May 26, 2012, 7:25 AM — Once upon a time, it was considered insane to compete against eBay. If you sold custom-made goods like clothes or jewelry, you sold at flea markets on weekends, and eBay the rest of the time. The idea that anyone would shop anywhere else for your handmade merchandise was silly.
But anyone who's shopped on eBay knows how tough it can be to find certain goods. A search for "vintage t-shirt" may turn up more than 300,000 results, very few of which are either vintage or t-shirts. As a merchant, sellers find themselves competing with a huge number of competitors, ranging from junk resellers to mass producers peddling knockoffs.
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Sensing an opportunity, Etsy launched quietly in 2005 and has carved out its own little empire in the form of an alternative marketplace devoted to the sale of handmade (and vintage) items only. Without all the riff-raff, sellers have a better opportunity to stand out--and hopefully make more sales.
While it's quite large, Etsy's 12.3 million listings are dwarfed by eBay's 300 million. In the relatively small realm of homemade and vintage sales, however, Etsy has become a juggernaut in its own right--and is attracting competition of its own. For now, though, Etsy remains considerably larger than all its major competition combined.
We looked at five marketplaces--both big and small--for sellers of homemade, handcrafted, and vintage items. Here's how they measure up, and which ones are where you might consider offering your personally carved tiki idols and handmade bridal veils to the masses. And don't forget: No rules prevent you from cross-listing items on several sites--you don't have to choose just one.