In this series I’ve described the places I ‘hunt’ for my various collection and resale items. In the first round I covered garage sales and thrift stores; in part two I discussed flea markets. Now it is time for perhaps the best known hunting grounds…
EBay (and other online markets)
Ah, EBay. Perhaps the largest online source for used and new items, where people can create accounts and buy and sell almost anything. Here you have an array of sellers, from casual ‘it’s time to clean out this closet’ people to professional stores run full time as someone’s main source of income. Because of this, the type of goods can really vary, as can the seller-set prices and description qualities. I’m going on the assumption that you have at least glanced at EBay before now and have a passing understanding of how it works. If not, feel free to post questions in the comments and go on over and take a stroll through their marketplace.
To buy on EBay is pretty easy- you basically need to create a user name and password, and set up a Paypal account. EBay has a lot to offer buyers- the vast and varied goods, a guarantee of receiving your money back if the deal goes bad (within reason), and the chance to get a steal via auction or Buy-it-Nows.
Buying on EBay
Most of this advice will work across multiple platforms, including some of the new ‘app’ stores like Poshmark and Mercari.
First, look closely at the pictures and description! Don’t rush in to buy only to figure out the item is in poor shape, or not everything is included. While you can back out of a purchase it can be tricky and put black marks on our account. Also, be sure to check the shipping costs! Sometimes sellers will put a low purchase price up but have highly inflated shipping costs. Check the seller’s feedback and look to see if they take returns- good sellers will have 98% good feedback or higher; returns are more open and many seller’s won’t take them.
Auctions have a proscribed length of time, and the highest bidder wins. Buy-It-Now’s are just that- a set price that guarantees you the item if you purchase it. I’ve bought both. I like knowing I’ll get the item with a BIN, but auctions are lots of fun as well and sometimes you get a steal. Because of the differences between these two, let’s break this down into two sets of advice:
Buy-It-Nows and Best Offers
My best advice for BIN’s is to save favorite searches and leave the page open, refreshing often. I usually have EBay open as I work at home, or on my phone, with a favorite search open to the BIN setting. For example, I’ll have my seach term be something like “Vintage G1 MLP My Little Pony”, set it for BIN only, and then select “Newest”. This means that every time I refresh, I get the latest/newest listings.
Why the newest? Because there is always the chance that you can grab a great deal. Many people are using these sites to clear out old things they don’t value anymore, and they don’t necessarily do a lot of market research before they set their price. This means that along with some crazy high prices, there are often some crazy low ones.
On EBay, sellers can also include a feature called “Or Best Offer”. Like it sounds, this means that you can make an offer different from the set price. You type your offer, including any extras like free shipping, and the seller has 24 hours to respond. As with any deal, there is an art to shaving off $ from the price without offending your seller. Proceed with caution- once you make an offer the seller accepts, you have committed to buy.
Best Finds: AG doll for my daughter, with two outfits, for 30.00 plus shipping; Lot of seven AG dolls plus tons of accessories and a horse, 200.00 (including two rare dolls I sold for over 100 each), various rare ponies for around 5.00-8.00.
Biggest Drawbacks: Sitting with your browser open can be a time sink and distraction; you have to know your market so you can make buying decisions quickly; and you’ll see the ones that got away-I’ve spent too much time thinking about those before!
Best Strategies: Know your market, including often misidentified items and the ones that go for high dollar, and know your timing. For example, a lot of toys go up for sale in the afternoon and evening, when moms and dads are home clearing out closets. I make sure I have my browser open during those times. Have the confidence and knowledge to buy quickly when the opportunity arises- the best deals are gone within 5-15 minutes sometimes! I will do best offers, trying to get a good deal but not scalp the seller. If your buyer doesn’t accept your offer you can still opt to pay the BIN price.
Well, that became quite a long entry! I’ll cover auctions next time. Thanks for reading!