What You Should Ask the Seller Before You Buy a Collectible on eBay

You should ask the seller certain questions when making an eBay collectible purchase. Assume that the object of your desire is a collectible GI Joe action figure from 1964 to 1969. The information here can give you an idea of what to ask when determining your maximum bid on other collectibles also. The more you know before you place a bid, the happier you’re likely to be when you win.

This checklist can save you considerable hassle:

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

  • Be sure the item’s working parts are indeed working. Most GI 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 actual items in detail before buying, e-mail the seller with specific questions relating to original or replacement parts. 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.

  • Ask whether the item has original accessories. A GI 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 to replace each missing item. If you’re looking to bid on any other collectible, know what accessories came as standard equipment with the item.

  • Know an item’s value before you bid. A 1964 to 1969 vintage GI Joe in decent shape, with all its parts, sells for around $500 without its original box. In a recent auction, a “Vintage 1967 GI Joe Green Airborne MP Set RARE Excellent” — without box — sold for $895. If you get the item for less than $400, 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 Google the web for unbiased third-party advice.

You can get information on items you’re interested in, as well as good collecting tips, right on the eBay website. Visit the category-specific discussion boards in the Community area. You can also search the rest of the web or go the old-fashioned route and check the library.

Keep in mind that there truly are several prices for an item. The retail (or manufacturer’s suggested retail price — MSRP) price, the book value, the secondary market price (the price charged by resellers when an item is unavailable on the primary retail market), and the eBay selling price. The only way to ascertain the price an item will go for on eBay is to research completed auctions.

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