Guidelines for Bidding on a Collectible Item on eBay - dummies

Guidelines for Bidding on a Collectible Item on eBay

By Marsha Collier

Buying collectibles on eBay can be a unique market unto itself. But certain rules still apply. Here are a few things to keep in mind when buying collectibles on eBay:

  • Get all the facts before placing a bid or clicking Buy. Study the description carefully and make your decisions accordingly. Find out whether all original parts are included and whether the item has any flaws. If the description says that the Fred Flintstone figurine has a cracked back, e-mail the seller for more information.

  • Don’t get caught up in the emotional thrill of bidding. First-time buyers (known as Under-10s or newbies because they have fewer than ten transactions under their belts) tend to bid wildly, driven by emotions. If you’re new to eBay, you can get burned if you just bid for the thrill of victory without first thinking about what you’re doing.

    It is exceptionally important to determine an item’s value before you bid. But because value is such a flighty thing, get a general idea of the item’s current value and use this ballpark figure to set a maximum amount of money you’re willing to bid. Then stick to your maximum and don’t even think about bidding past it. If the bidding gets too hot, there’s always another auction.

  • Know what the item should cost. Buyers used to depend on price guides to help them bid. But price guides are becoming a thing of the past. Sure, you can find a guide that says a Lion King Broadway poster in excellent condition has a book price of $75, but if you do am eBay search, you’ll see that they’re selling for under $20.

    When your search on eBay turns up what you’re looking for, average the completed prices that you find. Doing so gives you a much better idea of what you need to spend than any price guide can.

  • Timing is everything, and being first costs. In the movie-poster business, if you can wait three to six months after a movie is released, you get the poster for 40 to 50 percent less. The same goes for many new releases of collectibles. Sometimes you’re wiser to wait and save money.

  • Be careful of presale items. You may run across vendors selling items that they don’t have in stock but that they’ll ship to you later. For example, before the second Harry Potter film came out, some vendors ran auctions on movie posters they didn’t have. If you had bid and won, and for some reason the vendor had a problem getting the poster, you’d have been out of luck.

  • Being too late can also cost. Many collectibles become more difficult to find as time goes by. Generally, as scarcity increases, so does desirability and value. Common sense tells you that if two original and identical collectibles are offered side by side, with one in like-new condition and the other in used condition, the like-new item will have the higher value.

  • Check out the seller. Check the seller’s feedback rating (the number in parentheses next to the person’s user ID) before you buy. If the seller has many comments with very few negative ones, chances are good that this is a reputable seller. Better yet? If you find a Top Rated Seller badge next to the seller’s name, you can pretty much count on a positive experience.

    If you miss winning an auction and are offered a side deal, beware! Side deals off the eBay site are strictly prohibited. If you conduct a side deal and are reported to eBay, you can be suspended. Not only that, but buyers who are ripped off by sellers in away-from-eBay transactions shouldn’t look to eBay to bail them out. They’re on their own. Second-chance offers are eBay-legal — and safer.