Monday, 22 July 2013

eBay - Top 10 Buying Tips

Following on from our recent Memorabilia Collecting Podcast we were contacted by Jamie Parkins, who's provided this excellent Top Tips guide for eBay hunting!

Between 2001 and 2008 I had the pleasure of working at eBay UK. In the early days I managed both the Sporting Goods and Sports Memorabilia categories - charged with growing the number of seller's listing items on the site.

In the case of the memorabilia, I was fortunate in that by its very nature, collectors, fans and aficionados knew the site well and were already selling items in their multitude. At a football level, pretty much every club was represented somehow by fans selling and buying memorabilia of all shapes and forms. Instead I tended to try and support some of the key categories at a grass roots level in order to build up support for the website. I fondly recall working with Corinthians PLC the makers of those weirdly big-headed figurines and also sponsoring the UK Subbueto Championships in Birmingham (top tip: running out of eBay goodies to hand out about 45 minutes in makes for a long weekend!)

I've been following The Football Attic for some time now and needless to say eBay comes up a lot. Whilst I'm not here to promote one trading platform over another, there's no denying it's in my DNA, and so I thought some tips on buying on the site might be of help to you…

Whilst I can't guarantee you Pele's 1970 World Cup shirt for under £100, you never know what gem these might lead you to.

1. Review Completed Items

A hidden gem, eBay saves historical data of up to 90 days for all items listed. By switching an advanced search to include "Completed Items" you can see what had previously sold and the price they went for. Really useful for getting a measure or proxy for the average bid price for a certain, repeated item, ahead of when you bid.

2. Timing is Key

Bid early and declare your interest or bid late and run the risk of lots of collectors fighting for the auction. In the early days there were plenty of 99p bargains to be won, but less so nowadays. Simply put, you are up against thousands of other people in most verticals now so don't be naive and think that no-one else is watching the item. The page views counter, sometimes displayed at the bottom of the listing, is a good visual reference to let you know if you have stumbled onto something that no-one or everyone is looking at! By bidding early you kind of declare your hand, but eBay at least then knows this and can keep you up to date with the progress of the auction. If you don't initially bid, remember to either watch or at least bookmark the listing as it's amazing how time can sometimes fly past and a bargain goes a missing.

As a football collector, another angle to consider is that during actual matches, the chances of a fan bidding on their team's memorabilia will fall as they are likely to be at the game or at least watching it. Items ending between 15:00-16:45 on a Saturday or 19:30-21:15 midweek may often end up going for less than usual.

3. Saved Searches

If you're tired of searching the same old phrase on eBay in the vain hope that that lesser spotted pre-season programme is going to be listed, why not set up a Saved Search? Punch your search into eBay and you'll be presented with the chance to save it. eBay will then automatically email you on a daily/weekly basis when an item is listed that matches the search criteria. Double up with the mobile app and you can get push notifications for when that item is listed. Again, no excuse to miss out when, say, you are away from your computer for a prolonged period of time.

4. Go Mobile

eBay got into the proliferation of mobile apps pretty early and it's easy to see why. With more people connected via their mobiles, the chance to win an auction when away from the traditional desktop means collectors have no excuse to miss out. The iOS mobile app is very easy to use and connects well to your My eBay account so Saved Searches and Watches are all displayed. The interface for bidding, it could be argued, is even better than bidding on your desktop but look to ensure your 3G or wi-fi signal is strong enough to not lose out. You can download the iOS app here and the android app here.

5. Know Your Budget

I'm amazed when I watch friends bid. General practice, seems to be (1) bid and get outbid immediately (2) panic stricken, pull a number out of thin air and throw in a new maximum bid (3) outbid again, draw in air through teeth and come up with another new number exclaiming "sod it" as they click on the bid button. This is NOT the way to plan a bidding strategy.

From the onset, know what you are ultimately prepared to pay for the item. What is it worth to you? What is the highest you would be prepared to pay for it? When you have that answer you have your highest placed bidding strategy. With that number to hand you can place your maximum bid, let eBay's technology bid for you and watch the auction unfold. If you win, great; if you lose, well tell yourself it was never meant to be.

6. International v Domestic

A subtle one, but eBay's search results can be quite funky at times. Depending on how you set your location and what your default search criteria is, you may be missing out on items listed in international market places. Most sellers of memorabilia - aware that their are no boundaries to the geography of football fandom - set their items to be sold to all countries, but occasionally you'll find the odd gem listed on another country site that you may be able to snare.

7. The Gamble That is 'Buy It Now'

When we introduced Buy It Now to eBay, the community kicked off. The end of eBay they cried. Now fixed priced sales represent over 70% of site sales. With sporting memorabilia often its hard to put a fixed price on nostalgia and seller's will often pray on the desperation of the collector by putting a Buy It Now price on an auction listing. It's a great way to snaffle that desired item, but usually you pay over the odds. An alternate approach is where you see a Buy It Now auction, bidding low and early will remove that fixed price opportunity. In doing so, you remove any chance of another collector grabbing the item at the higher fixed price and the listing reverts to a traditional auction, in which you are now the current leading bidder. 

8. Misspellings, Typos, Nicknames

Spurs v Tottenham Hotspurs, United v Utd, Glasgow Rangers v 'Gers. You get the idea. There are many ways a team can be represented online. Similarly Gazza v Gascoigne or England's World Cup winning captain misspelled as Bobby More. It has happened. eBay's "did you mean" algorithm is pretty strong but occasionally the odd gem sneaks through and goes for a bargain.

9. Snipe, If You Dare

Controversial they may be, there is no denying the ability of automated bidding software to snag you that all-important item in the last seconds. There is a useful review of them here but be aware that their usage comes at a cost, sometimes monthly usage or a flat fee per successful bid.

10. Be Bold - Ask the Seller

If it looks too good to be true it often can be but you always have the chance to ask the seller. Just because we're online it doesn't mean you need to take the human element out of the transaction. Email the seller your questions and break down their reply. Are they being open and transparent? Did they answer your question to your satisfaction? Would this be the type of person you would interact with face to face? If you are thinking of spending some serious money on an item then see if you can speak with the seller directly. Are they able to explain the background of the item in question? How is it in their possession? Last resort, question them about their feedback. If there are negs in there, ask them why that negative was awarded, what did they do to resolve the situation. It's about creating a bond of trust.

Jamie Parkins is an eBay nut with a four figure feedback. His first purchase was a Watford Subbuteo team (LW 620 1986-88). You can find him at

1 comment:

  1. Great guide! Coming from a collector, have to say, Rule 5 is a toughy. ;)