay to Launch Virtual Auction House

Edvard Munch's "The Scream" Auctioned At Sotheby's
Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' is auctioned at Sotheby's May 2012 in New York City. Mario Tama—Getty Images

Bidding wars are about to heat up at the iconic auction house

The iconic auctioneer Sotheby’s will open its bidding wars to eBay’s 145 million shoppers, as the two companies team up to build an online auction house for fine art.

The two announced on Monday that Sotheby’s will be the “anchor tenant” for eBay’s new online marketplace. Collectors will be able to browse works across 18 different collection categories. The online auction site will also include a “live auction” feature that will enable users from anywhere in the world to place bids on Sotheby’s auctions in New York, promising a “frictionless” shopping experience for users that is sure to generate a lot more heat on the auction floor.

“We can give people access to the world’s finest, most inspiring items – anytime, anywhere and from any device,” Devin Wenig, president of eBay Marketplaces, said in a statement.

Sotheby’s said its number of online buyers has surged in recent years, with its share of online purchases climbing by 36% since 2012.

“The growth of the art market, new generation technology and our shared strengths make this the right time for this exciting new online opportunity,” said Bruno Vinciguerra, Sotheby’s Chief Operating Officer.

Sotheby’s estimates that the global art market, currently valued at $65 billion, could reach $13 billion in online sales by 2020.

TIME Apple

Apple Is Dumping Old iPhones for Cheap on eBay

eBay iPhone
The eBay Inc. logo and application are displayed on a an Apple Inc. iPhone 5 and iPad in this arranged photograph in Washington on April 25, 2014. Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Unlocked iPhone 5 models are selling for $200 less than their original price

If you move quickly and don’t mind older technology, you can buy an unlocked iPhone 5 from Apple for a lot less than its asking price.

As AppleInsider points out, Apple is currently selling “Certified Pre-Owned” iPhone 5 models on eBay. The 16 GB version, in either white or black, is selling for $449, which is $200 off the original price. That’s also $100 cheaper than the current iPhone 5c, which has nearly identical tech specs.

Although the full price for an unlocked phone is more expensive than what you’d get with a two-year contract, you could take the phone to AT&T or T-Mobile and get cheaper monthly service. (Check out our wireless plan pricing guide; paying full price gets you the same discount as AT&T’s Next and T-Mobile’s Jump plans, but without the additional monthly phone cost.)

Apple was also selling the 32 GB iPhone 5 for $479 and the 64 GB iPhone 5 for $499, but those versions sold out rather quickly.

MONEY online shopping

Should You Ditch Amazon and eBay for Alibaba’s 11 Main?

Abandoned shopping cart
Michael Wriston—Getty Images/Flickr

The June 11 launch of 11 Main, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s first foray into the U.S. retail market, set off plenty of speculation about the company’s plans to take on Amazon and eBay. But for online bargain hunters, the real question posed by 11 Main isn’t which corporation will come out on top. It’s, “Should I shop there?”

To find out, I requested an invite (the site is currently invite-only) and pulled out my credit card.

Visually, 11 Main has more in common with crafty marketplace Etsy and flash sale sites like Gilt than the no-nonsense, utilitarian look of Amazon. Rather than sell its own items, the site is a platform for smaller sellers to hawk their wares. 11 Main currently hosts over 1,000 of these sellers, and divvies up their products into categories like fashion, home, tech, toys and jewelry. You can also browse each provider’s shop, and “favorite” items, saving them to a separate page.

Since much as been made of the 11 Main vs. Amazon and eBay showdown, I decided to compare the three by shopping for identical product on each site. I selected five different items: a jump rope, iPhone cover, bottle of pet shampoo, set of children’s socks, and pair of sunglasses (eclectic enough for you?). In each case, the item is sold not by the big site itself, but by a small seller using 11 Main, Amazon, or eBay as a storefront.

Here’s what happened:

On the pure price of the item, Amazon and eBay tied with two winners apiece, leaving 11 Main to bring up the rear.

What really matters to shoppers, though, is the total cost required to get the object of your desire to your doorstep. Now, if you’re Joe Shopper, who just wants to log on and pick up one item, you should go directly to eBay, which won (or tied) on price plus shipping, four times out of five.

But who actually pays shipping on Amazon? If you shell out the $99 a year to be a Prime member, or are willing to stock your cart with $35-worth of must-haves, you can drop those nasty shipping charges on many items. Of our five buys, four qualified for Amazon’s free shipping (the fifth was mailed directly by the seller, and was therefore ineligible). Once free shipping was factored in, the power dynamic flip-flopped, and Amazon came out on top.

Now for returns. When it comes to shipping back a product from 11 Main, you and the seller are on your own: you communicate via email to hash out the details. You also deal with the seller on eBay, though you message back and forth using the site, rather than directly. Amazon provides the most mediation; the site even sent me a printable mailing label, despite the fact that I was shipping the item directly back to the seller. (The actual return policies for each item vary by seller, no matter which site you use.)

The takeaway:

At least in its current form, 11 Main is no match for America’s current online retail kingpins. Can you take advantage of Amazon’s free shipping options? If so, make the Seattle-based retailer your first click.

Stray notes on 11 Main

  • When I logged into 11 Main after making my first purchase, the site had no record of my order.
  • If the items you put in your cart are from different sellers, they are treated as entirely separate purchases, and must be bought individually. Never have I been so happy that Autofill exists.
  • 11 Main has no product reviews or seller ratings. It’s often possible to find them elsewhere online, but adds to your shopping time.

 

 

 

 

MONEY stocks

Four Theories on What Jeff Bezos and Amazon Are Really Up To

+ READ ARTICLE

The big question was never what Amazon.com would unveil on Wednesday. Most observers knew it was the company’s first smartphone, called the Fire Phone — the first smartphone on the market with a 3D display.

No, the real question is: What is CEO Jeff Bezos’ endgame?

Why does this online retailer, which has recently branched out into tablet computers and flying delivery drones, want to inch its way into the crowded smartphone space that Apple and Samsung, two bigger companies with much deeper pockets, already dominate?

Theories abound, but here are the contenders:

Theory #1: Bezos wants to be king of all media — and advertising.

Most observers regard Amazon as either a retailer or an up-and-coming player in tech, thanks to its Kindle tablets and cloud computing service. But people forget the company’s roots are really in media — Amazon started out as a book seller with Bezos working out of a rented garage.

Big recent moves reinforce the notion that the company wants to dominate this space. Last week, Amazon launched a streaming music service that will compete with the likes of Spotify and Beats Music, which Apple just acquired.

The service will be offered free to Amazon Prime subscribers who pay $99 a year to get unlimited two-day shipping from the retailer. Those Prime members already get access to Amazon’s streaming video service that competes directly with Netflix . (Like Netflix, Amazon has also begun to produce its own original content, like the show Alpha House, starring John Goodman).

Just as Kindles are starting to perk up Amazon’s overall media sales — on a quarterly basis, sales of video, books and other content are now growing 21%, up from 15% in 2012 — a smartphone would surely help boost streaming music.

Of course, you might be asking: Isn’t the media industry maturing? So why would Amazon want to double down on this business?

Well, it’s not just the content that Amazon desires — it’s the ability to sell online advertising against that content and on Amazon-controlled devices, which now includes a smartphone.

Jay Greene of The Seattle Times writes that while Google and Facebook get all the attention for their potential to attract online advertisers, the data that Amazon has on “its 237 million active customer accounts…puts Google to shame.” He’s right. While Google and Facebook can tell advertisers what its customers like, Amazon can tell them what they actually buy…and when…and how frequently…and to a certain extent why.

By some estimates, Amazon will pull in close to $1 billion in online ads this year, which would put it well ahead of online advertising darlings such as Twitter and LinkedIn .

Theory #2: Bezos wants to be king of tech.

So what if Amazon started life as a retailer? If anything, Bezos knows how to adapt.

And he knows that the profit margins for technology companies far exceed those for retailers.

^XIT Chart

^XIT data by YCharts

Amazon stumbled into being a tech company in a variety of ways. For instance, the servers and computing capacity needed to power Amazon.com’s retail operations early on gave birth to Amazon Web Services. That’s the company’s cloud computing business, which recently won a major contract from the CIA, beating out rival IBM, the mother of all tech services firms.

Meanwhile, the Kindle was developed as a vehicle to boost online book sales. And the company, which is constantly looking for ways to speed up delivery, recently purchased Kiva Systems, which makes robots that help automate and speed up the packing process at warehouses. Janney Montgomery Scott analyst Shawne Milne notes that Bezos wants “to significantly ramp the implementation of Kiva’s robots within Amazon’s fulfillment centers from 1,000 currently to 10,000 by the end of the year.” Milne says this technology could eventually end up saving the company anywhere from $450 million to $900 million a year in costs.

Okay, Amazon will have the cloud and warehouse robot markets cornered. How will this help the company compete in the saturated smartphone space?

It should be noted that critics raised similar concerns about tablets, yet the Kindle has been able to carve out roughly 7% to 8% share in this difficult space, which in turn has boosted Amazon’s digital media sales. Not only that, analysts believe that the larger Amazon eco-system that the Kindle has promoted now accounts for up to $8 billion in revenue for the company.

Besides, Amazon does not need to be the top dog in smartphones for this move to pay off. For instance, if the company were able to seize just 1% of that portion of the smartphone market that uses Google’s Android platform, that could lead to $1 billion to $1.5 billion in annual revenues, according to Janney Montgomery Scott. If Amazon managed to grab a mere 3% of the Android market, it could add nearly $5 billion in sales at a time when Wall Street is starting to question Amazon’s potential growth rate.

Theory #3: Bezos wants to be king of all distribution.

Amazon isn’t a retailer as much as it is a transactor.

For instance, Amazon created a platform and marketplace that allows the company to process transactions for tens of thousands of small businesses. Rather than viewing these mom-and-pop shops as competitors, Amazon offers its services to them in exchange for a cut of each purchase. So anytime a retail transaction is made online, there’s now an even better chance that Amazon will profit from it. Edward Jones analyst Josh Olson describes the company’s global distribution network as a “real moat” that gives the company a competitive edge.

The same principle works for cloud computing, where Amazon is happy to distribute server capacity to competitors such as Netflix in exchange for a fee. Therefore, whether its rival grows or shrinks, Amazon wins.

The strategy also applies to the new online payment service that Amazon launched this month, which will compete with eBay’s Paypal. And the same goes for AmazonSupply, a B2B site that Amazon is quietly building to get a cut of the $7 trillion market for supplying businesses.

And ditto for smartphones, which are devices that will allow Amazon to process millions of new transactions — be it for digital content or general merchandise.

Theory #4: Bezos is trying to buy time.

Think of it as a big shell game. While Bezos is on stage trying to dazzle you with a 3D smartphone, or with a new streaming music business, he wants investors not to focus on where the ball actually is.

And right now, the metaphoric ball is Amazon’s nearly non-existent profit margin. For instance, take a look at Amazon’s profit margin versus that of rival Apple:

AMZN Profit Margin (Quarterly) Chart

AMZN Profit Margin (Quarterly) data by YCharts

For years, Wall Street was content to bid the stock higher — despite the fact that the company barely turns a profit — as long as revenues soared. The belief was that near-term profits weren’t the point with a company like Amazon, which has been dutifully spending money to build out the necessary infrastructure to make Bezos’ long-term plans work.

AMZN Profit Margin (Annual) Chart

AMZN Profit Margin (Annual) data by YCharts

Last year, though, the company earned just $274 million off of revenues of nearly $75 billion. Investors have started losing patience, as seen by the performance of Amazon shares.

AMZN Chart

AMZN data by YCharts

Earlier this year, Colin Gillis, an analyst with the brokerage BGC Partners, even raised the question: “Is Amazon losing its status as a growth stock?”

For Bezos, then, this flashy foray into smartphones may be a way to distract investors from the realization that it may take years for Amazon to convert its revenues into real profits.

Amazon shares trade at a price/earnings ratio of nearly 500, based on the past 12 months of actual profits. While Wall Street may tolerate that in a fast-growing tech company, they won’t in a barely profitable retailer.

So, smartly, Bezos is choosing to play the tech card — at least until the retail profits materialize.

TIME Retail

This Is Alibaba’s Plan to Take on Amazon and eBay on Their Home Turf

Chinese retail giant Alibaba is making its boldest move yet to directly compete against sites like Amazon and eBay on their home soil. The company launched a new boutique online marketplace in the U.S. Wednesday that it hopes will gain a foothold in the country’s $262 billion online retail sector.

The new site, called 11 Main, allows merchants to sell boutique products in categories such as fashion, jewelry and crafts. For now, it’s more of a Etsy competitor than an Amazon foe.

“The 11 Main experience was really created and inspired by that Main Street shopping experience,” says Mike Effle, president and general manager of the business. “It’s really positioned as a hand-selected collection of speciality shops and boutiques.”

The site is Alibaba’s first substantial attempt to break into the U.S. retail market. In China, Alibaba is an unprecedented tech giant that generated $248 billion in retail transactions in 2013, dwarfing global sales for both Amazon and eBay. 11 Main takes some cues from its parent company’s successful Chinese enterprise. Like Taobao, the largest of of Alibaba’s retail sites, 11 Main leaves the shipping and logistics fees to the merchants, acting only as a massive storefront to let customers browse thousands of items. 11 Main charges a 3.5 percent commission on most products sold. The site was formed through the 2010 acquisition of two e-commerce U.S. startups, Auctiva and Vendio, and will operate independently of Alibaba, Effle says.

11 Main, which is currently in an invite-only beta, has a long road ahead to create a significant dent in the overcrowded American retail marketplace. But Alibaba’s backing gives the new site a significant advantage, according to Forrester analyst Kelland Willis.

“A successful eCommerce practice requires seasoned talent – which Alibaba is hiring in the form of acquiring companies,” Willis said in an email. “Acquiring mass traffic will likely be their biggest issue to date, but with a long tail of products it may be easier than we expect.”

Ahead if its upcoming mega-IPO in the U.S., Alibaba has made significant investments in plenty of other American businesses. The company poured $215 million into a messaging app called Tango earlier this year, and led a $250 million funding round for ridesharing app Lyft in April. The company also has a 40 percent stake in Shoprunner, an online storefront with a free shipping program that competes directly with Amazon Prime. Flush with cash—the company made $3.5 billion in 2013 alone—Alibaba’s ambitions are rapidly expanding beyond its homeland.

TIME Retail

Amazon Eyes Local Services Market

Workers pack boxes at Amazon's logistics centre in Graben
Workers pack boxes at Amazon's logistics center in Graben, Germany, on Dec. 16, 2013 Michaela Rehle—Reuters

Amazon will be branching into the local services market later this year by linking its consumers to professional services — potentially increasing its sales by acting as the middleman for service providers

Amazon.com is expanding its growing portfolio by branching into the local services market, according to reports.

The Seattle-based e-commerce giant, which currently sells everything from groceries and clothes to home appliances, will offer services to complement every product featured on its site, according to Reuters.

Customers will be matched with service providers that specialize in the relevant product; for example, those who have recently bought a violin will be recommended local music instructors.

Amazon is taking its cue from sites such as Yelp and Thumbtack — the latter matches 63,000 professionals with customers, according to Reuters. By linking customers with services, Amazon aims to leverage its reputation as a trusted company.

Amazon’s expansion marks the increasing appeal of sites that streamline products and services, which is only expected to flourish with the growing use of smartphones. Rival eBay also tapped into the market late last year with its launch of Hire, which advertises service professionals along with related products.

[Reuters]

TIME Business

Amazon Launches Online Payment System To Rival Paypal

The e-commerce company’s new feature will allow users to pay using their Amazon accounts

Amazon debuted an online payment system on Monday in an effort to expand into money transfer services, Reuters reported.

The new service will allow over 240 million active monthly users of Amazon to use their stored credit and debit card information to pay for outside subscriptions such as cellphone payments or music subscriptions, for which Amazon will charge a fee.

This subscription billing system is an extension of Amazon’s previous efforts to compete with PayPal and other online payment service companies, such as Braintree, Stripe and Google Wallet. Last October, Amazon announced the “Login and Pay with Amazon” feature, in which partner websites allowed customers the option of paying using information stored on their Amazon accounts.

“[The new service] opens up Login and Pay with Amazon to other types of subscription-based business models, companies who want to make Amazon customers their customers, back payments with the A to Z guarantee and use transparent and low payment processing,” Amazon spokeswoman Julie Law told TIME.

Amazon has gauged the online payment system’s potential by testing the feature on various start-ups that charge recurring payments. Users of mobile phone company Ting that paid with Amazon’s new service spent 30% more on the Ting website, Ting product manager Justen Burdette told Reuters.

[Reuters]

TIME States

Investigators Target eBay Over Massive Data Breach

More than 100 million eBay users' account information may have been compromised in a cyberattack

Attorneys General in three U.S. states along with European officials are investigating a massive data breach at eBay which may have compromised more than 100 million users’ passwords.

“The magnitude of the reported eBay data breach could be of historic proportions, and my office is part of a group of other attorneys general in the country investigating the matter,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in a statement Thursday.

The Federal Trade Commission and Attorneys General in Illinois and Connecticut have also vowed to conduct a probe into the incident.

“My office will be looking into the circumstances surrounding this breach as well as the steps eBay is taking to prevent any future incidents,” said Connecticut Attorney General Jepsen in a statement Thursday. “However, the most important step for consumers to take right now is to change their password and to choose a strong, unique password that is not easily guessed.”

Officials in the UK have promised to investigate as well, the Guardian reports.

“We’re certainly looking at the situation,” Christopher Graham, the UK’s Information Commissioner, told the BBC. “We have to work with colleagues in Luxembourg where eBay is based for European purposes. We were in touch with the Luxembourg data protection authority yesterday.”

EBay notified users of the data breach Wednesday. The company has urged all users to change their passwords, but it said no financial data was compromised in a cyberattack that took the company weeks to detect.

Need tips on how to set a strong password? Watch the video above.

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