Follow an eBay Expert on the Hunt for a Collectible

Although not many of you collect G.I. Joes, by studying what an expert looks for in this specialty collectible, you can get a good idea of what you should look for when purchasing whatever it is that you collect.

Bill Swoger, who closed his collectibles store in Burbank, California, and sold the balance of his G.I. Joe and Superman items on eBay, looks for specific traits when he buys his very collectible G.I. Joe figures. Although his checklist is specific to the G.I. Joe from 1964 to 1969, the information here can help you determine your maximum bid on other collectibles (or whether an item is even worth bidding on) before an auction begins.

The more you know before you place a bid, the happier you're likely to be when you win. Bill's checklist can save you considerable hassle:

  • Find out the item's overall condition. For G.I. Joe, look at the painted hair and eyebrows. Expect some wear, but overall, a collectible worth bidding on should look good.

  • Be sure that the item's working parts are indeed working. Most G.I. Joe action figures from this period have cracks on the legs and arms, but the joints should move, and any cracks should not be so deep that the legs and arms fall apart easily.

  • Ask whether the item has its original parts. Because you can't really examine items in detail before buying, e-mail the seller with specific questions relating to original or replacement parts. Many G.I. Joe action figures are rebuilt from parts that are not from 1964 to 1969.

    Sometimes the figures even have two left or right hands or feet! If you make it clear to the seller before you buy that you want a toy with only original parts, you'll be able to make a good case for a refund if the item arrives as rebuilt as the Six-Million-Dollar Man.

  • Ask whether the item has original accessories. A G.I. Joe from 1964 to 1969 should have his original dog tags, boots, and uniform. If any of these items are missing, you will have to pay around $25 apiece to replace each missing item.

    If you're looking to bid on any other collectible, know in advance what accessories came as standard equipment with the item, or you'll be paying extra just to bring it back to its original version.

  • Know an item's value before you bid. A 1964 to 1969 vintage G.I. Joe in decent shape, with all its parts, sells for $250 to $400 without its original box. (Mint-in-box Joes can sell for thousands of dollars.) If you're bidding on a G.I. Joe action figure on eBay and you're in this price range, you're okay. If you get the item for less than $250, congratulations — you've nabbed a bargain.

  • If you have any questions, ask them before you bid. Check collectors' guides, research similar auctions on eBay, and visit one of eBay's category discussion boards.

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