How I assess purchase prices on eBay

So talking about book value vs. alternatives is beating a dead horse. But hey, let’s do it anyway:

Actually, there’s no point in talking about how worthless book value is so I will talk about how I look at buying on eBay. I don’t know about you guys, but I am a bargain hunter. I love to get great deals and I feel great when I get a steal on a card. There are many ways to go about this but here are a few tips to what I do when I look at cards:

1) I narrow the cards down to product type. If I am looking at a particular player in a particular card set, I will query only those cards on eBay search. Then I watch those items that are up for auction.

2) Next, I go to completed listings and start some number crunching. I look at all the past prices at usually I take out all the extremes and calculate the average sell price for that particular card. Next, I scroll through the past sales and look for the lowest price it has sold for. (You could also note down the high price as well). My goal is to basically break that low price and get the best deal for that card.The average is what I usually take as the sell value. This is the price that should replace book value in my opinion. It is the best way of measuring the market for the card of interest.

3) It is easy to get emotional when bidding, so you really need to set a limit to what you want to pay for that card. Usually if that type of card is always up for auction, chances are, you will more than likely get tons of chances to bid on the same card in different auctions so if you miss your mark, don’t worry because it will be up for auction again soon. You need to be logical and stick with a price and not up the bid when you get outbid.

4) When it comes to Best Offer auctions, I tend to avoid those. The sellers play high ball and you play low ball and more often than not, you end up paying the average, if not, higher price for the item. I stick to auctions that start very low and has the best chance of staying low.

5) Sniping – when done correctly, it is effective and getting what you want. I typically wait till the very last second to bid my maximum amount and you really want to do this logically as well. There are times when you want to go way over, but I will talk about that later. I usually keep two windows open and snipe manually. One window you refresh to watch the time left – the other window you have already put in your maximum bid and you’re waiting to click confirm as the end of the auction approaches. There are many methods as to how to snipe – one of them being automatic. i tend to stay away from these, even the free ones, because I just don’t trust someone else with access to my account. Many things can go wrong and I really don’t mind doing it manually. There has only been one occasion where I had to wake up at 6:00 AM to do it.

6) That brings me to my next point. Sometimes, the particular type of card that you are looking for is of very low quantity. Numbered cards are very limited and may only be out of 10. In these cases, if you absolutely need to get your hands on that card, then obviously getting a bargin is not the first priority. When you snipe, you just put your maximum bid in the closing seconds as usual, except you overshoot. So if a card is $50, you would bid $120. I usually double then add $20 to be safe. These are rare cases and I’ve only done it once or twice because you usually don’t spend hundreds of dollars on a card very often. If you’re lucky, nobody else aims that high and you will win the card for like $60. You take the risk of winning over the loss of more money. You snipe in this case because if you put in your maximum bid before the closing seconds, then people may drive up the price of the item and you have no control over your own bid as it becomes automatic.

7) Also be aware of shipping costs. When taking averages and the highs and lows, I take shipping into consideration because it’s just another price to tack on the sale. Sometimes, sellers inflate these prices so they reduce their losses, but this is becoming less of an issue with eBays new seller rating system and those 6 stars. Generally, shipping will cost no more than $3.50-$4.00 for a single card.

8 ) Oh and also, if you don’t really care about highly graded cards, you might also want to look into purchasing lower grade cards. I am talking about insert autographs that have been graded a 9 instead of a 10. Usually, you can barely even tell the difference without any equipment. Many times, a graded 9 will sell lower than an ungraded card. I found a 9 that sold for $30 when the ungraded card averaged around $50. I would definitely purchase one, just to put in my PC if it was selling for cheaper. If another one came along that is cheaper, I will just upgrade. I know there is also a way to crack open those damn card holders, but I am too lazy to look up the link or which blog it was from.

9) The Buy It Now (BIN) option – For the most part, this option leads to ridiculously high priced cards, but on occasion you will find a great deal. Sellers may just need the money now without having to wait for a weeklong auction, or they may just not be knowledgable in that type of card. In any case, their loss is your gain. If a BIN price is way lower than what you find with averages, buy it.

10) This leads me to my last point. There is the exception that something is wrong with the card, which is why it’s so cheap. You really want to be skeptical of shady auctions. Look through the entire description and anything that might suggest the card is damaged. Look for copied pictures from past auctions or fuzzy scans/pictures. Note suspicious auctions where they don’t have a picture and only accept money orders/cashier’s check rather than PayPal. If that is the case, they are preventing you from using PayPal’s buyer’s protection.

Here are some recent bargains that I hunted down on eBay:
I just bought a 2008 SPx Winning Trios Triple GU-Jersey card of Phil Hughes, Tim Lincecum, and Yovani Gallardo #’d 6 of 25. Nobody else bid on it so I got it for $3.95, which is pretty damn good for a triple GU-Jersey! In fact, it’s a steal at that price! I think getting a great deal also has to do with lesser known items that are spelled weird, incorrectly or if the items end at odd hours of the day such as early in the morning or the middle of the day on both weekdays and weekends. Take notice of all these little nuances.

I really hope these guidelines help you find the card you are looking for – and for cheap! I think most of you already know these things to be true. For myself, I didn’t really read up on any of these tips from anywhere else, but I just kind of developed these rules from experience. It kind of limits my spending and also tries to find the best deal possible. Good luck, bargain hunter!

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4 Responses to “How I assess purchase prices on eBay”

  1. This is a great list of tips for people who are new to buying on eBay! It sounds like you do most of the same things that I do. I use Gixen for my sniping, which is a free sniping service. It’s easier for me to just let Gixen snipe for me than to try to remember to be at my computer exactly when an auction is ending. I’ve used it for a few months now and it works great for me.

    Also, I jump on a lot of buy-it-now’s if the price is less than the average of what the card has been typically selling for. I try to look for newly listed buy-it-now’s because people will jump on the best deals soon after they are listed. I’ve had some luck with best offers too. The majority of sellers are pretty reasonable when negotiating a price.

  2. Great points, with these I am sure I will reduce the cost of my Ebay purchases.

  3. It costs $1.17 to mail a single card. $3 or $4 for shipping a single card is highway robbery. I’ve posted about the trustiworthiness of sellers (and his/her feedback) being in direct proportion to what they charge for shipping. This works: type in what you’re looking for. Scroll down and look at shipping charges. ONLY select $2.75 or less, and these will be the hassle-free sellers with 100 percent feedback.

  4. I will pay $3 to $4 for shipping only for a card I really want and have been looking for for awhile. Otherwise, I think $2.50 or so is fair. If a dealer offers discounts for 2nd and 3rd cards, and has cards I want, I’ll bid on more of the dealers auctions.

    I don’t often snipe but when I do I do the same thing you do. If you got a tabbed browser (like Firefox) its easier to do than having 2 windows open.

    Another trick I use is to bid in odd amounts, like $2.87, instead of $2.75. I believe I’ve won many auctions with this trick because it looks to me like most people tend to bid in even amounts.

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